Interview With Reg Traviss, Director of Psychosis

Last week I described Reg Traviss’ Psychosis as a just the sort of for-the-fans horror picture that most likely would go direct to DVD these days now that all of the fleapit cinemas have been replaced by multiplexes.

Speaking to Traviss on the phone, I got to discuss that idea a little, as well as talk through his history as a filmmaker, influences on this film, and the projects he has coming up next. You can (a) skip to the bottom and read a transcript of some of the highlights, (b) listen to our entire conversation by clicking on the following link, or (c) download it with a right click:

Reg Traviss Interview

Here are a few key examples of what Traviss had to tell me:

[Psychosis] is in the tradition of cult British 70s horror… It would help [audiences] to know that they’re going into something that’s sort of British, that’s a sort of tight, simple, dark story. It’s not effects, it’s a not… a complicated piece… more in the vein of 70s British horrors [like] Straw Dogs.

I’m quite a fan of Hammer, you know, like the old Hammer Horrors, Tales of the Unexpected; and I wanted to do something for a long time, before Joy Division, like this. Something contemporary but feels a bit sort of 70s in its cinematic grammar, if you like, and almost like a feature length version of one of those Tales of the Unexpected episodes.

Yeah, I mean, I’m happy with the film because it is what it is. It came out how I wanted it to come out… so in that respect, as a “genre piece” I’m very pleased because I think it works [as that]… you have films that are quite wide in their appeal, and the way you may appreciate them as a filmmaker you think, “It works on every single level… it all works as a composite piece,” and there are other projects like Psychosis where you… look at it in a certain way. It’s not realism, it’s not a big commercial thing that’s going to appeal to everybody.

I wanted to keep the audience guessing as much as I could throughout the whole film… I wanted the audience to question her [the lead character, played by Charisma Carpenter]. Of course some people are going to make up their minds early on. Others won’t, but I thought it was important to keep them guessing right up to the very, very, very last second.

I’m on another film at the moment… it’s a film called Screwed, based on a best selling book of the same name. It’s a prison thriller so I’m just on that, directing that, and that’ll wrap up before Christmas, and Man of a Thousand Cuts should be ready for next year.

Man of a Thousand Cuts is an idea I had from years ago as well. Joy Division as well, and Psychosis; they’re all projects that I’ve wanted to do for the last 12 years or so. It’s a big project, and it’s taken a lot of time to develop it and get it right and, of course, to raise the money as well. I wouldn’t call it a personal project, but it’s an idea that I’ve been working on for quite a few years, and a story that I’ve known of since I was a kid.. a true story.

Ricci Harnett is on board [for Screwed], Frank Harper is on board, but they’re in the support. It’s a nice project, it’s very different as well. It’s a prison film, but it’s about the prisoner officers as opposed to the cons….  It starts in Iraq, so there’s a scene in Iraq at the beginning, the lead… comes out of  the army, he’s had a bit of a rough time, he blames himself for the death of his mate. He could go down the criminal path, but he ends up going into another uniform job. He goes into the prison service, and then he discovers that the prison officers are all corrupt, and there’s various levels of corruption within the prison itself. It’s not a drama, it is a thriller.

Traviss was refreshingly sincere and candid, and his film is accordingly straight-up. For better and worse, Psychosis has wound up being convincingly similar to the sort of thing Traviss remembered from his youth and wanted to pay tribute to. It is a film out of time and out of fashion, but you, like me, might enjoy the occasional trip down a memory lane that’s lined with tatty old video store posters and paved with battered VHS cassettes.

The Psychosis DVD hits shelves in the UK today, Monday, 19th July.