Neil Marshall & Charlotte Kirk Talk Movies & Their New Horror ‘The Lair’

October 27, 2022

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: [email protected]

Neil Marshall, the brilliant mind behind The Descent and Dog Soldiers, is back with a new tale of terror, The Lair, co-written by Charlotte Kirk, who played the lead role in The Reckoning, and plays the lead in The Lair.

 

I sat down with the two to talk about The Lair which centers on Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair (Kirk) who is shot down over Afghanistan, and finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where deadly man-made biological weapons – half-human, half-alien – are awakened.”

 

 

Kelli: “First, let me start out by saying I’m a huge fan of The Descent. It was brilliant.

 

Neil: “Thank you very much.”

 

Kelli: “I’m also a big fan of the reckoning that movie moved me. You were fantastic in the lead role, by the way, Charlotte.”

Neil: “So we really, really appreciate that. Thank you very much.”

 

Charlotte: “Thank you.”

 

Kelli: “There’s a ton of action in  The Lair. Charlotte how did you handle all of that physically?”

 

Charlotte: “Well,  I was gonna say with difficulty, but we did have an amazing stunt team on this one, and they really, really help. And I had a great stunt double, but, you know, every scene that we did that was full of action, um, we choreographed it out, you know, step by step like a dance. So it was rehearsed, rehearse, rehearse. So it was slightly overwhelming at first, but then kind of when I got into it and I had the, you know, the help with the stunt team, it just becomes fun in the end. They put me through the paces, but it was fun.

 

Neil: “Oh, she had to learn how to shoot a gun, cause she’d never fired any.”

 

Charlotte: “Yeah. Never, never fired a gun before. I shot an AK 47. So I jumped into the deep end [laugh].” So that was fun. So yeah, lots of action, lots of firing guns, which I really enjoyed, I have to say.

 

Kelli: “It sounds like fun.<laugh>. Y’all co-wrote the film together, correct? How did it come to be? How were these nasty monsters born?”

 

Neil: “It was during the lockdown, the second lockdown. We were living in Los Angeles. And,  a friend of ours suggested that he knew somebody who owned a house in the desert somewhere. And would it be an idea if we could like, come up with a little script set around a house in the desert that we could have a few cast and a few crew and maybe, you know, make it sort of covid friendly? And, although that idea ultimately kind of came to nothing, the idea of making a little covid friendly film was planted in our heads, and we started coming up with these ideas. And, as is always the way with me,  it just became wildly more ambitious than just a small film. It suddenly became Afghanistan and soldiers and Russians and aliens and stuff like that, [laughter]. Uh, but that was the origin of it, to try and make something that was reasonably covid friendly. And, when we shot it, we were still not under lockdown, but certainly under some fairly strict covid regulations to get it made. But, yeah, that’s where it all came from.”

 

Kelli: “Fantastic. What was the writing process like during the lockdown? Did you just do like zoom meetings?

 

Neil: “Yes. It was a lot of Zoom meetings and phone calls. I mean, eventually, we moved back over to Europe, to make the film. And it was shot in Hungary, in Budapest. You wouldn’t necessarily know that, to look at it.

 

Kelli: “Right. The film is, it’s pretty claustrophobic. It has a lot of the same feel as The Descent. How did you accomplish that?

 

Neil: “Well, it’s a, I mean it deals with the underground, not the entire film, but there is an underground base, an underground bunker in the film. And, we kind of go into it twice throughout the movie.  I just think that anywhere that’s kind of underground and dark is inherently kind of claustrophobic. People don’t like enclosed spaces, especially if it’s full of dead bodies and monsters and things like that, which adds to, the claustrophobia of the whole thing. But yeah, that was all actual locations under Budapest mm-hmm, tunnels and things that we found underneath, uh, Budapest.”

 

Charlotte: “Not much of the film is set underground, I would say 50/50.”

 

Neil: “Not even that. It’s like a third, a third of the film is underground. Most of it is, above in the desert.”

:

Kelli: “Oh, okay. Well, Charlotte, you played a badass in The Reckoning, but a completely different kind of badass in The Lair. Can you kinda tell us about that?”

 

Charlotte: “Yes. Very, very different roles. Kate Sinclair is a  British fighter pilot who gets shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan and discovers some monsters. It’s set, it’s set in 2017, so it’s, um, just before everybody pulled out of Afghanistan. Yes, very, very, very different from The Reckoning.  I loved both characters for very different reasons. The Reckoning was very emotional and physically and emotionally challenging, but this was as well, but in other ways, um, let’s say a lot more action in this. I had to learn to fire a gun and the mindset of being a fighter pilot. And so, you know, it was just very, very different.”

 

Kelli: “How did you prepare for that role?”

 

Charlotte: ” My first point, was talking to my acting coach, Susan Batson, who’s based in New York, who is incredible. I sat down with her and I prepared for the role and I go through my, kind of my technique with her, but also with this,  I was lucky enough to speak to a real fighter pilot who gave me quite a lot of insight on, you know, where do I start? How do I play a fighter pilot? And, um, yeah, I was lucky enough to speak with her and she kind of gave me lots of tips.  And actually what helped me was the actors, the other cast members were amazing. It was such a collaborative ensemble.  So really, really lucky to have, just to work with amazing actors as well.”

