Interview with “Howl” Director Paul Hyett

by Matthew Kaiser

Punch Drunk Movies writer Matthew Kaiser interviews Paul Hyett (“The Descent,” “Attack the Block”), the director of the new horror film “Howl,” which is playing as part of the Popcorn Frights Film Festival running October 1-4 at the O Cinema in Wynwood (Miami).

This is your second directing effort after “The Seasoning House,” how do you feel you have grown as a director and what things did you improve upon when tackling “Howl?”

I feel you always learn from every experience, and where “Howl” was different to my first film was that it was technically a lot more difficult. “House” was emotionally more difficult because of the subject matter and that the actresses were very young, so it was more of a performance piece whereas “Howl” was crammed with visual effects, stunt sequences, wire rigs, fire stunts and most difficult part of being contained on a set for pretty much the entire shoot and always having to make it look visually interesting.  When you have a small set, surrounded by greenscreen, practical creatures with 3D elements to be animated in as well as actors and a film crew crammed in one set its difficult to make sure everything flows right and doesn't turn clunky or messy. I think its definetely down to the technical challenges that made “Howl” different to my first film.
The film has been compared to “Snakes on a Plane” with the tagline of “wolves on a train.” Do you think that is a fair synopsis of the film or should people expect more than just a setting and main protagonist?

That is funny, it was a comparison that I expected. I'd like to think there is more to it than that, there's other things going on, we have our zero to hero train guard that has to step up emotionally and physically and has a character arc that shows him having to dig deep and step up in ways that he didn't think he could, to be an alpha male after another character in the film so clearly held that mantle. But saying that, it is supposed to be just a fun, popcorn type movie, an enjoyable creature romp.

The creature effects use practical methods to make them come to life in “Howl.” Why did you choose not to go the CGI route so commonly used in Hollywood these days and what makes the old school effects better?

Well, coming from my background as a prosthetics designer, I understand where things work well and where they don't, and not just visually but also logistically. I wanted my cast to have something (terrifying) to react to. On set Ryan (the main creature) was scary, just the size of him, and actually, it may not seem it, but theres lots of CGI in the film, the main creature has a 3D CGI face and all the legs of the creatures are 3D CGI animated. I think having a practical creature suit is cool old school, but then having 3D animated faces and legs that are triple jointed, well you couldn't do it practically so they had to be CGI and the glowing eyes were VFX tracked on, and so its about how to get the best of all the techniques and possibilities you have at hand to achieve something a bit different.

You are a writer, director, and special effects/make-up guru. What is your favorite of those hats to wear and why?

Oh director above everything. I've done the prosthetics/effects for 20 years, I did everything I wanted to do there, so that's well out of my system. For me its all about writing and directing now and hopefully I'll keep getting opportunities to direct. 

Do you think that the horror genre has become played out or a regurgitation of old ideas? Or like with “Howl,” can something new and exciting come from familiar archetypes?

I think you can always have a vision for a tried and tested or familiar genre tropes. That's why I don't have an issue with reboots or remakes, I think as long as there is a new approach, a new vision, or really in the case of “Howl” I wanted to do something quite retro but bring some contemporary aspects to it, performance wise and visually. I think its a good thing, it only gets boring if people just make exactly the same thing again and again, and I think especially with genre film makers they are continually re-inventing the genre.

In closing, one of the most important questions, what’s your favorite scary movie?

I don't have one, that would be impossible but my faves are: "John Carpenter's The Thing," "Hellraiser," “A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," oh the list could go on and on. Stop me now!

There is no theatrical release date for "Howl," but if you are in the Miami area check it out at the 1st annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival October 1-4 at the O Cinema in Wynwood. has more info and the entire lineup of terrifying films.