FRIGHTFEST EXCLUSIVE: 17th Century Horror: A Conversation with HERETIKS Director Paul Hyett Ahead of FrightFest Premiere
In the early 17th century, innocent young Persephone is falsely accused and put on trial for her life. Her fate seems sealed except for the timely intervention of the mysterious Reverend Mother offering her not just sanctuary, but hope. For the Reverend Mother is the self appointed leader of a small religious retreat, a secluded Priory, where her fellow Sisters devote their lives to the Lord and seek atonement for their pasts. But upon arrival, Persephone is plagued with terrifying visions and soon realises that it's not salvation that awaits but a battle for her very soul itself.
In this interview, Paul tells us about working with Hellraiser legend Clare Higgins, the biggest challenges when making HERETIKS and his love for FrightFest...
What first attracted you to actor Gregory Blair’s script?
When Templeheart gave me the script of HERETIKS (although it was a different title at the time), the one thing that really grabbed my interest was the opportunity to do a creepy period horror, set in 17th Century England. I’d already shot a war-set film, a contemporary werewolf film and here was an opportunity to do a film set in the 17th century where young girls were put on trial for witchcraft, of which some were drowned, hanged and so much worse. It was a truly dark and fearful time in the history of England, one that I was keen to portray on screen, and adding to that a supernatural element, was hard to resist.
What did you and your SEASONING HOUSE co-writer Conal Palmer bring to the final screenplay?
Conal and I did an extensive rewrite, as I remember, at the time it had vampiric nuns. I was keen to ground it and get rid of that story element but I loved this tale of these younger girls brought to this priory, so worked more on the relationships between the younger girls and hierarchy of the older nuns. And then we brought in the mythology of the supernatural element of the film, creating the flashbacks and why the priory was haunted. We then a did a lot of work of Persephone’s journey and the background she left behind and then really worked on all the characters one by one, we really wanted to give everyone their own unique character and background. We also brought the themes of religion more strongly forward and both Conal and I especially worked on the dialogue to give it a more olden style. And after working on the slow burn build up, I felt the film needed to go full tilt in the last act, thankfully Templeheart liked the direction we were taking it.
What a coup casting Clare Higgins, the HELLRAISER icon herself, as the Reverend Mother. What was it like working with her?
It was wonderful to have Clare. I grew up with the Hellraiser films, so to have her on a film of mine was great. She was a consummate professional, and she really anchors the film. It’s hard for an actor when they’re portraying a character that you don’t want to give away their true intentions too early, and I think Clare got it pitch perfect.
And Michael Ironside is another genre icon too, it must have been fun directing him?
It was wonderful, a childhood dream. He was so lovely to everyone, really chatty, and just was so approachable to everyone on the cast and crew. It was great talking to him about Scanners, Total Recall and so many other films of my youth. He was so full of stories and anecdotes. I’d love to work with him again in the future.
Your actress muse Rosie Day turns up again, as she also does again in your next movie PERIPHERAL. Is she your lucky charm?
Haha, yes, Rosie and I love collaborating at work together and we’re great friends, so yes, we’ll keep working together.
HERETIKS plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Sat 25 August, Cineworld Leicester Square