While much has been made over the past couple of decades regarding gender roles as it pertains to women, we are now starting to see over the past decade or so more people addressing the topic of toxic masculinity. For those who are unfamiliar, toxic masculinity is defined by strict compliance to embodying traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions that boys and men can express openly (which also extends privately). This term also addresses the social expectation that men embody the dominant, alpha male role, which grossly limits them and harms them due to the pressure of fitting into that image and limiting their emotional range. In director Ian Hunt Duffy’s latest film LOW TIDE, we get to see a pushback against toxic masculinity and see how this idolization of a masculine ideal not only harms the individual but everyone around the individual in the long term.
Ahead of its screening at FilmQuest Festival this year, I had the opportunity to interview director Ian Hunt Duffy, where we discussed everything about the theme surrounding toxic masculinity and how the film attacks the traditional masculine ideal to how much fun it was working on an underwater shoot.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. First off, I wanted to know what inspired the film because there’s almost a Lovecraftian influence, but there’s also a lot more there. Can you talk to me about that?
Ian Hunt Duffy: I love horror films and really wanted to tell an old fashioned campfire tale, a chiller. My favourite kind of horror films are allegorical, combining the jump scares with an interesting subtext or theme. I had worked with writer Darach McGarrigle previously on my last film ‘Gridlock’, which was a whodunnit thriller that has been very successful, so we were eager to collaborate again. We spoke about doing a film on childhood and loss of innocence, and from that came the theme of ‘toxic masculinity’, which is what ‘Low Tide’ is all about. The script really attacks the traditional macho mentality often found in the countryside- that you have to be tough and violent to be considered a man.
Looking at the film, I could already tell that this had to be difficult logistically to tackle. Am I right about that being the most difficult or were there other factors that proved to be even more difficult?
Ian Hunt Duffy: The main difficulties were during the production itself. They say you should never work with children, animals, or on water. Well, we had all three! We also had to film at night and do an underwater shoot. So there were a lot of challenging elements that made it an extremely ambitious shoot for the budget and time that we had.
That all sounds rough. But it also seems like a shoot that could easily be fun. What was your favorite moment or part of working on this film?
Ian Hunt Duffy: Despite the challenge, the underwater shoot was actually a lot of fun. It was my first time directing an underwater scene, so we had a great day working in a water tank with divers and stuntmen.
With a film like this that attacks toxic masculinity, it is clear that it is one of the messages audiences should pull from this. But I want to know what do you want the audience to take away from this film?
Ian Hunt Duffy: Ultimately, I hope that it creates a tense and unnerving atmosphere for them when they’re watching it, that they feel a sense of dread or foreboding hanging over the film throughout. The nature of the story in LOW TIDE also leaves just enough room for debate and interpretation, so I hope it sparks some discussion after the credits roll.
Well, I can assure you that dread and tension is definitely there. I felt it and, by the time the credits rolled, I felt a heaviness and sadness. I’m going to wrap up with this final question. Are there any projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
Ian Hunt Duffy: I’m currently in development on my first feature film, a horror/thriller called ‘Double Blind’. We’re hoping to go into production next summer, so I’m really excited about that.