FRAZER LEE CUTS TO THE HEART OF HORROR by Owen
Frazer Lee is one of the great gleaming
knives on the new horizon of filmmaking.
Like many horror aficionados he found
himself drawn to horror films at an early
age and after studying writing and
screenwriting he aimed to make his own
fright films. In 1998 he formed Robber
Baron Productions with producer Joseph
Alberti with a goal of resurrecting the
great British horror film
off to a very impressive start. He made
his directorial debut with the
multiple-award-winning film short On
Edge (based on a short story by
Christopher Fowler), which is fifteen
minutes of sheer dental terror starring
racksandrazors favorite (and Hellraisers
Pinhead) Doug Bradley. He followed this
success with another award-winning
successful short Red Lines,
also starring Mr. Bradley. The film was
highly praised by audiences as well as
the horror community. Tobe Hooper said,
Red Lines gave me the total creeps
and the creeps is essential to horror
This guys a great director, he
knows how to do it guys.
for the talented filmmaker is his feature
film debut, Urbane a
modern gothic horror film starring, once
more, Doug Bradley. You can check out the
films progress at www.urbanethemovie.com. Urbane
has already spawned a screenplay by
Frazer (co-written with Max Kinnings) was
well as a graphic novel (with artist
Shane Oakley) published by Rough Cut
Comics. Mr. Lee also has published
several of his horror short stories in
various periodicals and anthologies. Hmm
British writer/director of horror whose
films feature Doug Bradley, the
comparisons with Clive Barker seem
inevitable, but as his work attests -
Frazer Lee is very much his own man.
Mr. Lee took a few moments to answer some
questions about his career, horror, and
his dream project a bio-pic of the
legendary demonologist Aleister Crowley
entitled Crowleymass --- info
there --- www.crowleymass.com.
||Owen: I am so excited about seeing your
feature length debut, 'Urbane'.
I love modern gothic. Can you give a quick
Frazer: Many thanks I'm very
excited about seeing it too! In brief, Urbane
tells the story of a young medical student called
Lili who stumbles across the terrifying world of
a race of demons called, you guessed it, the Urbane.
She's in terrible danger and doesn't know who to
trust. It's a full-on horror movie with plenty of
twist and turns. Urbane is dark, scary and fun
just as a horror movie should be!
Owen: 'Urbane' stars Doug
Bradley ('Pinhead' from 'Hellraiser')
who has starred in both your award winning
short horror films - 'On Edge'
and Red Lines.
What about Doug makes him the perfect star for
Frazer: Ah, Doug is a true
horror icon and a great actor. He embodies the
kindly/sinister dynamic of, say, Peter Cushing;
and of course the urbane genteel characteristics
that make his Pinhead such a memorable creation.
I like the moments where he just...transforms
into this shark-eyed nasty, he can really switch
it on for the camera. He's a true professional
on-set and has a great sense of dry humour which
always makes for a fun shoot. Doug also likes
real ale, good music and shoots a mean game of
pool all bonus points on Team Robber
Owen: Also the music for 'Urbane'
is by one of my favorite film
composers Claudio Simonetti whose previous
work includes 'Suspiria', 'Deep
Red', and 'Dawn of the Dead'.
How did he come on board with your production?
Frazer: My producer Joseph
Alberti and I were introduced to Claudio at Adele
Hartely's Dead By Dawn Festival up in Edinburgh,
Scotland. We hit it off and hung out in the bar,
watched movies together and visited Greyfriars
Cemetery. He's a great guy, and a wonderful
musician of course. At one point I was rather
excitedly describing a scene I'd written and
Claudio leaned forward and said quietly, "We
must work on something together you and I."
I was very happy, needless to say. And, as it
happened I had the ideal proposal in mind already
- the score for Urbane!
Owen: Since you work with Doug
Bradley so frequently has anyone put two and two
together and offered you the next 'Hellraiser'
as a directing project? If so would
you be interested?
Frazer: Well, no one has ever
offered - that's just not the way it works in
movieland (laughs). But I would definitely be
interested if I fell in love with the screenplay,
and had plenty of creative control. My vision for
a Hellraiser movie would be one drenched in the
mythos, suitable for theatrical release, with
that beautiful music from Christopher Young and a
storyline rooted in what was best about the
series its pervosity. The first Hellraiser
movie featured a sadomasochist from Hell wearing
his brother's skin and trying to get into his
niece's panties for goodness sake! Let's not fuck
around here - I would absolutely want to paint it
dark bloody red.
Owen: So with going from shorts
to a feature -- was it a whole new world, or is
the difference merely one of length?
Frazer: I've yet to shoot
Urbane, so I honestly can't answer that fully.
