Widely considered one of the finest and most influential ghost story writers ever to have lived, MR James revolutionised the genre, drawing the reader into portrayals of banal British life which are then undercut by horrifying encounters with the supernatural. Now, Torquay-based filmmaker Ed Chappell is adapting one of James’ most famous, and gruesome, stories, Lost Hearts, into a film.
This updated version of the tale centers on a young boy named Steven, who, following an argument between his parents is sent to live with his Uncle Abney and his wife Mary at a remote house. While there, Steven uncovers a few unpleasant surprises. I caught up with Ed for a chat.
Ed Chappell: Lost Hearts is an MR James ghost story and I was inspired to do it through reading the original story. My Dad has a large collection of ghost stories and he forced me to read them! However, once I read this particular tale, I thought it would be quite a good idea for a film. Although I was aware it had been done already, I thought maybe I could update it.
Sean Wilson: Are you filming locally in Torbay?
EC: Yes, because there’s a lot of diversity and areas in which to film. Everything we need for the film is around us!
SW: Where are you filming, specifically?
EC: We’ve filmed in a lot of places, actually. Cockington has featured extensively because of the woods and countryside. A lot of the film is set in the woods to create a sense of isolation.
SW: What have you been working on today? [08/07/2012]
EC: We’ve been recording the sound for a couple of scenes. It’s a challenge filming outdoors and competing with the wind and dog walkers!
SW: Who are some of the actors involved in the film?
EC: We have Chesney Hawkes-Porter who’s playing the 14-year-old Stephen, Bryony Reynolds as Mary, Sam Morgan as Abney and James Cotter as Parkes, a small but significant role. We also have Jon Cook as our soundman behind the scenes.
SW: And what’s the other scene you’re shooting today?
EC: It’s Stephen’s first dream sequence when he wakes up on the landing and sees some strange things …
SW: And you’re filming this in your own house?
EC: Yes! It’s so photogenic and ideal for the scene. I’m aiming to make it as dark and dim as possible, with maximum contrast between light to create a sense of fear. We’re getting there with filming, slowly but surely – I’d say we’re coming up to about halfway through. We aim to have it done by the end of July.
SW: Have you watched any classic ghost stories on film to get ideas?
EC: Yes, I watched the recent BBC adaptation of another MR James ghost story, O Whistle and I’ll Come to You, starring John Hurt. I thought that was really good and drew a lot of inspiration from that. It’s all slightly uneasy, there’s nothing too obvious, it’s all subtle and in the mind.
SW: When it comes to the ghostly effects in your film, are you going to imply things off-camera for the most part?
EC: Yes, subtle things in the corner and subtle emphasis through the music which will be subtle in the background.
SW: When it comes to the music, what’s the plan there?
EC: It’s going to be very subtle and ambient, very strange with a lot of lingering high notes. Just weird sounds that aren’t particularly prominent but hinting at something monstrous…