08 March 2018

ALFRED J. HEMLOCK is a short horror film that has been accumulating a lot of buzz on the international film circuit. Combining psychological and physical terrors, contemporary and Victorian horror aesthetics, and an exploration of very real social ills, this film packs a lot into its brief running time!

ALFRED J HEMLOCK will have its Sydney premiere on the opening night of the MONSTER FEST TRAVELLING SIDESHOW SYDNEY, running along with STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT on FRI MARCH 9th.

In the meantime, we were lucky enough to sit down with the brains behind the short – director EDWARD LYONS and his co-writer and wife MELISSA LYONS –  to discuss their unique and thrilling vision of horror.

CULT OF MONSTER: I thought the concept of the film – personifying the drive towards suicide as the central  ‘monster’ – was very fresh and inventive. How did you come up with this idea?

EDWARD & MELISSA: The idea was born out of a story that Ed’s mother told him when he was a young boy. One night she had been chased down an alleyway by footsteps in the darkness. This story always gave Ed chills and was our inspiration for Alfred J Hemlock. We wanted our monster to prey on the weak and vulnerable and we wanted our protagonist, Emily, to have a flaw that was deadly, but one that she could overcome. We felt that the drive towards suicide is something that the audience could empathise with, and would allow them to take this journey with Emily.

CULT OF MONSTER: Special effects are largely withheld until the very end, and (I thought) the film was all the more effective for it. How did you decide when and where to use them?

ED&MEL: There are three key moments in the film where we thought special effects were necessary in order to realise the vision we had created in the screenplay. Toward the end of the story, we knew that we needed a big moment when Alfred J Hemlock felt like he was beginning to lose – a moment where he would fight back and throw everything he had at Emily in a last ditch effort to win. The best way to do this was with special effects and our team did an incredible job.

CULT OF MONSTER: The ‘Victorian Gothic’ look of Alfred J Hemlock is very distinct and contrasts greatly with the contemporary back alley setting. What led you to visualise him in this way?

ED&MEL: We saw Alfred J Hemlock as a demonic entity that had walked the earth for centuries. He dressed himself in a mismatch of clothing from different eras that he used to imitate a butler or servant, someone that humans would not see as threatening, as a sort of camouflage.

CULT OF MONSTER: You manage to touch on some heavy themes within the 14-minutes of the film, such as suicide and abusive relationships. What were you trying to say about these issues, and why approach them through the horror genre?

ED&MEL: We wanted to create a nightmarish world where Emily experiences a terrifying disconnect between subjectivity and reality. This allowed us to touch on these themes in a more metaphorical way. The film is ultimately a tale about the importance of self-belief and how the demons inside of us are only ever as powerful as we allow them to be.

CULT OF MONSTER: Actors are obviously integral to the success of any film, but that importance is magnified here since you rely on only three to carry the piece. What were you looking for in your actors, and how were you convinced you found the right ones?

ED&MEL: Ed was looking for actors who were able to empathise with their characters and to bring their characters’ emotional worlds to life in a way that was not only highly believable but also cinematically engaging. Ed had a strong belief that the casting was exactly what it needed to be and this was confirmed once we got into rehearsal.   

CULT OF MONSTER: Alfred J Hemlock has gone on to garner a lot of attention and praise on the international genre film festival. How do you account for the film’s success, and how does it feel to see people respond to your material?

ED&MEL: We had a fantastic team working on ALFRED J HEMLOCK and its success on the film festival circuit is a testament to their incredible talents. It has been amazingly rewarding to see how people have embraced ALFRED J HEMLOCK. Having had the opportunity to be present at several of our screenings, there is truly no better feeling than the thrill that you get when you sit with an audience and see them enjoying and connecting with the material.

Grab your tickets to the ALFRED J HEMLOCK and STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT screening here!