 

Kelli: “Neil, can you tell us a little bit about the characters? I mean the monster design? Cause those things are ugly,[laughter], I mean nasty. Could you please talk a little bit about them?”

 

Neil: “[laughter] Yeah. Only a mother could love them. Whenever you’re trying to design a monster, you want to come up with something that is gonna be ugly and disgusting and repulse people. And we wanted it to be, you know, essentially like it’s all teeth and it’s got two sets of jaws like a shark and things like that. But then rather than have eyes and a nose and ears, anything that you might recognize,  we instead put a face full of these holes. Um, and there is a phobia that exists, It’s called, Trypophobia, which is a phobia of holes in certain textures and, and surfaces, particularly if they’re in skin or flesh or something like that. Lots of holes. And it freaks people out. So I kind of wanted to tap into that a little bit and incorporate that into the creature design, just to make them as repulsive as possible. And then, of course, you know, you add in the slime and the fact that they’re kind of huge and muscular and fierce. Then you add sound effects on top of that. But it was just, the objective was just to create something, uh, repulsive.”

 

Kelli: “I think you accomplished that [laughter]. Those things are nasty.”

 

Neil: “Thank you.”

 

Kelli: “I’d hate to run into one in a dark alley, you know, [laughter].”

 

Neil: “[laughter] I’d hate to run into one in a bright alley. [laughter].”

 

Charrette: ” They are fucking scary. Especially when you’re on set with them.”

 

Kelli: “What did you feel the first time you saw it on set?”

 

Charlotte: “I think the first time I saw one, it was actually very dark in the desert and it was behind the door, so I couldn’t quite see it, which made it even scarier cause I couldn’t see it. It was just bits of it. And, um, I think it was a hectic night and it was during the end, so everyone was kind of going mad. But, um, yeah, it was pretty terrifying. I didn’t know what to expect, so yeah, it was, it was fun.”

 

Kelli: I bet. When it comes to the special effects, are they mainly CG or practical?”

 

Neil: “It’s almost all practical. We used some CGI too to create some matte paintings, set extensions, and things like that. So, you know, it’s, the reason why it doesn’t look like it’s Budapest is, some beautiful matte paintings and, and matte shots. But the creatures themselves are all practical. We used computers to duplicate, the practical suits that we had just to make it look like there were more of them in certain shots. And one of the tentacles and things like that, there’s some tentacle stuff that we use CGI for, but the creatures themselves are all practical. And I think, you know, I think the actors appreciate that, that they’ve got something on set to interact with. And, certainly with a very physical film like this, they’ve got something to fight with. Yeah. Um, and it makes a huge difference.”

 

Charlotte: “Yeah. And having the, you know, once we, you put all the extra slime and stuff on them like that, I mean, they become pretty repulsive, so, you know, it makes it a lot easier for the actors to sort of react to them in that way.”

 

 

Kelli: “That’s awesome. I’m a big fan of practical effects. It makes things feel more realistic, I think.  When it came time to casting, how did that work?”

 

Neil: “There are certain actors like Jamie Bamber, who I’ve known for several years and have tried to work with in the past. Um, and often it’s just, you know, schedules just don’t work out that way. And, we were very lucky with this one that Jamie was available and we had a great role for him and jumped at the chance. So, that was one side. On the other side, there are certain people in this movie that have never even been in front of a camera before. It’s not like their first movie, but it’s also sort of their first, actual screen acting job of any kind, like Kebong and, and Troy and people like that, really coming fresh to it. We auditioned. We asked for tapes. We got a lot of tapes.”

 

Charlotte: “You know, in the post covid world, most auditioning is now done by tape. You know, you kind of rarely get an audition in the rooms anymore. But, the advantage of that for a lot of people is that, a lot more people can send in types, anybody can send in tapes once if they’ve got access to the casting directors. So,  we were getting all types of people,  those who have experience or wildly inexperienced people, and we just went for the best ones. And, in the course of it, we had some great finds there, amazing finds and, you know, we were proud to give them their first, you know, experience on a feature set.

 

Kelli: “Awesome. That’s great. There’s something I noticed, lighting has a big effect on this film. How did you use the light to manipulate the scenes?”

 

Neil: “Well, we had a fantastic, director of photography/cinematographer,  Luke Bryant, who also shot The Reckoning and he made that look beautiful. We shot this with the new Sony Venice camera, which is, very good at handling low light levels. So we could capture the tiniest bit of light that could light a scene, so that’s why we were able to use the snap light, the screen snap light when she first goes into the there. And, and it just, it adds to the atmosphere when you can make it, you know, dark, but you can still see what you need to see. And it enables to use of creative lighting throughout the whole piece. We used as much practical lighting as possible like when characters are carrying torches or switching on lights in rooms and things like that. So, you’re very rarely adding in any theatrical light of any kind to enhance stuff. It’s, it’s massively practical, which is great. It just makes things look more realistic, but gives also like, you know, good shadows and, I like lots of shadows in my horror films. So we got plenty of those.”

