There are lots and lots of different movies on the indie horror market these days, but very few of them feel anything like those of Sculpting Fragments’ Guy Pearce. No, not the Memento star, the former YouTube film critic turned underground horror director. While he only has two short films currently available—the comedic Guinea Pig send-up The Rope Maiden (2013) and the highly disturbing psychological horror movie Difficulty Breathing (2017)—he’s already defined a unique voice built on a deep knowledge and real burning passion for bizarro cinema.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Guy and picking his brains about Japanese cyberpunk, aggressive soundscapes, meeting oddball filmmaker extraordinaire Shozin Fukui, and more.
It’s clear you take a ton of cues from underground Japanese cinema, particularly Japanese cyberpunk and extreme horror. What about these films inspires you?
Guy Pearce: The Japanese cyberpunk genre defies all law and logic of cinema—it’s great! Like a big f--k you to all things that were considered acceptable, even in underground cinema. Japanese cyberpunk often involves some fantastic sort of physical metamorphoses, like we’ve been introduced to and gotten used to from Cronenberg’s movies, but they’ve upped the level to an almost exhausting state.
You started out doing YouTube videos of underground horror and gore films—what sparked the jump from critic to filmmaker, and how did you adjust?
Guy Pearce: I think everyone who is a movie fanatic would like to have a go at filmmaking at some point in their life, whether a reviewer or not. I was just reviewing as a hobby and somehow managed to get quite a following, so my audience for a potential movie was already there. In terms of adjusting, it was just, "Do it and see what happens." No experience, no training, no expertise. Just a love of film.
Your first released film, The Rope Maiden, plays sort of like an absurdly black comic twist on the faux-snuff entries of the Guinea Pig franchise—like Flower of Flesh and Blood by way of a YouTube tutorial video. What caused you to go this route?
Guy Pearce: As I mentioned before, my audience for a potential movie would be the followers I already had on my channel, so it had to be catered for them somehow, which is where a lot of the ideas came from. Also, I needed to be able to make something that didn’t really require much help from other people due to lack of a team. So, much like a Youtube video, I would start filming, do the scene, then shut off the camera.
During the film, there are brief flashes to bizarre, comedic BDSM-themed ads. What’s the story behind those?
Guy Pearce: I don’t think I ever actually explained that, it’s more of a figure it out for yourself sub-plot. So I’ll just leave it at that.
It’s a bit funny that your first film has so much comedy, because your other film, Difficulty Breathing, is an incredibly disturbing and upsetting short film about trauma, paranoia, and depression. It’s a bold tonal shift to make in your second film—what was behind that choice?
Guy Pearce: As a film fan, I love a variety of different genres. So I just make whatever I’m interested in, really. For the past few years I’ve been heavily into themes surrounding female hysteria, which led me to make Difficulty Breathing. I’ve also wanted to make a single-set film for a long time, so with that in mind, the themes of depression and isolation fitted well. The film I made after Difficulty Breathing is closer to The Rope Maiden’s atmosphere.
A lot of the horror in Difficulty Breathing comes from the sound—it features a Tetsuo-esque opening crawl urging the viewers to PLAY LOUD over wailing harsh noise, and a good chunk of the film has that sort of Irreversible discomforting frequency playing under it. Why did you decide to have sound play such a big role in the film?
Guy Pearce: Difficulty Breathing was hugely inspired by the Japanese cyberpunk films, in particular those of Shozin Fukui, so a harsh noise assault was inevitable. As well as one of the themes being isolation, there was no need to write any lines, so the atmosphere relies heavily on the audio. The noise was kindly made for me by WRITHE.
Difficulty Breathing takes place almost entirely in one apartment, but it feels like just about every shot views it from a unique and bizarre angle, almost making it into an alien space. How did you accomplish this?
Guy Pearce: Actually, I didn’t really think much about it while filming. If you have seen the "doodles to screen" extra on the DVD, I literally just had ideas for scenes with not much planning, and then shot them how I felt on the day.
You’re a big fan of the experimental horror filmmaker Shozin Fukui, even putting shades of his ultra-weird "vomit terrorism" movie Gerorisuto in Difficulty Breathing. He also provides the pull quote for the film’s DVD, where he calls it “deeply strained.” What was it like getting him to comment on the film?
Guy Pearce: He’s been a huge influence on me, not just in filmmaking, but on my life since I first met him seven years ago. After I finished editing Difficulty Breathing, I gave him a copy and he told me his thoughts on it, which alone was a huge honor for me. To have his remarks on something that I’ve created is a very special feeling. Not one I can sum up in words.
With these two films under your belt, what’s next for you?
Guy Pearce: I’ve already finished a new short film called ウンコーヒー (Uncoffee) which has been playing around various venues in Japan the past two months and won an award at Shintaro Kago’s Shit Film Festival. I’m going to continue making a couple more light movies before going back into a bigger, heavy piece for a while.
Photo Credit: Above photo from Facebook.