As a wave of vampirism sweeps the world, Annie and Guy, who have taken a road trip in a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship, find themselves part of a discordant group holed up in a decrepit country mansion. In an uneasy pact, the group agrees to protect vampire Ford Grainger during daylight hours. In return, he guarantees their safety from marauding vampires at night. Manipulation, deceit and betrayal within the group threaten the fragile agreement, leading to a terrifying and heart-rending showdown.
We caught up with writer/director Tom Conyers, to talk about The Caretaker.
Horror News Network: “The Caretaker” is about sort of a “vampire apocalypse” if you will. Unlike, most survival thrillers, this isn’t a cozy group of friends banding together. Tell us a bit behind the story and the inspiration for it?
Tom Conyers: The Caretaker' came about because I had been trying to come up with a low-budget script for many years. They are much harder to write than people make out. Now and then someone tours the world giving lectures on how all you need to do as a first-time filmmaker is set your story all in the one location, with a few actors. There have been notable success stories with this approach ('Cube' is a great example) but generally these stories are very hard to make cinematic.
I have written many scripts but finally I felt I had one that fitted the bill. The plot was simple: a small group hole up in a country mansion after a plague of vampirism sweeps the world. They discover one of these vampires has also sought refuge in this mansion. He offers them a deal: they protect him from other humans during the day and he'll protect them from vampires at night. We found several stunning locations three hours drive north of Melbourne. So I thought, here finally I have a story that is both achievable but also cinematic.
So, yes, rather than a group of friends finding themselves in this scenario, with 'The Caretaker' I saw an opportunity of putting characters together who would normally never even float in the same social sphere, let alone have to try to survive together. They all happen to have fled the vampire carnage to the same mansion. And surviving is all that binds them. Also, I didn't want the usual group of twenty-year-olds. There is quite an age range in 'The Caretaker'.
Horror News Network: How does the character of Dr. Ford Grainger (played by Mark White) evolve though the course of the film?
Tom Conyers: Well, it's not a secret he's the vampire at the mansion. Right from the first shots of the film, you know he's either a vampire or turning into one. He's not happy about the change he's undergoing but, as a doctor, he manages to view it with clinical detachment. He has a sort of presentiment of how things will turn out but decides to see it through. He's definitely the smartest character in the film, and quite cynical about human nature. He's knows this will end badly.
Horror News Network: With most horror films, characters either rise or fall. How do the other main characters develop, or degenerate through the film?
Tom Conyers: Of course a story involving a discordant group that must work together to survive has echoes with many Reality TV programs. 'The Caretaker' certainly taps into this, asking whether surviving at all costs is actually winning. It also shows the fate of those trying to survive in this decimated world who haven't made a similar pact with a vampire; in other words, those who refuse to become 'caretakers'. The five main characters all respond to their new circumstances differently, some degenerating, some acquiring a courage and maturity they've never before displayed.
Horror News Network: Based on the trailer, “The Caretaker” is a vampire film real horror fans are craving. With that said, what is your take on the watered down, “pretty” vampire that Hollywood has been churning out as of late?
Tom Conyers: My favourite vampire film is 'The Hunger' and you couldn't get a more beautifully shot film than that! Yes, but while pretty to look it, it still has gruesome moments and a deep melancholy to it. But with some of these recent vampire films, I agree, the stories have also been prettified. They are not so much to my tastes, but I suppose something like the vampire genre does need reinventing from time to time with 'vegetarian' vampires who can sparkle in the sun and the like. With 'The Caretaker', however, we stuck to the old format. Our vampires eat humans and vampires alike, lie in dirt graves at night (so they're both grimy and blood-spattered) burn up in the sunlight, and can be killed by stakes. We did come up with a new way the vampire virus has been spread, though, which I think is quite original (but which we are keeping the lid on).
Horror News Network: You’ve described the film as more suspense, than gore. What can hardcore horror fans expect in terms of intensity, and terror?
Tom Conyers: There are gory moments but we don't dwell on them. You either see something nasty about to happen, or just starting to happen, then cut away, or see the grisly aftermath of a fight. There are many tense, scary moments but these moments aren't all about where a vampire might be hiding. A lot of the tension will also come from guessing who's going to kill who, which characters are going to come out on top, and which will succumb in this new world. We also wanted to make a beautiful-looking film, that's atmospheric. We took advantage of the landscape, the sunsets, the ambiance of rural Australia. So hopefully audiences will find the film scary, suspenseful, dramatic, beautiful and even moving. I didn't want to go down the 'torture porn' route. I think we've seen a lot of that lately and wanted to take this film somewhere unexpected.
Horror News Network: Being an independent filmmaker, there are some obvious financial challenges. Did you find, however, you had complete creative freedom to take the filming in whatever direction you felt?
Tom Conyers: I had to be responsible with the investors' money and make the best film I could, and not go over budget, which we didn't. I was very conscious of that responsibility. The main pressure was on getting it finished rather
than editorial. So it was good having a fairly free reign. The greatest challenge I found was convincing people you can make a film before you've made one. Getting people to have faith in you and the project. I imagine on a second feature, there might be more control but also more confidence from the outset.
Horror News Network: For those who have seen the trailer, there’s certainly a lot of excitement about the film. Where can horror fans catch “The Caretaker”? Where can they learn more about it?
Tom Conyers: We've just been informed we've got into our first festival in the US, so that will be our world premiere. I can't announce it till it is officially announced, which should be on January 31st. We'll keep people updated about where it can be seen through the website (www.thecaretakerfilm.com), and let you guys know.
Horror News Network: Thanks for your time, Tom. Best of luck with The Caretaker. Have a comment? Post it here.