Arriving on digital platforms this week is The Windmill Massacre, a Holland set slasher film with a difference. Directed by Nick Jongerius, the film tells the story of a group of tourists who become stranded in the wilderness of Holland after their bus breaks down. What at first seems like a simple wait to be rescued situation soon morphs into a fight for survival as they begin to be picked off one by one by a vengeful entity known only as ‘The Miller’.
The film premiered at this summer’s Horror Channel Frighfest. We met with both Nick and his leading lady Charlotte Beaumont as the first showing of the day was screening. Jongerius admitted that he was nervous about what to expect from the genre audience. When we asked him how he was feeling, he remarked – “I hope that they are not going to throw rotten tomatoes at my face… As long as that’s not going to happen then it’s a win situation.” He need not have worried though as it was very well received by the crowd.
We talked to the pair about the perils of night shoots, the necessity of researching an accent, and just why windmills are so spooky.
Why Holland, why windmills?
Nick Jongerius: Well there’s one simple explanation for it, it’s that windmills have followed me my whole life. This is true, I was born on a street, called Windmill Street. There was this really creepy old windmill really close by and I always had a thing with it, it was really scary. It was this weird ominous thing in the green fields. Then I moved to another place in Holland which again also had lots of windmills. For some reason I think they’re very scary so I thought this could be a very interesting arena for a story. That’s how it came to be.
Charlotte, what was it about Jennifer that jumped out to you as a role you wanted to play?
Charlotte Beaumont: I got the call saying that there was this script that I should look at and the part was Jennifer. At first I wasn’t sure what to think. I’d read a few horror films earlier on in the year that weren’t that interesting. I’d read a few, so when I got this one through I thought – is it going to be the same sort of thing as what I’ve read so far? I read it and I just thought the characters were so developed and stand out. I thought the women in it were strong and didn’t take any crap from any of the men in it, and they really drove the story. I found that really interesting. I liked the different layers that Jennifer had to her. She wasn’t just a scream queen – there’s a fair share of screaming in it obviously – but I just thought she was an interesting character with a lot of depth. I thought it would be a lot of fun to play her.
How hard was the accent? Jennifer’s Australian and from hearing you speak now, you’re definitely not Australian.
CB: Absolutely not Australian. That was… I found that really hard actually. I love a challenge, when something’s in another accent I’m like ‘okay this can be another thing that I can now do’, so it’s fun to learn it. I got a voice coach who my boyfriend used before; he said she was amazing. She recorded every single line in Australian and I would just listen to that everyday and just walk down the road repeating all the lines. I ended up learning it in a kind of rhythm and then I went away and did the character work on it after that. So once I got the accent down and I could improvise it, then it was much easier to do. We spoke in Australian accents all the time on set. We just loved the accent, and Noah Taylor who’s in the film, is Australian. That was really helpful to have him on set. I was able to ask – ‘does this sound okay?’ ‘I’m not sure about this’, and he was a really good person to have there.
NJ: It was also so fantastic that you were so dedicated to do that. I’ve worked with people before who have said they’ll do the accent, but they don’t do the research. They just hear something and think that this is what it’s going to be like. But then when you go into improvisation, you have a problem. Because then you have to make it up and also have to play it.
CB: You have to know in order to improvise. There’s nothing worse then going into an audition unprepared. I had to do a Scouse accent once and they asked me to come into the room as a Scouse in the accent, and I just couldn’t do it. I completely mucked it up. I was going from my accent and then would slip into Scouse…ever since then I’ve always made sure to do my research.
NJ: In the end it worked out perfectly I think. But I was so absolutely sure about Charlotte playing that role that, if for some reason the accent didn’t work out, then I would have said to Charlie – ‘let’s not do it.’ It wasn’t that we were dead set on having the accent. It helped the character because she’s flying from Australia to Amsterdam which is actually the farthest you can get from one place to another. That helps her back story I think. I was really pleased that it worked out so well.
How was the shoot? I’ve been hearing horror stories from other directors at Frightfest that they had really tight schedules. Was this the same?
NJ: Yeah, but you know what? It is it what it is. You’re committed to that, you know it up front, so you work that. I did a lot of TV before I did this film which really helped me because then you know where to put your effort. Some scenes you really need to dive into the characters, or the way you’re going to shoot it in the other scenes. You have to switch belts a little bit. I think we had a lot of fun even though it was night shoots and cold with practical effects. Lighting in the night takes a very long time, but there were only positive feelings about it.
CB: I think we had the best time. It was just a really good team of people, and all the cast got on really well. It sounds like a cliche but we did. We were all very different. We’d all go out together and think – ‘God I wonder what people think we’re here to do, because we look like the most unlikely bunch of friends,’ (laughs) but it just works. We all have our own position in the group, all the crew were amazing, Nick was great. I think I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but the night shoots, they were tough, but I think I’m more of a night bird. It made it a bit more exciting, it felt like I was on a sleepover, with friends. I loved it.
NJ: We went to the countryside as well. We did Amsterdam first for a week, then we went to the countryside. We had to move to hotels there, (to Charlotte) you got to see a lot of Holland actually. It was all during the night…
CB: Yeah I saw a lot of it. I mean it was dark, but I saw a lot.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
CB: Obviously I hope that they like it, and I hope everyone can find a character in it that they can relate to. I hope that they enjoy the fact that it is a developed story-line, and the story-line is very interesting as well as the effects. I hope they love the effects because seeing how hard Rob [Hillenbrink] worked on them. He really did an amazing job and I think they look really cool, and sort of taking it back to the classics horror. Doing all the effects for real, right there, I think that’s what makes it stand out. So I really hope that everyone appreciates that and enjoys an aspect of it.
NJ: I also hope that they will appreciate the emotional subtext that we tried to put in. Charlie’s character has a really, I think, really scary and also very tragic backstory. They all actually have that and what I hope is that people appreciate that. That we did make an effort, not to just get a bunch of young people and have them slaughtered one by one, but that you actually kind of care for them. Even caring is not even what I want, but to understand them, where they come from. Everybody has secrets. The secrets in the film characters are…
NJ: – Very extreme, but everybody has secrets that kind of nag at you. I hope people really appreciate that.
The film has a rather open-ended ending – is it a subject matter that you’d be interested in exploring further?
NJ: Yes and no. Yes, as in I think that there are a couple of ideas which I like. I really like the Abner character. I’d definitely like to explore him a little more. On the other hand I faced my own demons. I faced the fact that I’ve now conquered this windmill and I would like to move on from that. It depends a little bit on if this turns out really well and if everybody’s really enthusiastic about it.
CB: I think there’s definitely scope for a sequel if you wanted to go that way.
So Nick do you have any other fears that you need to get out of your system?
NJ: Oh absolutely. I’m working now on a project which I’ve been working on for like seven years. It started as I was very fascinated by this abduction story set in Austria. The abductor and the victim, during the period of two or three years, the roles changed. The dependability changed and I really thought that was interesting, and that got me going. We’re now in a very good draft of the script of a sci-fi film, but with this element of two people needing each other for a higher goal. That’s what I’m working on now. That is also a fear of mine – somebody can take you and do with you what they want. Our film is not quite that, but it’s a really good psychological thriller I think. But that idea still freaks me out. I’m definitely pursuing other nightmares of mine.
The Windmill Massacre arrives on DVD from Monday 3rd October, read our review here.