In Viljar Bøe‘s latest film, GOOD BOY, Sigrid thinks she’s met her perfect match with the charming and handsome Christian, but there is one catch – he lives with a man who acts like his pet dog. Trying to be open-minded, Sigrid continues the relationship but soon notices an insidious undertone to Christian. Maybe ‘puppy play’ isn’t as innocent as it seems.
Leading up to the release of GOOD BOY, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with writer/director Viljar Bøe. During their chat, they discussed everything from how the unconventional story originated from 50 Shades of Grey, crafting and maintaining tension and suspension throughout the film, and more.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Viljar. This movie is very unique and unconventional which I really loved. Can you take us through the process of how this story originated?
Viljar Bøe: I’ve had this idea for quite a long time. I think back in 2018, I kind of came up with the idea… just the imagery of a person in a dog costume. For a long time that was the only thing I had, this image of a person in a dog costume. I wasn’t really sure what genre the film should be because you could take it many places. It can be a romantic comedy. It can be a horror film. It can be a satire. What we ended up doing was a mishmash between different genres and kind of give a little bit of everything, mostly a romantic comedy and a thriller. That was the idea behind it.
Then also, I was very inspired by 50 Shades of Grey, actually. That was the main reason. I wanted to do a twist or a flip around of 50 Shades of Grey, where you start with a person with a dark secret who seems kind of mean and is rich and then it turns out he has a softer side. But I wanted to do something a little bit different and perhaps a little bit more realistic in how something like that would turn out. So those were the two things that kind of at least started the whole process of the script.
Given that the movie centers around three characters, it’s very crucial for the audience to be able to empathize with their emotions. Can you share how you went about selecting the actors for these roles?
Viljar Bøe: We had open casting where people could send in submissions. The most important part was for Christian (Gard Løkke), I had something very specific for his archetype and Gard fit that perfectly. Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen), the main character, is kind of supposed to be the audience so she could in some ways be anyone, but also she had to be somewhat opposite of Christian in many ways. Katrine had a lot of input in her character and both me, Katrine, and Gard, especially, spent a lot of hours and weeks just developing the script together so that they could put their own spin to the character. They had a lot to do with the way the characters turned out.
I’m a girl who likes a good slow burn. I love the feeling of knowing something’s coming but you don’t know when it’ll appear. How did you approach the process of creating and maintaining a sense of tension and suspense throughout the film?
Viljar Bøe: When I wrote the script, I actually started it as a romantic comedy and wasn’t actually a hundred percent sure what it was going to turn out to be. At a certain point, I saw how this could turn into something more sinister. That kind of just came about randomly. I thought, if I wasn’t sure what was going to happen while writing the script I was also hoping that the audience didn’t really fully expect what was going to happen. You go back and try to give small hints of what is going to happen but don’t want to make it too obvious and make people unsure if something sinister is going to happen or who the villain is and who’s really being held captive and stuff like that.
Switching gears, let’s talk about the Frank the Dog. When it came to the mask used, did you have a dog breed in mind? Or was the mask something you happen to stumble upon?
Viljar Bøe: We did not have a dog breed in mind. The costume is kind of a mishmash of different components. I think it was important that Frank, the dog, didn’t look like a specific dog. It just looked like Frank, you know? It is kind of like Uncanny Valley where it looks like a dog but it doesn’t really look like a dog either. When you first see it, you don’t completely buy it. It’s kind of obvious what it really is. But the important thing was that, you know, we had a lot of discussions if he should have a mask or not. I think it was important that the dog had a mask so the audience couldn’t read his expression to see if he was happy or sad. Or, the audience could project their own feelings onto the dog which I feel is kind of what we do with real dogs too, in a way.
Lastly, whether it’s horror enthusiasts or general audiences, is there any message you hope to leave them with after they see the movie?
Viljar Bøe: I feel like it’s a fun movie for people to discuss what the message is. I feel like a lot of people will definitely get very different things out of it. I see a lot of people calling it a comedy and a lot of people calling it a thriller and I think it’s a lot of fun that people have different experiences when it comes to the film, so that’s important to me. You could get scared, you can laugh, you can react however you want to with the film.
GOOD BOY arrives in theaters, on Digital and On Demand September 8, 2023.
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