Horror-on-Sea interview with writer-director Mj Dixon – Killer Clowns (2019) / Bannister Doll House (2019)

Cleavers: Killer Clowns (with additional short film Eric: A tale of Thorn)

Director: Mj Dixon

Writers: Mj Dixon

Stars: Georgie Smibert, Gemma Louise Troughton, Paul Rogers, Jessica Michelle Smith, Holly-Anne Dodkins

Deputy Jody Ann Howells, a survivor of the Still Rivers Massacre, is on the trail of a young woman, on the run after being found on the scene of a horrific murder, a young woman who may be connected to her past. As Howells closes in on her she discovers that the killer she faced all those years ago may still be alive and kicking and he has his sights on a family making a cross country road trip, only this time he’s not alone.

Date & Venue: Saturday 12th January 20:00

Park Inn by Radisson Palace, Southend, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK

Bannister Doll House – (with additional short film Molly)

Director: Mj Dixon

Writers: Mj Dixon

Stars: Tiana Rogers, Susan Lee Burton, Emmeline Kellie, Grant Kempster, Chloe Badham

Bannister Doll House is a brand-new Haunted House Movie from Independent Studio Mycho Entertainment. Bringing you a chilling tale of a family at odds against a sinister evil that they don’t understand. The Origin of Molly Bannister is here and its more terrifying than you could have imagined..

Date & Venue: Sunday 20th January 15:00

Park Inn by Radisson Palace, Southend, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK

Writer-director Mj Dixon returns to Horror-on-Sea Film Festival once again with two new feature premiers and two new short films. I got a chance to ask MJ Dixon a few questions about what we can expect from the films and what we can expect in the future from his production company Mycho

Q.You have two feature films which will be premiering at Horror-on-Sea which will see the return of two familiar characters. The first film see’s the return of Molly Bannister from Slasher House 2 (2016), who returns in her own feature Bannister Doll House (2019). What can we expect from the film?

Bannister (back then just called the Molly Movie) was one of those films that I knew I wanted to do from the moment I started working on the Script for Slasher House 2, the idea of her was so interesting to me, but of course in the context of that film she was a bit of cliché, killer doll etc. The tricky bit was that, if Molly was going to get her own story, how did we take a cliche like Killer Doll, that had been done a hundred times before and do something different with it?

The answer for me was to focus on the characters more than the monsters essentially. I wanted to make a sort of haunting melodrama that focused on how this family was being torn apart by this sinister presence that had entered their lives and I thought that if we did that, it wouldn’t matter so much that we have a killer doll running around because the horror was how this was affecting the characters.

It was kind of an allegory for Mental Illness in a lot of ways, that they feel like they can’t reach out to the outside world for help and eventually they become trapped in a world made up of familiar horrors from something that should make them feel safe.

Q. Molly has very different ability to a lot of the other characters in the Mycho Universe. Why did you decide to create a killer like Molly?

The Slasher House movies kind of started as a homage to the decades of slashers that had gone before. The first film has some of the usual archetypes that you’d find in the genre, the Schizophrenic Nathan,or the masked mute killer Thorn and of course, the clichéd, Cleaver the Killer Clown. The idea was just to have some fun with familiar tropes that exist within the horror/slasher genre. I didn’t think I’d have to expand on a lot of them,so I just kept them as recognisable as possible in terms of what audiences would recognise in that type of character. 

In Slasher House 2 I tried to follow the same idea and looked at what we hadn’t done already. The Killer Doll thing seemed cool and familiar enough, but instead of going full Chucky we introduced Molly as a kind of twist in the tale. I really liked the idea of this doll running around killing people and then we find out that is just a tool for this paralysed girl who can control things with her mind. She was the real killer and that was a cool take on it I thought.

I was more careful to make something interesting with Molly in Slasher House 2 as at that point we had expanded some of our other characters into spin off movies and that had been tricky for characters like Cleaver, who had been designed for a one note appearance. So, it was intentional to make Molly a little bit more exciting and have a little more depth in terms of the horror tropes she was based on.

It’s also a lot of fun as a writer and director to take a different approach to a killer,so it’s not all hacking and slashing lol. Designing her and the way we shot the doll was a real challenge in the best possible way, figuring out how to make it move without seeing it do so and such. Its stuff like that which makes film making a lot of fun.

Q.What are you influences for the look and style of Bannister Doll House?

With every film I really want to draw from the plethora of different influences I have,and this felt like a great opportunity to take inspiration from films like The Amityville Horror (1979) and The Entity (1982) as well as elements from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)and Psycho (1960), I wanted it to feel more like classic horror from the 60’s and 70’s. The film was originally planned to be shot in Black and White to match that idea, although eventually I was talked into shooting it in colour on set giving me the option to make two versions.

After that, I decided to give the colour and look my full attention in case we decided to keep the full colour look and went for a very Mario Bava inspired palette with very bright block colours that represented the various stages of the family’s degradation. I wanted to make a kitchen sink drama that was happening during a 70’s Haunted House movie and so there are two very distinct styles to the film, that see it being either very muted or very primary in terms of colour.

Q. In addition to the main feature, you have also made a short-called Molly (2018). How is this connected to the feature and how can people see the film.

When I was writing Molly there was an idea that Sherry, the eldest sister, played by Chloe Badham, was somehow involved in Molly’s sinister illness. It didn’t really fit into the script anywhere and slowed it down quite a lot no matter where I seemed to put it. So, we decided that it would work well as its own short film for our Patreon.

The film is set a few days before the beginning of the Feature and we were really lucky to get most of the cast back to make cameos and it really added a lot of the story, but of course, not enough that it makes it essentially viewing, but it’s a nice appendix that rounds the film out a little more.

Currently the film is exclusive to http://patreon.com/mycho to our monthly subscribers, but it is off having some festival screenings now starting with Horror-on-Sea in January ahead of the Banister Dollhouse World Premiere.

Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!

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