The Aggression Scale - Steven C Miller interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
STEVEN C Miller talks about directing The Aggression Scale – a home invasion thriller described as Home Alone meets Rambo – and casting its young lead.
He also talks about his passion for horror and making films, his remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night and why he feels there is a place for remakes if they’re done properly. The Aggression Scale is available to own on Blu-ray and DVD now.
Q. I guess the idea of directing a film that combined Home Alone with Rambo was too tempting an offer to refuse? Did it leap out of the page at you?
Steven C Miller: Without a doubt, it was such a refreshing read for me. I loved the concept and knew immediately I could have some fun with the material.
Q. How easy was it to cast Ryan Hartwig as Owen? What were you looking for?
Steven C Miller: Ryan was the first kid I looked at and the last. It was clear from our first meeting he understood the material and was totally on board for the ride. He brought a sense of realism to the acharacter that was needed and I think that was exactly what I was looking for.
Q. And how did you go about shielding him from some of the more graphic content?
Steven C Miller: Honestly, I didn’t shield him. I felt he needed to understand what his character was doing for him to fully embrace the role. Of course, his parents were there every step of the way and completely supportive.
Q. How much did you enjoy coming up with the elaborate traps that Owen creates?
Steven C Miller: It was a total blast and completely challenging. I wanted them to actually work and feel like a 13-year-old could accomplish them. It’s exactly why I got into filmmaking. Doing what I did when I was 12, only getting paid for it.
Q. You’re also reuniting two Twin Peaks luminaries in Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook. How easy was that? And how much did you enjoy working with them? Were you a fan of Twin Peaks?
Steven C Miller: I was a huge fan of Twin Peaks! It was pretty simple to get them on board. They loved the material. Both were amazing to work with. When you’re making a film like this in only 12 days, it’s crucial to have actors that can move quickly and these guys were like lightning.
Q. Would you describe Owen as a hero? If not, how do you see him?
Steven C Miller: I always saw him as a hero. I tend to enjoy the hero with dark secrets like “Batman” and “The Watchmen”. Owen embodied that to me.
Q. They say films reflect society… do you think kids are starting to lack discipline and run a little out of control?
Steven C Miller: I think every generation has issues with their young people. It’s really just a matter of learning how to handle their antics.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you learned from making The Aggression Scale?
Steven C Miller: I learned to trust my instincts a little more. There were plenty of times I was told the violence needed to be amped up more, but I stuck to my guns and I think it paid off. I always wanted Owen to still be likable at the end of the day.
Q. What draws you to the horror genre? What was your own earliest horror experience?
Steven C Miller: The audience reaction draws me to the genre. I love being able to see different audiences react in different ways to the same material. My earliest experience was sneaking down to my friends basement to watch Evil Dead 2. It was terrifying and fun at the same time. That impacted me.
Q. Under The Bed, your next film, has been described by you as an homage to The Goonies, Poltergeist and company. Can you tell us a little about it?
Steven C Miller: It’s a total throwback to those films. I wanted to see how far and violent I could take a kids’ film. It’s going to be a very different film than I’ve done before because it really focuses on the relationship of the brothers first and the horror second.
Q. What appealed to you about the script? And would you like Steven Spielberg to see it?
Steven C Miller: The idea of kids taking on adult problems was the biggest. I love the relationship with the brothers and them having to battle a monster together. If Spielberg got the chance to watch it, I would be stoked.
Q. Will it play to younger audiences as well as the ‘80s fan in all adults?
Steven C Miller: 100%… It plays on those very child like fears of what’s under the bed and lurking in the dark.
Q. And talking of the ‘80s, you’ve also done Silent Night, a remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night. What made you think the time was right to revisit that?
Steven C Miller: I was a fan of the original and have felt there isn’t enough holiday horror. This gave me a chance to take a beloved character and twist him completely. Besides, who doesn’t love a flick about Santa and his AXE?
Q. You say it’s different from the original too. How so?
Steven C Miller: This film really focuses on Santa and his disgust for the naughty. I didn’t feel a back story was needed and really wanted the terror to be present through the entire film. I also felt like the original took itself too seriously. This film is definitely not a comedy, but it knows that it’s a Santa slasher and that’s part of the fun.
Q. And while we’ve seen Santa with an axe, what gave you the idea of also arming him with a flame-thrower?
Steven C Miller: Christmas trees are the number one cause for houses burning to ground during the Holidays. Fire just seemed like the right fit.
Q. Also, is Motel Hell still happening?
Steven C Miller: Im still attached, but it’s in development hell over at MGM. Hopefully, they can get it going soon!
Q. Remakes tend to get a lot of negative press. How do you view them in general?
Steven C Miller: Horror remakes tend to fare particularly badly in terms of critical negativity. I think like any film, as long as you bring your own spin to the material, it can be a fun experience. It’s easy to bash remakes especially when they typically are shot for shot remakes or even done rather poorly, but I do think there is a place for them if done correctly.
Q. It’s been a while since you wrote and directed your own film. Do you have another one in the works?
Steven C Miller: Yes, I do. It’s something im saving for when I can do it with a proper budget and schedule.
Q. You made Automation Transfusion back in 2006. Would you like to see it re-made?
Steven C Miller: YES! The film has so many issues. It could be improved upon massively. Maybe I’ll get the chance to make the film I really intended on making.
Q. And do you fancy getting behind a big Hollywood blockbuster at any point? Possibly in another genre? Or will it always be horror for you?
Steven C Miller: That is my goal. I would love to be in the action world and have always thought that is where my vision is the strongest. We shall see.
Q. What made you want to become a screenwriter and director, as well as an actor, in the first place?
Steven C Miller: I loved how movies took you to an alternate world. No matter how I was feeling or what mood I was in, I would go sit in a theatre and get lost. It would inevitably change my day. I wanted to make people feel that. I wanted to give people something they could get lost in.
Watch the trailer:
The Aggression Scale is out to own on Blu-ray and DVD now.