*I can’t help but to feel like this interview serves as an awesome drinking game. Take a shot or a sip of your drink each time Nick Jongerius or I say the word windmill. Can you make it to the end? Seriously, though, The Windmill – or The Windmill Massacre, depending on what territory you’re in – is a movie you should be enjoying with your friends. It’s fresh off the heels of its screening at Monster Fest in Australia and it’s about to take over the world. The horror genre has needed a good slasher flick for the last few years and The Windmill is just that! But, it has a lot more to offer than slaughters and suspense. Take a look at my interview with its director, Nick Jongerius, and consider getting this title as an early Christmas gift for someone you love or yourself!
H: I love slasher films. Thank you so much for making one. Can you name some of your favorites?
N: I’m sorry to say that I haven’t seen much in the slasher genre. I really like horror films with lots of fantasy elements in them, like the work of Guillermo del Toro or Tim Burton. I’m really fascinated by the first Nightmare on Elm street film. The concept of a killer who can get you in your sleep and controls the environment is brilliant. I also really liked Haute Tension/High Tension by Alexandre Aja. That is really a kick in the teeth, that film. It is not something you can watch easily on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a hard watch but a great one.
H: It looks like there’s a fair share of supernatural elements at play in The Windmill, too. How did you find the inspiration to combine two horror subgenres into one, and why did you decide to go this route instead of a traditional slasher?
N: Chris Mitchell (screenwriter) and I were looking for an interesting contraption for the miller and the kills, like Freddy who only appears in nightmares. I’ve been fascinated with doing something with Hell and Purgatory. These things make me uncomfortable. Chris and I came up with the idea to set the film up like Amicus films and Agatha Christie and have the group all share the same secret; in this case a sin. The idea that people are confronted with their sin right before the Servant of Hell comes to pick you up, is really scary to me. These stories in which strangers get stuck with one another and once the shit hits, they realize they have something in common. In that sense this film is definitely a throwback to these old movies. I like characters who are outspoken and differ from each other. It gives tension in a group and the horror elements change the dynamics constantly. The film is also an homage to old Grimm Fairy-tales.
H: Obviously, the windmill is the centerpiece of your movie. Is it a real standing structure or was it something built by movie magic for the production?
N: I think windmills have followed me my whole life. I was born on a street called The Saw Windmill street, which was near an old creepy windmill. Where I live now, there are a lot of windmills, too. They kind of creep me out because they stand by themselves in a field and have no windows. If a swinging blade hits you, you will likely die. I liked the idea of this thing that creeps me out to be the arena for my feature debut. Because of the budget restrictions we had to find our windmill. The windmill itself was our biggest challenge. We couldn’t afford to build one, so we had to scout it. There are about 1,100 working windmills in Holland and I visited around 300 of them, all across the country. It is so hard to film in Holland if you are looking for places that appear remote. It is a densely populated country, so in fact it’s really hard to get lost here.
Every windmill lies near a house or a highway so we had problems with sound and light spills. But our early prep really helped us. I’ll be honest: if we had the budget I would have made more alterations to the windmill we chose. In an ideal world we would have created the mill from scratch. But this wasn’t the case so we worked with what we got. Actually, the mill we ended up using was the only one we could use, since most windmills are located in open plains so they catch enough wind, but the DP and I wanted a mill that was surrounded by forest, which would make it spookier and more abnormal. The windmill we shot at, was the only one that had all that.
We made slight alterations to the mill though, for example the wooden bridge was built to give it an extra edge. We also used old wood to cover up the windows and to make the mill seem more crooked. Actually, a windmill is considered a monument in Holland and most windmills are very well looked-after, as was this one. The millers who managed our mill even did and extra paint job a week before shooting, because they thought they would help us this way. My production designer, DP and I had a big cry once we found out! We had to work extra hard to undo all their work.
H: Working with cast members from “Game of Thrones,” “Jupiter Ascending,” “Mistresses” and “Shameless” must have been a real ‘I’ve Made It’ type of moment for you. Were you nervous to work with such talented individuals or did you all click from the start?
N: We were very fortunate to work with Daniel Hubbard. He was the casting director for Paul Greengrass on Jason Bourne and Green Zone. He also loves horror and knew us through my producing partner Daniel Koefoed. Working with him opened up a broad range of amazing actors. I first had my eye on Charlotte Beaumont. I saw her in Broadchurch and I thought she was both fantastic and perfect for the role. This was purely based on my gut feeling because we cast her without an audition. She was the first to sign on. The rest of the cast came together through regular castings. Tanroh Ishida’s audition was absolutely fabulous; he was exactly how I imagined Takashi. Fiona Hampton really surprised me during her audition. I was looking mostly at ex models for the part, but Fiona’s performance was so on the money that I chose her. Ben Batt came in with so much charisma. He doesn’t have a big part but his presence is amazing. Noah Taylor signed on about a week before shooting. I was getting really nervous if we were able to cast the role and when Noah was interested I flew to London to meet him. I was excited because he has such a track record and this was my feature debut, but he was so gracious and supported the film and myself a hundred percent. It was a delight working with him, as it was with all the cast.
H: What other struggles did you encounter while shooting The Wildmill, besides wind disturbance?
N: I think every kill scene was a very difficult day. We wanted every kill to be different and all of them were a complete disaster to shoot. I got a large amount of grey hairs because of them. It was so much work for our SFX team Rob’s Propshop to make everything as real as I/we wanted. They did a fantastic job. We wanted no CGI in the special make-up effects shots. We wanted to do it as old school as possible. It was great because you saw on set if things worked or not, but it took meticulous scheduling and story-boarding to make sure we got everything we needed. They were long nights.
H: Why should horror fans stream/purchase The Windmill more than any other movie on the market?
N: Ah! The elevator pitch! Well, I guess if you want to see the traditional touristic symbols of Holland like Amsterdam, dikes, clogs and windmills drenched in blood… This is probably your film! But there is also a little, nice story in it about a girl who wants to redeem herself from her horrific past that just keeps on catching up with her. For me that’s the thing I’m drawn in the most about the film. I seriously hope everybody will enjoy themselves!
*Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Nick! I can’t wait for my chance to see The Windmill! If you’re in the same boat as myself, The Windmill is available in most countries on DVD and VOD. Here’s links to where you can purchase your copy in America and The UK.