Ashley Thorpe is an animation-a-holic, he’s also a bit of a horror aficionado, and he’s managed to get his busy fingers involved in a Hollywood flick that is being touted as horror of the year.
Tales of Halloween reads more a Hollywood horror who’s who. The film is set in a single town, but has managed to cram in 10 tales from 10 different directors.
The 10 directors include Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Centurion); Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV) and Mike Mendez (The Convent, Big Ass Spider and the much buzzy The Last Heist, to be release in 2016).
Add to this cast-members-who-are-much-more-famous-for-being-filmmakers (as Entertainment Weekly calls them) Joe Dante, Joe Landis, Adam Green, Stuart Gordon, along with John Savage, Lin Shaye, Pat Healy, Barbara Crampton and Barry Bostwick.
The Exeter-based animator is certainly rubbing shoulders -creatively speaking -with the great and the good of the contemporary horror world.
Ashley has provided the feature film with animated titles, an opportunity which came about purely through a little cheek, luck and honesty.
“Neil Marshall put a message out on his Facebook page which I saw one evening, saying something along the lines of ‘does anybody out there know anyone that can do awesome title sequences?'” said Ashley with a twinkle in his voice.
“And with a little bit of bravado, I replied ‘I don’t know if it would be awesome, but it would probably be a bit different’. And it was one of those things where you wake up the next morning and you think ‘oh, god I didn’t really post something did I? How embarrassing’.
“But he got back to me with the producer’s details, asked me to make a pitch, and that was that, May and June disappeared.”
Luckily enough Ashley was able to use some of the work for his Borley Rectory film -his English horror film starring the likes of Reece Shearsmith, Jonathan Rigby and Julian Sands, which he’s neck deep in at the moment.
But was the Tales of Halloween gig disruptive to his own project?
“Retrospectively it worked out quite well,” said Ashley. In the middle of his work on Tales of Halloween he had some shoots in London for Borley.
“It had taken months and months and months to get the cast all together, and usually I’m not that confident as a director -I’m more used to being behind a computer, illustrating behind the scenes -but because I was rushed off my feet with everything else it took some of the edge off.
“And I’ve learnt a lot of new techniques that are a bit flashy around the edges that I’ll probably be putting in Borley,” he said.
The majority of the story board ideas came from Neil Marshall’s wife, Axelle Carolyn, who was the powerhouse behind Tales of Halloween.
“She had a quite a clear idea of what she wanted, but I was given a reasonable amount of creative freedom with it.”
The title sequence gave Ashley the opportunity to try to animate things he’d never had a chance to before, work in a a new way in terms of sound and score, and pick up new techniques.
The theme tune was written by Lalo Schifrin (yes, him -he’d apparently come out of retirement especially), and it was being orchestrated in Scotland. Ashley had to build the animation while discussing how it was going to work with the music, in a reverse to his usual habit.
It was a heck of a lot of work for the working dad who was regularly putting in 14-18 hour days on the project, but it was all worth it for the new connections, new ways of working and new techniques -the title sequence includes 3-D animation, which is new to Ashley.
He also managed to see a rough-cut of the film.
“I think horror fans are going to really enjoy it,” said Ashley. “It’s quite retro in some ways -and I don’t mean in an archly knowing way -it’s not a post-modern thing. It’s more retro in that it has that fun, and had a slightly Grand Guignol spirit that some of the 80s things have. The spooky sections of it are nice and spooky. There are bits of it that remind me of Creep Show.
“I can image getting a load of beer and snacks in and sitting down to watch it with a group of friends.”
Meanwhile, Borley Rectory has been going really well.
“It’s looking exactly as I want it,” said Ashley. Most of the production is finished with just a few local shots -including the stuff with the Phantom Nun -to complete. But there’s at least six months of post production in the pipeline.
“I made an exclusive clip for the launch of Jonathan Rigby’s new edition of English Gothic -one of the seminal books on the subject of British horror film. He said to me -apart from the fact he’s in it -I’d love it if on the evening we could show a clip from Borley and give people an idea.
“I got together about two or three minutes new stuff to show, and it got an amazing reception from people. They were really impressed by it and I was incredibly embarrassed to be called up on stage to talk about it with Jonathan and Reece Shearsmith and chat about it.
“It’s nice because you’re working in complete isolation and not really knowing whether it’s any good -particularly when you’ve been working on it for so long. It’s quite satisfying to release little bits and say ‘what do you think?’ And hear people say it’s really good isn’t it, it’s really different and exciting.”
A quick assessment of Ashley’s on going success could be down to dint of will, encyclopaedic knowledge, a deep and infections enthusiasm, and heaps of talent plus of course, his work-ethic combined with a certain cheeky charm.
“Sometimes a little bit of cheek goes a long way,” said Ashley. “Rhys and Jonathan actually wouldn’t have been in Borley Rectory if I hadn’t been cheeky enough to ask them directly, and I would never have got the Halloween animation gig if I hadn’t just said ‘I don’t know if they’ll be amazing, but they’ll be different’. Sometimes you can’t be English and reserved, sometimes you have to be a cheeky.
“I think being genuine is the key. And I was just very lucky. Luckily the pitch must have been just about right, and because of Borley, I had a lot of little clips I could post.
“You’ve just got to be honest. I think the enthusiasm then will hopefully just shine through.
“I feel very lucky at the moment things are going well.”