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Director Henry Jacobson Talks 'Bloodline'

20 Sep, 2019    added by : Kit Bowen
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Screenpicks.com

Blumhouse’s Bloodline stars Seann William Scott (American PieLethal Weapon) as Evan, a high school counselor by day, serial killer by night, who targets his students’ dead-beat dads. As if his double life isn’t complicated enough, Evan’s wife is about to give birth to their first child. Oh, and his mom plans to move in to help take care of the baby.

ScreenPicks spoke to director and co-writer Henry Jacobson about making a gory slasher flick that’s all about family ties.

ScreenPicks: How did the project originate?

Jacobson: So, there was an original script by Will Honley set up at Blumhouse. At the core of that script was the idea that a serial killer has a baby, which was the idea that really sparked for me. Actually, at the time my wife was pregnant with our first child. So, I thought about it and I kind of wanted to take it in a different direction. I sent it to [co-writer] Avra [Fox-Lerne] and we talked about it and ultimately came in with a different version that focused more on the family that we then pitched to Blumhouse and Seann, who was already attached. They loved the take on it, and we embarked on our rewrites.

ScreenPicks: Blumhouse is now so synonymous with great horror films was that exciting for your directorial debut? Daunting? Both?

Jacobson: It was great. I had actually worked with Blumhouse on a project before, a documentary that I co-directed with my producing partner Emma Tammi … about the election. That came out in 2017. So, I had worked with them and knew all those guys over there and obviously loved them. I think what Jason [Blum] has done with the horror genre is remarkable and revolutionary in a lot of ways. So, I was thrilled. Doing my first narrative in some ways was daunting but knowing how good they are at what they do … helped a lot. I felt very supported along the way.

ScreenPicks: From the murders to the birth scene, the film is very visceral and graphic. Was that important for you?

Jacobson: Yeah, it definitely was. For one, I knew this wasn’t going to be a jump scare movie. It wasn’t going to be one of those close-the-bathroom-mirror-and-there’s-someone-standing-behind-you [films]. So, I think just in a simple, fundamental way, those [gory] places were where I could shock the audience out of the story they were in.

But, also, as much as I did try to push the boundaries stylistically, I did want it to feel real and for the character to feel real, and for me, that meant practical effects and being very confrontational in those moments. They’re brief, but they are brutal. For me, that helped it feel more real, as opposed to something you turn away from or CGI. Practical effects really play a big role.

ScreenPicks: Was it all practical effects or a mixture?

Jacobson: It was a little bit of a mixture. There were things that essentially get removed digitally, but all of those [visceral] scenes you’re talking about were all practical effects. That’s from a team called Russell FX. They’re a married couple — Josh and Sierra Russell – and they are dark. They were super into it when I told them what I wanted to do. They were like, ‘Yeah, that’s super fucked up, let’s do it!’

ScreenPicks: Seann was already attached to the film, but what was the casting process like for his character’s mother and wife? How did you know you had found your perfect ladies?

Jacobson: With Marie, [Evan’s mom], that was a role we offered to Dale [Dickey]. Our casting team and casting director on Bloodline had a number of people they thought would be a good fit, and when they started talking about Dale, I was like, ‘Oh man, she would be a great fit. She would be amazing.’ I’d obviously seen a lot of her work before on TV and film – things like ‘Winter’s Bone.’ I just thought she would be brilliant and I was thrilled she agreed to meet with me and ultimately decided to do it. And she was excited because it was a very different role for her. You know, not a junkie, crackhead [laughs].

ScreenPicks: Is this her first time doing horror?

Jacobson: You know, I don’t know that answer for sure, but … certainly it’s a different role for her. And in talking about it with her and her realizing how far I wanted to push it, she was thrilled. And I just think she’s a national treasure. She’s brilliant. A lot of my favorite moments in the movie are her moments.

Mariela [Garriga, who plays Evan’s wife, Lauren,] came in through casting. They brought in a number of women to read for that role. We had originally written that role for a typical girl-next-door, housewife kind of character. And when Mariela came in to read for it, and she gave an incredible audition and brought this other level of an immigrant, with an accent, a Latin character … that gave – without ever intending to – some backstory implications that solved some of the problems we were having with Lauren’s character. Like how do we show where she’s coming from without exposition? We don’t want a scene where she just tells her story. There’s a lot in Mariela’s performance, and just the fact that she’s a Cuban actress living here, that allowed us to avoid that kind of clunky exposition scene.

ScreenPicks: How much of you and your wife’s experiences as new parents play a role in the film?

Jacobson: A lot. Like I said, when I first came on to the project, my wife was pregnant. When we finished the final draft with Avra, my son was maybe two months old. So, there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s absolutely taken out of parenthood and my marriage during that time. And the same is true of Avra. Her daughter is much older than my son, but she definitely used a lot of her own experience. And it was important to both of us to be real about that, not only because it serves as great motivation for these characters’ decisions, but also as parents, not seeing a lot of that in movies, not seeing the dark side of that. It’s usually showing this moment where everyone’s together, but in fact, it’s tough, and I think most parents would agree with that and … it doesn’t get talked about very often. So, we wanted to talk about that.

ScreenPicks: So you’re bringing your own experience –

Jacobson: I didn’t go kill anybody, for the record!

ScreenPicks: OK good. Thought there might have been some suspicious late-night drives going on. But seriously, you’re bringing your own experiences, what about movies? Do you have favorite films you’re drawing on for this?

Jacobson: Sure … so Avra and I went to high school together. We’ve been friends for years and years and years and took our first film class together in high school and have been obsessed with movies ever since. So, we have a lot of similar references. … We looked at different films and talked about stylistic elements of those. Like Brian De Palma films – Dressed to KillBody Double … Blow Out – and actually some older … noir stuff. Because the film sort of switches gears at one point and goes into that mystery, noir-y area. There’s obviously others. Cronenberg has inspired me for years and a lot of physical effects – while we don’t go nearly as far as he does – I do think my adherence to physical effects come from his movies and how visceral he is – Videodrome and The Brood are some of my favorite movies of all time. Obviously, Rosemary’s Baby is one we talked about.

ScreenPicks: Final question, and it’s a tough one. Are you concerned about comparisons to Dexter, a show about a serial killer who only kills the bad guys and leads a very tricky double life? Is that even a blip on your radar?

Jacobson: Oh, of course it is. And I actually loved that show. Avra loved the books before the show. I think for us, a lot of the decisions we made came from research into the psychopath and psychopathy as a building of a moral universe that is not a social or ethical universe but justifies the behavior of the psychopath. So, for us it was trying to use that trait that was common among psychopaths and serial killers to bring us home into a family story. That made those kills more natural – the way he’s finding his victims.

Another element is just we can take creative liberties and we didn’t want to do just another serial killer story about a guy who kills women and is sexually driven – we’ve seen that a lot and while that is very common motivation, it wasn’t something we wanted to put in the world. So, obviously the comparisons are there and they will be made, but I don’t have a problem with that. I like that show a lot.

Bloodline is in theaters, on demand and digital on Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.

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