If you were a fan of V/H/S last year, then I must implore you to see V/H/S/2 as soon as possible. It’s already been released via Video On Demand formats, so it’s as simple as plopping down on your comfy sofa and using whatever device you have to access this completely improved upon horror sequel. The directors this time around took their ideas to crazy new heights, and each short brought some wonderfully different flavor, but no short was able to even come close to “Safe Haven” by directors Gareth Evans (The Raid) and Timo Tjahjanto (Macabre). Telling the story of a documentary film crew stuck in the middle of a cult’s final plans, once “Safe Haven” turns on the floodgates of insanity, there’s literally no stoppage until the very last blood-soaked minute.
I recently had the opportunity to interview both Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto about their dynamite horror short, and the two personalities were a blast together. I would have killed for double the amount of time, but I made the best of what I did have by asking how the two got together for V/H/S/2, where the idea for “Safe Haven” originally started, and what their favorite parts of the sequel were outside their own segment. Enjoy!
We Got This Covered: So you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard “Safe Haven” was originally being developed as a feature film idea…
Timo Tjahjanto: Initially, I had the idea as a feature that I wanted to make in the future sometime. Initially, I had the idea that I wanted to write a documentary piece loosely based on “What if there was a documentary team in the middle of a Jonestown Massacre,” that happened some 25 years ago? Initially I had the idea, but after The Collective approached me and Gareth separately, I decided to change the concept into more of a fiction, demonic sort of horror film.
We Got This Covered: So how did the teaming of you two come about for this short?
Timo Tjahjanto: I was begging him, man! [Laughs]
Gareth Evans: Basically, we’ve both been friends for a couple of years now, about six to seven years, and we’ve watched the same movies, talked about the same movies, we help each other out with our scripts from time to time, bouncing ideas off each other, but it’s always been for our own individual projects. It’s never been for something we’ve collaborated on ourselves.
They contacted us both separately, and for me, my thing was I’m known for doing action, I’m not known for doing horror. I was a little nervous to throw my hat in the ring for that and then say “alright let’s try it,” but I felt that I needed someone to guide me and support me on that. That’s where Timo came in. He’d also been contacted, and he was looking to do something, so I said, “Well we’ve been looking for something to collaborate on for so long, let’s just do it now. Let’s do this one together and see how we go from there.” That was the starting point for it, but Timo had the concept for it already, and I loved the idea of this documentary crew being plunged into this compound at the worst possible time they could have gone, and the idea of shooting that in a found footage format using POV cameras just gave everything such an immediacy I could already see how terrifying of a prospect it could be for a short horror film.
We Got This Covered: Was it hard directing as a duo? When you direct alone, you only have to please yourself, but when you direct with a partner, you then have to please a whole other mindset on top of your own. Was that ever a challenge?
Timo Tjahjanto: Personally for me it is hard, but here’s the thing. Working with Gareth, even though he’s my friend, I also realized he knows a lot of things I don’t know, especially if you saw “Safe Haven.” A lot of the camera work and technique it applies is all about energy and keeping a sense of urgency and frenetic filmmaking, and Gareth mastered it like nobody else. It’s hard because we both like to bounce ideas and say “Come on, let’s do this,” but have to say “No, we don’t have the time,” so at the end of the day it was a valuable lesson, but now I have Gareth’s cheat sheet. [Laughs]
Gareth Evans: I personally found the collaborative process really helpful to me because we both came to it with the same viewpoint. We both wanted to push, push, push, and not hold back, you know, really let go with this film. In Indonesia we have quite a strict censorship law, so there’s certain things we’re just not allowed to do, and there’s certain things we have to restrain ourselves from doing. Then, all of a sudden we’re given this opportunity where we have the producers telling us, “Whatever the fuck you want to do, just go ahead and do it,” and it was quite liberating to be in that headspace and to have someone else as a director who is going to support that process and who you can bounce ideas off. The only downside to us working together like that was the idea that we would drive our crew crazy by coming up with new ideas all the time and demand…
Timo Tjahjanto: Our “diva-like” demands…
Gareth Evans: [Laughs] Yeah, our “diva-like” demands, and they have to work around our ideas. There was no one there to tell us, “Stop already!” and neither of us were in that headspace where we were going to stop.
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