In Henry Jacobson’s first narrative feature, BLOODLINE, Evan (Seann William Scott) and his wife Lauren (Mariela Garriga) welcome their first child into their home. However, Evan quickly begins experiencing the stress of early fatherhood which result in him falling back into some bad habits. You see, Evan is a serial killer and he will do whatever it takes to protect his family above all else.
Prior to the release of the film, I had the chance to speak with director/co-writer Henry Jacobson about his latest movie. During our chat we discussed everything from working alongside Seann William Scott as well as using practical effects to showcase the real horrors of pregnancy.
It’s such a pleasure to speak with you today! Can you talk a little bit about how you and co-writer Avra Fox-Lerner became attached to the film?
Henry Jacobson: There was an original script that was set up at Blumhouse before I came on to it by Will Honley. Avra [Fox-Lerner] had been working on another project and I had done a documentary for Blumhouse on the TV side. I had pitched them this other project that I thought was interesting that I could direct as my first narrative feature and they thought it was great but too weird for them (laughs). They told me they had another project and asked me to take a look at the script. They sent me BLOODLINE and it had that kind of core idea of “serial killer has a baby” and I was really attracted to that idea. My wife was pregnant at the time with our first child and I immediately started thinking about it and sent it to Avra and we sort of immediately took it in this direction to make it really about family. Then we had to pitch our take to Blumhouse and ultimately to Seann [William Scott] who was already attached to the project but who knew he wanted to take it in a different direction and wanted to bring on a director to do that.
Seann William Scott is mainly known for his comedic roles and in the case of BLOOLINE, he takes on a very serious role as Evan. What was it like to direct him?
Henry Jacobson: It was great! Seann, aside from professionally, is a real sweetheart. He’s a lovely guy. Also, he’s a real horror buff, he loves horror movies which surprised me, I didn’t know that going in. He wanted to take [the film] as dark as it could go, even when we were sort of working on different ideas and pitching different scenes. Seann would, in a lot of ways, be our champion of it. He was attached at the beginning, before we even came on, so we thought about that when we were working on the script. We know audiences are going to bring that idea of [Seann] as an actor to the role so we wanted to use that sense of warmth and humor that audiences have towards him as an entry point to them seeing him flipped in this role. I think it makes his performance that much more impactful knowing that’s where he’s coming from. It definitely helped guide us in the writing of the script.
Obviously, I’m not championing a serial killer, but, in a way, it was hard to hate Evan considering the motivations behind the killings. Were trying to make him out to be an anti-hero?
Henry Jacobson: Yes and no. I mean, yes, I think in the one sense, just from nuts and bolts filmmaking, you need a hero. The audience goes in expecting a hero and you kind of have to build that in a way. But I think for us, part of it was based in actual research that we did into psychopaths and serial killers. It’s actually fairly common for them to have a moral universe that they will build to justify their behavior. Even with psychopaths, who aren’t killing people necessarily, but who build a rationale, it allows them to behave the way they do which does not conform to societal norms. We definitely wanted to play with that idea, and in Evan’s world we tried to make that about family and what we discover, without giving too much away, is his background that leads him to those decisions. I do think that at some point in the movie it’s our hope that the audience starts to question their allegiance to him so that it is not quite so black and white. I really love films that do that and one of the people we talked a lot about when working on the script is Paul Schrader. He’s somebody who does that very, very well – of setting you up with someone who’s a hero and at some point making you realize that maybe the hero is the monster after all.
One of the many aspects of the film that I loved was in regards to the musical and color choices, specifically the red and blues. Can you elaborate on those choices?
Henry Jacobson: I have a background in photography and cinematography so I definitely like to use the language of color and light to convey elements that aren’t strictly in the story. I think it communicates on another level that audiences aren’t obviously thinking about or looking for, but that does have an impact. I think we tried to use, and get further, into these wild, sort of more saturated colors, as we go further and further into Evan’s mind. You share that experience with the audience but in a way that’s not telling them what to think or feel. I think the music does that in another way, too. Our composer, Trevor Gureckis, is remarkable. I’ve worked with him before and I absolutely love his work. One of the things we talked about early on was using the music in a way that pushes you out of the story in an extreme way that it makes you step back and look at it. It creates its own tension and own narrative arc that’s different from a movie that has the wall to wall music that swells when you’re supposed to feel sad and swells a different way when you’re supposed to feel happy. I wanted the music to come in a way that’s like a presence in which it has its own conversation with the story and the characters. I think I was trying to do that with every element, whether it’s color and the light, or the music, or the set design. We’ve made big choices and I had really wonderful collaborators in my production designers and my cinematographer who just wanted to go there with me. I do think of it as a conversation between the elements as opposed to an emotional journey for the audience.
There’s one scene, in particular, that made me go, “Oh, okay that’s happening” and it has to do with Evan’s wife giving birth. I’m assuming that, and the majority of the film, used practical effects?
Henry Jacobson: Absolutely, I think with the birthing scene, in particular, we wanted to conflate the real horror and fear of birth. It’s a terrifying process for the parents and it’s a brutally painful process for mothers and it’s really violent. I wanted to really, in a way, indulge in that, but have it feel real and have it almost be kind of in your face. Because this film is not a jump-scare movie, I tried to use those moments of violence to be really visceral and I think only physical effects do that. I think digital effects, while they can create amazing and beautiful worlds, I think your brain can kind of tell the difference and when you’re actually looking at something real being torn apart or ripped in half or whatever, you experience that in a different way and it feels very visceral. So yes, that was absolutely part of the thinking. I also had a great physical effects team with Josh and Sierra Russell. One quick anecdote about my first meeting with them – I came in and wanted to do something that I had never really seen done before when people slice throats. I wanted to see the knife go in and pull out so that blood comes at the camera. I was telling this to [Josh and Sierra] and they were sitting there looking at me and I could see them getting more and more excited and they were like “Yes, we’ve always wanted to do that but no ones ever asked us before!” (laughs). From the first meeting it was a match made in heaven with them.
For more on BLOODLINE, check out our review here. BLOODLINE is now available in theaters, On Digital and On Demand.