HMZFilm interviews James Sizemore, the mastermind behind Film4 Frightfest sensation The Demon’s Rook
James Sizemore’s daringly original and surreal first feature film ‘The Demon’s Rook’ has taken the horror world by storm. The indie horror film had its world premiere at the much coveted Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Canada in July 2013 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Lauded as a ‘breath of fresh air’ and ‘a mind-bending tour de force’, ‘The Demon’s Rook’ was given the honour of being officially selected for leading horror fantasy festival: Film4 Frightfest. The hype surrounding the low budget feature reached fever pitch following the Frightfest screening, with many declaring it as this year’s must see entry. The entirely hand-made special effects are an incredible testament to what can be achieved with hard work and determination.
In the aftermath of Frightfest, HMZFilm had the pleasure of catching up with the creator, director and star of ‘The Demon’s Rook’, James Sizemore for an exclusive interview to find out more about what is sure to become a modern day cult classic.
HMZFilm: What first inspired you to create The Demon’s Rook? When did you come up with the concept and how has it evolved over time?
James: I’ve always been interested in monsters, demons, and the supernatural in general. Me and a few of my close Black Rider brothers have actually been working on our own mythology for a long time. We’ve been developing it not only through writing, but through paintings, short films, music videos etc. I knew it was only a matter of time that I’d make a feature using pieces of the mythos.
I think another big inspiration came from me working as an actor and key makeup effects artist for a haunted house. Every night I’d makeup all these monsters, and then once I was done, I’d dress myself up as a crazy person and join in on the scaring. It was cool for a little while, but it just got me craving to make something on my own, with my own creatures and my own story.
HMZFilm: What aspect of the film-making process have you found most challenging? Which, of your many roles, did you enjoy the most?
James: Acting was the most challenging for me. I don’t really consider myself an actor, but I couldn’t find anyone else that would be willing to grow his beard out and shoot with me on the weekends without pay for two and a half years. So I just had to do it.
I enjoy directing more than anything else. Working with others to make something as big as a feature film come together is very exciting for me. And as the director, you get to have a hand in all of the different departments, which is what really keeps me passionate. I never get bored. One day I’m working with special makeup effects. The next day I’m checking out a location and figuring out how we can design it to look like a portal to the underworld. Never a dull moment.
HMZFilm: The superb make up and special effects have been highly praised across the horror community. Can you explain how you designed the creatures from the initial sketching to the on-screen characters?
James: Thanks! Yeah, it was tricky in the beginning. Like I said earlier, my makeup experience was pretty much limited to haunted house work. When we first started working on the movie, I knew I’d need to step it up. I tried to find some makeup artists in the area to work with, but it was tricky finding anyone to completely commit to it for no pay. So I ended up buying some how-to books and DVDs and taught myself how to create the prosthetics. There was much trial and error at first, but I eventually got a good system down.
First, I’d draw a few concepts for the creature. Then I had to find the actor that would play the demon/monster/zombie. We would do a life cast of their head and hands, and I would sculpt the creature from the drawing on the casts. We molded them in fiberglass, and we’d cast it in either silicone or foam latex. I would paint the mask long before the shoot, and then on the day of, we would apply it and do the final makeup touches. Making a demon is a long and expensive process. And we definitely spent our entire budget on the making of these creatures. It was very important to me that they turn out right.
HMZFilm: The film is being touted as one of the must-see Film4 Frightfest selections, were you expecting The Demon’s Rook to have such an impact?
James: I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’ve always strongly believed in The Demon’s Rook to have the ability to attract the right people. There are a lot of folks these days that are fed up with all the cgi garbage and cookie-cutter narratives that are getting pumped out. We made The Demon’s Rook for those people. Another refreshing quality I believe our movie has is the spirit it possesses. I didn’t want to make fun of the roots that inspired me. From the very beginning, I wanted this to be genuine. I think most filmmakers who do these homage movies are afraid to be laughed at, so they make them intentionally mocking. Which is fun sometimes, but people still like honesty and passion. They like the real thing, and that’s exactly what The Demon’s Rook is.
HMZFilm: When will the film be made available to the general public?
James: We’re still working on that. We just signed with Raven Banner Entertainment as our international sales agents, so hopefully they’ll be getting some good distribution bites pretty soon. Best thing to do is like our Facebook page We post all our updates there, and we will definitely announce when the movie is out.
HMZFilm: Are you currently involved in any other projects? Do you have plans to make any future horror features?
James: Oh yes, I’m currently working on a new feature screenplay, which I’m not quite ready to talk about yet. We also plan on making a short film sometime soon, somewhere around the ten-minute running time. I’m thinking witches.
HMZFilm would like to thank James, Tim Reis and the great team behind ‘The Demon’s Rook’ for giving horror fans the opportunity to go behind the scenes and find out more about this unique film.