Five friends play a game: Take the most potent sleeping pills on the planet and try to stay awake. The last one to fall asleep wins. So begins the psychological horror short film Shut Eye. Gruesome Magazine is pleased to be a part of the film’s official online launch. You can watch it at the link below for free, along with trailers for director Lauren Cooney’s sequel Shut Eye 2 and her science fiction short Pendulum.
Lauren Cooney co-wrote the Shut Eye screenplay with Isaac Tomiczek; Lisa Jacobi is the short’s producer. In the exclusive interview below, the director relates how the film was made, and gives her take on the current horror movie scene.
Shut Eye was an official selection of Cucalorus Film Festival, Unrestricted Horror Film Festival, Exposure Short Film Festival, Fargo Film Festival, and Fisheye Film Festival. It was nominated for Best Film at Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival and Best Micro Short Film at Fisheye Film Festival. Shut Eye was also selected to play at the Genesis Cinema, London, before Nightmare On Elm Street for Halloween 2017.
Gruesome Magazine: How did the concept for Shut Eye come about?
Lauren Cooney: Shut Eye is a mind-bending psychological horror about a deadly game played by five friends after a night out. It was made with zero budget and shot over one night, with a group of filmmakers in London called Film Club. The premise of Film Club was that you have a month to go from script to completion, and that the full crew is assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. I signed up to direct, and we were looking for a short that we could pull off with the requirements. Luckily my pal Isaac Tomiczek had a desk full of nasty little horror scripts, and he was excited to let me adapt Shut Eye with the assigned cast. I know he’s a big fan of John Carpenter and Sam Raimi, and I have a taste for some Roman Polanski and Nicolas Roeg. So we ended up mushing all that together on a shoestring.
GM: What makes horror a great genre to explore for emerging filmmakers?
LC: Horror allows you to explore ideas that are immediately climatic and visceral. You get to really play with what makes something cinematic. We knew we wanted to have violent and bloody moments, which the crew enjoyed playing with, but aside from that, DOP Christopher Brooks and I worked to establish an economy of shots so that each moment led powerfully onto the next; there wasn’t much choice in the edit. We shot it in my flat and we wanted it to feel uneasy, so we just explored how the shots could create this feeling. Are the characters just drugged up, or are they actually doing these awful things?
GM: Female filmmakers are making a strong stand in horror. What does the genre mean to you?
LC: For such a long time, females in horror were the sexy ones or the virgins, and the whole thing was very salacious. But films like The Babadook show how the genre can be used as an extension of drama, to really drive through a character arc. Shut Eye is much more concerned with atmosphere than character arc, but the female actors and I talked a lot about how the female characters in the film need to be as violent and bloody as their male counterparts. Shut Eye is genderless in that way. It’s very millennial. The characters are ending a big night out and they’re all smashing each other up. We’ve all been there.
GM: What happens next for you? Rumors are there’s a Shut Eye 2 on the horizon?
LC: Absolutely, there is! Isaac and I flew out to the Cucalorus Film Festival to premiere Shut Eye last year, and thought it would be fun to make a sequel whilst we were there. So we ran around the festival with a camera and shot a crazy, split-screen film about two filmmakers who watch their horror short play at a festival and start to get murderous tendencies themselves. It’s very meta. We recently finished the edit, and luckily Cucalorus are as crazy as us, and are premiering Shut Eye 2 for us this November. Aside from that, my guerilla-shot, India-set, epic sci-fi Pendulum is doing the rounds at the festivals. We’re working on a feature version . . . though there’s every chance Isaac and I will make Shut Eye 3 first!
Writer/Director – Lauren Cooney: @HiLaurenCooney
Producer – Lisa Jacobi: @LisaJacobiFilm
Co-Writer – Isaac Tomiczek: @anicesouvenir