Paul Andrew Williams interview: Cherry Tree Lane, British youth culture and the Alien boxset

We enjoyed a brief chat with director Paul Andrew Williams about his home invasion horror Cherry Tree Lane, the writing process and crime…

Are British filmmakers steering horror towards a new subgenre, ‘the home invasion hoodie horror’? Not long ago James Watkins’ effort, Eden Lake, proved a divisive picture, which critics either loved or loathed (I have to confess I’m in the latter camp). The film seemed to generate a muted sort of press controversy (well, it did here in Ireland), and not long after went the way of the video store bargain bins.

Now Paul Andrew Williams has written and directed a well-scripted horror thriller which is more on a par with Michael Haneke’s Funny Games than the ‘well-heeled couple preyed upon by archetypal chavs’ who populate Watkins’ film. The villains here are complex, flawed and dangerously realised. Hardly surprising, coming from the man who brought us the searing, shocking and sobering London To Brighton.

I managed to catch a quick chat with the man, and here’s what he had to say…

I’ve always felt that Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs was a cornerstone for the ‘home invasion’ film. Cherry Tree Lane covers similar terrain and, so far, has received some glowing reviews. Was Peckinpah’s film an influence or inspiration for you as a filmmaker?

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Annoying as it might seem, I haven’t seen that film.

In London To Brighton and Cherry Tree Lane, class is explored, though, unlike your earlier film, which had the wealthy as the villains, the roles now have been reversed. What interests you most about exploring this?

To be honest, I tend not to concentrate on things like that when writing and just focus on the individuals in the story. Of course, there is a class divide, but I think the film is more about the age divide and the fact that there is a big generational gap, which is greater than the years involved.

Mainly because so many things have been developed in the last two decades that everything is instant and available. Unless one is now receiving instant gratification for something, the attention span of kids and those who don’t want to spend time learning or trying to understand the world, are going to raise hell.

What are your thoughts on British youth crime culture? Was it something you researched?

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It’s almost something you don’t need to research because it is there on our screens and in our newspapers every day.

The problem with youth culture is that we need to turn the clock back and work out where we went wrong many years ago. Where did we lose respect and basic decency as part of our culture? By leniency and not providing the necessary opportunities for children and not breaking the cycle of poverty that continues in today’s society, it will just get worse.

You collaborated with Tom Shankland on the story/screenplay for The Children, a story about a strange contagion which infects the young, and was also well-received. Are you more interested in developing your own scripts and directing, or does it bother you watching somebody else work with your material?

Although I wrote the original script, once I signed it over to Tom, I let him do what he wanted. I haven’t seen the film for no other reason [than] I have had a child since and my opinion on murdering mad kids has changed.

How long do you let an idea gestate before you begin the writing process?

Depends on how busy I am.

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How do you feel about the new subgenre described as ‘hoodie horror’ (Eden Lake, F) Are you worried your Cherry Tree Lane will fall into this camp?

I never think about genre, ever. That is the job of the distributor.

Do you feel British film directors are creating a new horror subgenre, the ‘hoodie horror’?

Very simply, no. I have more important things to pay attention to in my life, mainly my bills, potty training my son, my five a side football team and improving as a goalkeeper.

You have a few more projects on the go. Could you tell me a bit about them?

I would, but I would have to kill you. I have a couple of things I am attached to in the States and a couple of projects here. All different.

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What are some of genre films you are excited about that are forthcoming?

The film I am most looking forward to is the Blu-ray Alien Anthology. I am currently wetting my pants waiting for Amazon to send me them.

Paul Andrew Williams, thank you very much.