INTERVIEW: Richard Neil
“It’s now much easier to get the word out” about independent horror films, explains actor Richard Neil, particularly with the plethora of online reviewers and horror outlets willing to support smaller horror fare like his latest film, Prodigy.
What makes a good horror movie and what doesn’t?
Well, more than anything I guess it’s the surprise element. You just didn’t see it coming. Of course, there’s the scare factor. Nothing disturbed me more than seeing The Exorcist when I was very young.
And what do you think the strengths of Prodigy are?
I would hope that it’s a compelling story. I think Brian and Alex wrote a very tight script, with an interesting relationship at it’s center – that of a 9 year old child genius and this old school psychologist sparring with one another. People seem quite awed by Savannah Liles’ performance – very impressive for such a young talent.
It’s hard to make an original horror movie these days, where do you think this one excels in its originality?
That the one who is capable of horrific actions is an innocent looking, freckle-faced girl. We are first introduced to her tied up in a straight-jacket, held hostage in a military compound. Why? What could she possibly be capable of? The film builds a steady tension in the audience.
Is there a moment in it that you, as a movie fan, especially enjoy?
Honestly, it’s hard for me to separate myself from being in it, and simply seeing it as an audience member. I lived it for 2 weeks straight and of course was immersed in its preparation for over a month. But when I get to her, delivering this story about my own personal heartbreak, that’s a favorite moment. But as an audience member, I suppose it would have to be when Savannah’s character gets to bust loose, exercising her special powers!
Do you find that, when working on a heavier movie like this, you find it affects your mood, and that mood stays with you at the end of the day? One just imagines a comedy being a lot more ‘fun’ on set, whereas a genre film would seem to be quite a serious time…
You got that right! It can really get under your skin, physically and psychologically. It’s not a whole lot of fun having to drudge up real or imagined suffering. And it can stay with you. Much easier on the psyche to play an uncaring rat, like I recently did in an upcoming romantic comedy, This Much.
Were you working on any other projects at the same time?
No. That would’ve been impossible. It was a solid 2 straight weeks, with a minimum of 12 hour days.
Where does this one rank in terms of your projects? Is it up there as a favorite?
Absolutely! It’s an incredible role. And the weight of its success or failure largely rests on me, along with Savannah. And ultimately, it is a life-affirming story. When all seems lost, you can find a way out.
If the Academy decides to start taking more notice of horror movies (and it does seem to be beginning to happen), and you’re commended for your work in them, which movies would you hope they show clips from as you walk up to accept your award?
Prodigy would be there near the top. Along with the film I shot in Japan, Best Wishes for Tomorrow. I got to work with the brilliant director Takashi Koizumi and the legendary actor Makoto Fujita.
2018 is just beginning but tell us, what’s the best horror film you’ve seen so far this year? And anything coming up that you’re looking forward to?
If you haven’t already seen it, check out I Remember You (aka Ég man þig) from Iceland. A kind of Nordic noir, but very creepy and really well done.
Why do you think horror, as opposed to some of the other genres that seem to waver, is as popular as ever?
People truly love to be scared. I suppose it’s the same as riding scary roller coasters. They’re thrilling.
How important do you consider marketing and social media when it comes to indie films?
It’s mandatory. If you don’t have the budget to hire a big P.R. firm, there are so many online reviewers, bloggers, and podcasts which are micro-focused on horror or sci-fi. In a way, it’s now much easier to get the word out.
Read our review of Prodigy right HERE.