But from where I'm standing it looks like a
deeper, more life-encompassing world for sure.
Making a short is stressful and joyous, so I can
only imagine creating a feature-length movie to
be near-suicidal orgiastic experience. I am ready
bring it on.
Owen: When 'Red Lines',
your second short film, was shown at the
re-screening of Tobe Hooper's 'The
Toolbox Murders' in San Francisco, he
shook your hand and said, "Man, your movie
scared the crap out of me!" Was that a
surreal moment for you? Was it proof that
you had definitely made the right career
Frazer: Oh yes, that was at the
Fearless Tales Genre Fest in 2004. One of the
proudest moments of my life definitely. Tobe
Hooper was very kind to say that and I replied
saying that his movies have been freaking me out
for years. He was kind enough to go on the record
with a positive endorsement and for that I am
eternally grateful. I'm not going to rest on my
laurels though - I have to keep pushing to carve
out some space for my work in the fickle world of
movie making. Directors like Tobe are a constant
inspiration to me - I'm definitely a fan as much
as a filmmaker.
Owen: Along with producer Joseph
Alberti, you formed Robber Baron Productions
in 1998 to "resurrect and reestablish the
great British Horror Film." Other
than its country of origin, what constitutes
British horror? Are there any
Frazer: Classic British horror
to me has a level of darkness and oppression
rarely found elsewhere. That, and really good
acting. I think the ultra-low budgets have caused
less reliance on special FX, as the Brits simply
can't afford to show hoardes of beasties! Of
course, British horror is also famous now for
being funny and not taking itself too seriously -
films like Shaun of the Dead and
Dog Soldiers - but I crave a
British horror that is just unashamedly
frightening. That's just my point of view though.
Owen: If that is the case with
British Horror what do you see as
the characteristics distinguishing U.S.,
Japanese, and Italian horror?
Frazer: It's difficult to
generalize about each form, as each country is
influenced by the next. But in Japanese horror,
you definitely find a lot of body loathing and
disturbing sexual anxieties. The best Italian
horror is beautifully stylized and risk-taking,
with lots of sex and gore. U.S. horror is perhaps
an aggregation of all the above when done well,
and all about the CGI and the
running-and-the-screaming when it's done not so
well. I do find it interesting that hundreds of
remakes are coming out of the U.S. when there are
so many original and scary horror projects
looking for funding - but remakes have always
been prevalent, lower-risk projects.
Owen: I've read that you became
fascinated by horror films as a boy
watching Hammer Horror and Universal
Monster double bills. What earmarks of
those films (if any) do you find trying to
create in your own projects - that
delicious dry ice fog and creepy creaking
Frazer: I think a couple of
things do sneak into my stuff. I always admired
films that managed to create an atmosphere -
all-encompassing - a world to bleed into to from
everyday life. Hammer's "The Gorgon"
absolutely does this in the opening minutes.
These movies also left a lot to the imagination
economic and well-edited to make you think
you saw something... They are also cracking
stories that subvert the everyday and turn it
into something fantastical and alien. Give me
that over a soap opera any day.
Owen: What filmmakers have had
the greatest influence on you stylistically?
Frazer: Oh, far too many to
mention! A good shortlist would be John
Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Robert Wise, Clive
Barker and Dario Argento. But I'm not fit to be
in the same room as those guys, so I'll quit
namedropping - oh, okay one more - Val Lewton!
Owen: Tell me about you dream
project, the bio-pic of the notorious
Frazer: Ah, now Aleister Crowley
was a fascinating character. An occultist,
yoga-master, mountaineer and writer, I feel that
moments from his life would make for a great
movie. Victorian society referred to Crowley as
"The Wickedest Man in the World" and
I'd like to explore that in the movie project
someday. Of course, everyone who knows about
Crowley has a totally different take on the man,
but my dream project would be one that
encompasses the flaws as well as the rightness -
I'm interested in exploring something of
Crowley's immense energy on film. Maybe one day
I'll have that chance, I don't know, it would be
an expensive picture with lots of locations and
Owen: What is the best part and
the worst part of making films?
Frazer: The best part is without
a doubt having the opportunity to show my work to
audiences, and being able to discuss it in
Q&A sessions and interviews like this one.
Also, being able to work with so many inspiring
and talented people on a labour of love is always
a great experience. Meeting other filmmakers at
film festivals is a blast too, checking out the
competition. The worst part is the extreme
poverty (laughs) and the frustration of waiting
and pushing, and waiting and pushing, for finance
while movies like "Freddie Got
Fingered" get greenlit on a daily basis!
Owen: What frightens you in real
Frazer: Romantic comedies. I'm
not kidding. "Notting Hill" and
"Four Weddings and a Funeral"?
Irreparable damage, my friend. Utterly