Interview with Director Randal Plunkett

Cat: Hello Randal, I know that you really like the horror genre so I would like to know when did you start watching horror movies?
Randal Plunkett: Hi Cat, well to say I like the horror genre would perhaps be an understatement. I love the horror genre! I’ve always been fascinated by all things dark, even when I was young. I spent the early part of my life living in New York. My parents worked long hours, so my brother and I spent a lot of time watching TV. We had cable and there were a lot of channels that would play unusual films. So I began to watch these channels and got a taste for all the good stuff, like grindhouse horror and B-movies. One of the films that really switched me on to the genre was ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’. It was on all the time and it quickly became one of my favourite films. As time went on, I started seeing other cult classics like ‘Halloween’, Carrie and Friday the 13th. And it was safe to say that I was fanatical after that.

Cat: Do you also collect movies and if so can you name some of your treasures?
Randal Plunkett: I am very much a collector. Not just of horror but classic Hollywood, French New Wave and Sci-Fi. I’ve got a lot of box sets. Some of these include ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘The Hammer Horror Collection’. Although I don’t have much very rare stuff, I do have a few nice pieces that I picked up while studying film in London. Films like the ‘Cannibal Holocaust Uncut Edition’ completely uncensored with even the real animal killings. This original version is as far as I know, still banned through out most of Europe. I also have a special edition of ‘Island of Death’ uncut. I wrote my thesis on video nasties, so a lot of my rare pieces are due to that. I also have a copy of Larry Clark’s ‘Ken Park’, which I bought in Amsterdam, also totally uncut. I am extremely against censorship, so I make it a point to never purchase any film, which has been cut. I always spend extra cash for the uncut editions, which I normally have to import.

Cian Lavelle-Walsh & Randal PlunkettCat: Let’s talk about your short film OUT THERE. I really like that you are trying to show a little bit of the background of Robert (Conor Marren) and Jane (Emma Eliza Regan). With that you bring the characters closer to the audience and then it’s like a slap in the face at the end. I don’t want to spoil anything for our users, but can you tell us something about the development of the script?
Randal Plunkett: I had been dying to make a zombie film for a while. I love the zombie genre. I didn’t want to make anything grotesque or cheap. I have always thought what makes a good horror film, is atmosphere. That’s what OT was for me, it was a chance to see if I could build an atmospheric film with very little dialogue. Which was completely different from my previous movie ‘Walt’ which relied heavily on dialogue to develop the characters. I wanted to tell a story, which moved completely on action and music. The flashbacks that were used were very minimal. It was to show the awkwardness and repression within the character’s relationship. This was something I witnessed a lot in the past in Ireland. This I believe was due to Ireland still being a strong catholic country and divorce being to a lot of people still a newish taboo. So I would often see a lot of families suffering unhappiness in silence. I also wanted to portray this image in the characters within the film. Despite the both of them not being happy in their relationship, they stay with each other and just continue to suffer. When the apocalypse occurs, the necessity for survival brings them closer. They even manage to rekindle some of what has been lost over time. But they are all victims of they’re own flaws and they eventually shatter any hope to transform or adapt. Instead they’re flaws consume them.

Cat: You’ve already did four short films. It seems like it’s time for a feature film now. Any plans you can talk about?
Randal Plunkett: I’ve been slow to get onto the features, I must admit. To be honest, I wanted to refine my abilities and get comfortable with my crew before attempting to tackle a full feature. I think to many people attempt to rush into features to soon and they fail. I remember an old Chinese story, my father used to tell me. It was about a young monk who travelled across China to a large monastery to pursue an internship with the high priest. This high priest was renowned for his wisdom and knowledge through out China. The young monk demanded that he be allowed the opportunity to study under this great master. The high priest accepted and the first thing he asked the young monk to do, was to prepare the tea. So he did. Unfortunately, that’s all he ever did. Time passed and still the high priest never asked him to do anything else. The young monk was saddened by this but continued to serve despite his disappointment. After awhile, the young monk become so good at making tea he was able to predict in advance when the master was thirsty and would have a cup ready before the master knew he even wanted one. The day came that the high priest called the young monk into his chambers. He told him that he had learned all he needed from the high priest and now it was his time to lead a monastery, of his own. The young priest cried and said how could he, he had learnt nothing but how to make tea! The high priest said ‘Ah but if you are able to master one thing no matter how small it is, you gain the ability to master everything. This story for me has always been a source of inspiration because I feel making short films in my world, was like making tea for the monk. I feel it is now the right time for me to advance into features. I think I was able to produce a short that I was happy with and am ready to move on to bigger things.

Randal PlunkettCat: If you could choose any actor or actress of the horror genre, which persons would you pick for a film?
Randal Plunkett: Well that’s a tough one. I guess if I had to choose one for the men, I would have to say that I would really like to work with Bill Orberst Jr. He has an amazing screen presence and he seems to just get better with time. For the girls, I guess I would be interested to work with Gretchen Lodge. I saw ‘Lovely Molly’ and her performance blew me away. Despite the fact she has done very little, she was really amazing in that role. Like Oberst Jr she has a great look and looks very natural on screen, which is what I go for when choosing actors in my films. I would love to import both of them, to come and make horror movies with me in Ireland.

Cat: You and your main actor Conor Marren were guests at the Movie Days/The Dark Zone convention in Germany. OUT THERE won the award for „Best short film“ and it was very nice to meet you there. How was your time in Germany?
Randal Plunkett: I loved every moment of it. I wanted to move to Germany after my visit, what a country. Fantastic food, lovely people and everything is so organised and to the point. The convention was brilliant! It was my first one and hopefully one of many.  It’s always a real privilege to be able to attend shows like that. The best thing about a horror convention is the fact that all the people are usually very like-minded and enjoy all the same things. So the possibility to have really in depth conversations about horror movies is so much fun. Of course meeting you was a highlight as well. As you know, I am an avid fan of your work and it was fantastic to have film debates with  a horror journalist whose work I enjoy so much. The convention was also from what I hear, the biggest yet. We were treated with immense kindness by the organisers, who bent over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed. And it was a real privilege to hear from Eric Branden of ‘Movie Days’ that we won the award. I was so touched because the competition was extremely good this year and we really didn’t expect to win anything.
Of course meeting some of the other guests was also very exciting. It was really a surreal experience to be hanging out with all these cult movie stars who I grew up watching. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Brad Loree and John Dugan were definitely the guys we got on the best with. We would be cracking jokes and messing around all day. But I must say, out of all the guest, Caroline Williams was my favourite. On the first night, we were feeling a bit awkward, we didn’t know any one and she broke the ice by coming over to chat with us. Within five minutes, she introduced us to every one and we become part of the gang.

Cat: What’s next for you?
Randal Plunkett: I’m working very hard at the moment at preparing my first feature. I have a spin off of ‘Out There’ in the works. I am also working on a fairy tale horror ‘The Tower’ which is beginning to come together nicely, so I expect to have that up and going before the end of the year.

Cat: Thank you so much for taking the time and all the best for your future!
Randal Plunkett: Thank you so much for having me and I hope we can speak again soon.

Out There

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