Interview: The Raid’s Gareth Evans On Shooting POV Horror For VHS 2

VHS 2 Poster

Shooting POV is a tricky proposition for a filmmaker but Gareth Evans, and his co-director Timo Tjahjanto, dealt with the challenge incredibly well for their Safe Haven segment in V/H/S/2.

Gareth Evans was in town this weekend for the premiere of V/H/S/2 at FrightFest and I was lucky enough to grab some time to talk to him about overcoming the difficulties in shooting POV and dealing with the anxiety he felt about shooting his first horror film.

Here’s some of what Evans had to tell me.

On why Evans and Tjahjanto chose to shoot a segment together.

My first thought was from a little bit of anxiety about it I suppose… I’ve done action before but never horror, never full on horror. If I was going to do it I wanted someone to support on that. Timo [Tjahjanto], my co-director, had been asked to do it too. We’ve know each other for years. We’d been looking for something to collaborate on and we realised that we’d both been asked and thought, why don’t we just do this together. He was interested and I needed him for it. There’s no way I could have done it without him.

He had the central concept, it was his idea for the storyline. I was hooked into it and I was like, this is what we’re going to do. Definitely.

Shooting POV and how this differed to the way he approached shooting The Raid and Merantau.

Part of the challenge was, beyond the idea of me not doing horror before, was how the fuck do I shoot POV then. How do we keep making it interesting visually. So much about The Raid was the visceral stuff. With The Raid and Merantau I can cut from this shot to that shot and get all that information in there, and it’s all structured and it’s all controlled.

But suddenly I’m doing POV and I’ve got this angle [illustrates the various angles of the POV cameras in Safe Haven] or I have this angle from this person. You can’t change the lens, you can’t zoom in, can’t get that detail, you can’t get that emotion. How the fuck do you do it. That was part of the thing that interested me, I got to play with that and try and figure out how to overcome those challenges and obstacles that get put in your front of you when you do something like that.

The final section of Safe Haven and how it was constructed to feel like it was uninterrupted.

Our goal line with it was to be able to say what we want to do and what we have to do is find a way to make that last five/six minutes feel like one continuous shot. We knew that it was basically a situation where we introduce a lot of different cameras, a lot of different viewpoints at the beginning. Then gradually you start killing people off and running out of batteries. Then you have less options to cut to.

Then you’re faced with one camera angle left for the rest of the film, how do I make it feel like it’s one continuous take. I didn’t want to do time cuts or cheats. The compound was four different locations in different parts of the city, so in pre-production we would go into all of the places and look around and try and find where the architecture matched up. That corridor connects to this room. Then you start to make this mental blueprint of how this thing looks then. This is where they enter and then when they turn down this part we cut to the stairwell of this building and they go down this corridor and they see these kids skipping, they get to this point and we build a partition wall and we’ll cut to this other building then come around.

How Evans and his crew managed to ensure Safe Haven looked like it was actually all shot on one location.

Me and my assistant director we’d go to the set and I’d have my iPhone and we’d shoot something and then go to the next location and we’d pick up where we’d left off. We’d do that movement again. In camera, just with my iPhone. We’d use splice on the iPhone and start testing it as close as possible. And sometimes it’d be seamless and we’d be like, okay that works.

Shooting cheaply but still getting the shots they wanted.

One example, for instance; when he sees the couple fucking at the end the camera comes in and goes up and glides along this wall and the goes into the basement. There’s a cut then and we go to the next location. How we did it is we had one bit of white wall on that building and in the other location we had a tiny section of white wall, that was all we had.

We had no budget for lighting, we’d run out of money by that point, so me and my AD were there using flashlight on our iPhones to light the wall so we could glide from one place to another. Trying to throw all these little tricks in. The benefit of doing all those and why we experimented on this is that because this is a short film and part of an anthology you feel like you can be a little more flexible in terms of experimenting with different things in camera, with edits. And a bunch of stuff that I ended up doing in V/H/S/2 we carried over into The Raid 2. So you learn all these little tricks.

Check back later today to find out what tricks Evans carried over to The Raid 2, as well as lots more about the highly anticipated sequel – and the American, English-language remake of the first film.