 

Charlotte: “It’s always finding that balance is that you want, you know, Cause it’s a horror film, so you want it to be dark and spooky, but at the same time, we do want to know what’s going on and, and, and not lose track of the story or the characters. So it is a balance. And, you know, I think that we, we got it with this one for sure.

 

Kelli: “Exactly. I hate films with scenes that are so dark you can’t see what’s happening. If there was one thing you can say to viewers to convince them to watch this movie. What would it be?

 

Neil: “I think it’s the perfect Halloween movie. I know that Halloween ends came out a few weeks ago, and, uh, you know, by all accounts, nobody likes it very much. So come and see our movie instead. It’s much better than the Halloween movie. It’s just a rip-roaring action monster movie. Great fun.”

 

Charlotte: “It’s great fun. It’s literally like being on a rollercoaster from the moment you watch it to the moment it finishes. It’s a rollercoaster of fun and horror.”

 

Kelli: ” Neil, What is it like to have your films constantly be compared to your past work? How does that make you feel?”

 

 

Neil: “I knew when I was making the movie that people were gonna compare it to Dog Soldiers because it’s about soldiers and monsters of some sort. It was a deliberate move on my part to sort of do something else in that genre. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse in that. I’m so proud of the films I’ve made, you know, Dog Soldiers, The Descent, and things like that.  I’m overwhelmed when people love them so much, so long after they came out. Um, but at the same time, it’s like, you know, I’m making new movies now and I do want to be remembered for these as well. It has its good plus points and, not-so-plus points. I don’t begrudge it in any kind of way. I certainly don’t think it’s obnoxious. I think it’s amazing that people are still, talking about my past movies. This weekend I was just at a convention celebrating 20 years of Dog Soldiers and it’s just amazing that people want to celebrate 20 years of Dog Soldiers. But, um, you know, I have other works that I’ve done and, you know, I’ll keep on making movies, I just wanna keep the fans happy.”

 

Kelli: “Right, right. I get it. And I love The Reckoning. It’s such a powerful film. I’m not sure if you know this, but it made it onto our “Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021” list.

 

Neil: “Great! We really, really appreciate that. And you know, even if it only touches a handful of people, then it’s worth it. Yeah.”

 

Charlotte: “It’s very different. But it’s, it’s brilliant in its way.”

 

Kelli: “Do you already have another project in mind?

 

Nil: “Well, we just finished a project.”

 

Charlotte: “It’s a gangster, a crime thriller gangster movie.”

 

Neil: “Yeah. Definitely another genre. Completely.”

 

Kelli: “Does it have a title yet?”

 

Charlotte: “Duchess. We loved all the gangster movies of the Scar Face, The Good Fellas, and the Casinos. And I was like, Let’s, let’s try and make something as brilliant as that, which is very ambitious, but let’s try and do it. And then let’s have a real badass female as a gangster”A  Female Scarface. That’s, that’s how it’s conceived. A female Scarface. Not ambitious at all. [laughter].

 

Kelli:” Oh, that’s cool. I like those kinds of movies. Do you have any idea when people might be able to see that?

 

Neil: “We are still editing at the moment. Sometime next year?”

 

Charlotte: “Definitely. Yeah. Sometime next year.”

 

Kelli: “Well, I can’t wait to see it. Out of, uh, all of your films, do you have a favorite?”

 

Neil: ” “Um, that’s a very difficult one. I mean, you know, Dog Soldiers is a favorite cuz it was the first, The Descent is a favorite because it was such a rewarding experience. Uh, Doomsday was a favorite because it was a real blast to make no matter what happened afterward. Um, you know, it’s very difficult to say I have a favorite.”

 

Kelli: “I guess it’s like trying to ask to pick your favorite child.”

 

Neil: “Yeah, pretty much. I mean, the fact that you know, we do refer to them as our babies are not accidental. It’s like, you know, we put our heart and soul into these things and spend, you know, years making them. Yeah. So yeah, you know, this is impossible to choose.”

 

Charlotte: “Yeah.  I would say The Reckoning was emotionally the most challenging one as an actress. But then, I would say I’m probably most proud of that acting-wise, but then The Lair I’m most proud of for the action and the fun and the overall, the overall character of it. I like playing Sinclair I think it was just, it’s easy for me to watch. The Reckoning, as you know, is dark, it’s a tough movie to watch. The Lair, I would say is the funnest. So I think that goes a long way that if you’ve had fun shooting the movie, the filmmakers have had fun. Hopefully that will, that will pay off for you. That will translate on screen. Yeah. But then again, the film we just completed Duchess, that’s one of my favorites. That was a real labor of love.

 

Kelli: “That’s important, when making a movie and you enjoy doing it. When will it be out in the US?”

 

Neil: “Soon. It opens in theaters and will be streaming this Friday, the 28th.”

 

To celebrate the release of The Lair, this Friday, Neil Marshall and Charlotte Kirk will be sharing behind-the-scenes images and more from The Lair on social media, so be sure to follow them and be sure to watch their action-packed movie The Lair!

 

 

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