INTERVIEW : ZOE KAVANAGH – DEMON HUNTER
From Wild Eye Releasing comes Demon Hunter, writer-director Zoe Kavanagh’s “genre hugging” (The Irish Times) horror-actioner, available this month on digital.
After she is captured by police for questioning in the slaying of a man she claimed was a demon, Taryn Barker must prove her innocence, and the existence of demons. But when a cult captures the daughter of one of the detectives on the case, the police must trust, and unleash, this warrior on the Satantic group who are intent on bringing an ancient evil force into the world.
Demon Hunter is now available on digital/VOD.
-PH: When and how did Demon Hunter come about?
-Zoe: I was at home listening to some metal music and trying to find inspiration. As I was listening I drew a twenty four year old goth girl walking down an alleyway melancholic and drenched by the rain. She held a sword and I knew not only was she a badass but she lost someone dear to her to something horrible. She lost her young sister and she isn’t sure who did it. I liked one of the songs playing in the background that I checked out who the band was they’re called ‘Demon Hunter’. Suddenly I figured out what type of villains Taryn will face. Her name Taryn Barker came from two references. I think Taryn is a strong name and it was after seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors where one of the character’s is named Taryn. It’s a strong female name and Barker is a reference to Clive Barker and all of his wonderful stories.
-PH: Would it be the biggest project to date for you?
-Zoe: Yeah it became my biggest project when it started winning awards and getting distribution. It’s my first feature so it did help get my name out there. Most of my other projects are music videos and commercials which are fun and a nice exercise in filmmaking.
-PH: What was needed to do first before it could be a reality?
-Zoe: Upon realising that nobody was going to finance my first feature I had no choice but to save up money and lots of it. I would work full time hours until I built up enough money to move into production. Also assembling a really skilled cast and crew that would commit and help me bring the film to life.
-PH: How important to you was it that the film give birth to a new action heroine (as opposed to the same old Tom Cruise-like hero)?
-Zoe: It was one of the factors that inspired me to push to the end. Taryn is such a strong character and I’m so proud that she came from my head! She is not just a badass but she’s human and conflicted. She was trained by the Demon Hunters in her mid teens and from then onwards her life took a different path. No real job, no real relationships, no college just missions and a quest for revenge. At the same time I don’t believe Taryn ever matured so I think she is still has some of that same 16 year old she was when she lost her sister. The only difference is she’s now broken and angry.
-PH: How did you come up her distinctive look? Did you toy with different looks?
-Zoe: There certainly was an evolution of her image. When I originally created her she was just in a leather jacket, boots and pants and very gothy. I then toyed with a trenchcoat in the short film I made in 2008 before going back to the drawing board and thinking about her outfit. A black and white stripey top under a hoodie was a way to go. I wanted a real urban look to her and then when we get to the climax her clothes become a bit more fantastical I guess with the wonderful red sprayed on black tank top designed by costume designer Paula Fajardo and putting warpaint on her. I saw a music video with some band and one of the actors in it had warpaint and that inspired me. It made sense for Taryn to have warpaint on to face demons at the end. It basically screams ‘Demons be scared of me!’.
She will have something slightly more evolved in the next one, something more tactical and suited for these types of missions!
-PH: Did you come up with a fleshy background story for her – if even just for yourself?
-Zoe: Yeah I have the entire back story mapped out. I know who her true mother and father is and in fact Taryn isn’t actually Irish her name was changed when she was younger to escape her father. I also know who killed her sister. I really hope to expand all of this in the next films as it’s so vast and big. Taryn’s father is pure evil but we wont find out about him just yet. I do like the idea that Taryn comes from a broken home. There’s so much to build from and I’ve barely even scratched the surface with ‘Demon Hunter’.
-PH: What does she use to kill?
-Zoe: It depends on who she kills because each form of demon has their own weakness. The demon hunters have customisable weapons to suit fighting different forms of demons. Taryn is half demon after being rescued from Falstaff’s ritual sacrifice but the only problem is she can only use those powers sparingly as every time she uses them he gets closer to possessing and controlling her. Taryn doesn’t use guns at all it’s just not a thing she does. Taryn is more of a melee combat person and her favourite weapon is her Katana sword.
-PH: What kind of weapons training did your actors have to do?
-Zoe: Niamh Hogan who plays Taryn Barker is a trained combatant in Shotokan Karate and has performed her own stunts in TV’s Vikings. In prep for Demon Hunter she trained with Fight Director Jonathan East in making sure the choreography as tight as possible.
-PH: How did you come up with the look of the villains?
-Zoe: I just envisioned all sorts of monsters and demons and thought about what would look cool and practical. Another thing I wanted to come across was that anyone in society day to day could be a demon and you wouldn’t know it and only the Demon Hunters fighting in secrecy knew who was and who wasn’t. Reptilian in design was the way to go for the cloaked cultists to reference reptilian satire.
If I had my way and a bigger budget the demons would be even more killer! Originally had planned for Falstaff to morph in the end to a Lovecratian Cthulu like tentacle beastie.
-PH: It’s a horror-action movie, sure, but is there also an underlying message in it?
-Zoe: Let’s look at it for a second. Taryn lost her sister due to neglect, she vowed responsibility to avenge her because she truly loved Annabelle. Taryn basically journeyed into hell and kicked demon ass until she could find who did it. Her journey is ongoing but it’s the love for her sister that drives her to do what she does and everything else means significantly less.The message is to be brave, have courage and if you believe in a cause well fight for that cause until the end. Never give in and never surrender because you must make what wronged you right.