T is for Terrorific!

A Talk with the ABC's of Death's 20th Twisted Director Lee Hardcastle
by Danny Gallagher

Lee Hardcastle is one twisted son of a bitch. His claymation movies have more blood, bile and gore pouring out of people than a traffic safety film.

“I think I’ve spent so much of my life studying horror stories, the ones that I really like anyway,” Hardcastle said by email from jolly old England. “I just feel like horror is missing something and I’m dying to crack it and craft it.” He’s also a passionate lover and studier of film whether its splatterfests like Sam Raimi’s iconic The Evil Dead or the puzzling beauty of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

“I really like the possibility a camera holds,” Hardcastle said. “Point and shoot and you’re away and you could be the next Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino. That’s exciting.”

This macabre combination makes him a perfect addition to the new horror anthology movie The ABCs of Death, a morbid alphabetical look at 26 twisted ways any of us could die at any moment with shorts such as “D” is for “Dogfight,” “E is for “Exterminate” and (yes, this is a real one) “F is for Fart.” His frightening film “T is for Toilet” won the 20th spot in Drafthouse Films’ horror collection set for its wide release on March 8.

What the Flush?!?

Hardcastle has always worked with clay in his films because it’s easier to organize than a bunch of friends or actors willing to work for free. It also brings a unique aesthetic quality to his horror short since they can make grotesque fluids and freaks pop out of the screen with vibrant, horrifying colors and textures.

lee hardcastle

This guy! (photo courtesy of Lee Hardcastle)

He said he got the idea for his terror toilet tale during a tough time in his life. He was broke and living in a “friend of a friend’s attic in Paris” when he heard about The ABCs Of Death contest.

“I did not know how the f**k life had lead me there but it did and I attempted this film against the odds really,” he said. “I had about five friends wire money to me over Paypal just so I could buy materials and up the production a bit.”

Toilets weren’t a new territory for Hardcastle’s horror work, he said.

“I’ve written stories about the toilet before or take place in a toilet,” he said. “I think it’s a funny and interesting environment to set a story. My initial idea was to have a kid have his head crushed by a toilet seat as a result of bad parenting/being too scared. So all the other story bits fell into place around that idea.”

Naturally, a hardcore movie buff can’t help but throw in an homage or two to the filmmakers who inspired them. Hardcastle’s inspiration, however, came from a surprising place.

“I love the story structures of (David) Lynch’s films Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive,” he said. “One part of the film is a dream or something weird but even though it’s a drama, it is actually telling the audience some story details that are relevant to the real life side of the story. So I went with that for ‘Toilet’ to make the story very real and also get away with ridiculous gory action scenes.”

“Y” is for “You Gotta Be F^&%ing Kidding Me”

Cut to a year or so later and once again, Hardcastle found himself living in “a s***y studio apartment” but this time on his own. The deadline for the contest had passed and he was constantly refreshing the competition’s webpage to see the vote tally and finally the other director’s choice from the top 10 highest vote earners.

He reportedly said “You gotta be f***ing kidding me” when he learned he was the winner, according to Drafthouse Films.

“I was gobsmacked to say the least,” he said. “It was a dream, an absolute dream. I never set out to pursue something so badly in my life. I honestly thought the competition was the coolest contest I’d ever seen in all my life and I wanted to win it. I mean, I really wanted to give it every single, last drop of ‘Lee Hardcastle’ I could possibly give it.”

He not only won a spot in the movie but he also got to go its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. He said he was humbled by his achievement and characterized it has just one of the bricks that he used to build his foundation as an animator and filmmaker.

“It didn’t really change my life per say because I’ve done 50 other videos in the last two years that have all contributed to where I’m at right now,” he said, “but it’s certainly given me some street cred and I’m incredibly proud to be part of The ABCs of Death.”

In fact, he’s picked up right where he left off making grisly horror shorts about a father fighting a pack of exposed-brain aliens for his baby  and an homage to the Die Hard movies with nothing but clay and a twisted imagination.

“There is a lot of talk of me doing bigger stuff or whatever but it’s a weird one,” he said. “I think my main goals of 2013 is to expand and get a place where I’ll have more people helping me get more work done, maybe the next Aardman animations!”

That dude doesn't even know how close he is to death.

That dude doesn’t even know how close he is to death.

Danny Gallagher is a writer, reporter, humorist and modeling clay taste tester. He can be found on the web at www.dannygallagher.net, his Facebook page and Twitter @thisisdannyg.

It's all about the soy sauce.  (credit: Magnet Releasing)

It’s all about the soy sauce.

We chronicled more ways the Alamo Drafthouse rocks in How to Silence a Movie Theater: Shame & Ninjas, and Danny recently interviewed author David Wong about his book and movie “John Dies at the End.”

More from Danny Gallagher

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