A couple of days ago, just as the New Year was getting underway, I reviewed new British horror-comedy, Wolf Manor. For those who have yet to read the review (shame on you), the film is a horror romp about a film crew who run afoul of a bloodthirsty werewolf, while shooting a vampire picture in the Midlands.
Directed by Dominic Brunt, and written by Joel Ferrari and Pete Wild, Wolf Manor is a low-budget title, which has been made by people with a passion for film and horror. The movie was screened at FrightFest back in 2022 (as well as a number of other festivals), but for those who didn’t catch it on the festival circuit, Wolf Manor arrives on home video and video-on-demand platforms in the UK next week.
Keen to get the lowdown on the new movie, I recently caught up with Wolf Manor co-writer, Joel Ferrari to ask him a few questions about the film. Joel was kind enough to stop and chat, provide me with a little bit of behind-the-scenes information, and give me the ‘heads up’ on a potential sequel idea.
Want to check out our conversation? Of course you do, you little horror hound, so keep on reading!
Interview with Joel Ferrari – Co-writer on Wolf Manor
Hi Joel, it’s great to speak to you today, and congratulations on your new horror-comedy, Wolf Manor. I know that some audiences will have caught the movie at a UK film festival last year, but for those who didn’t, it must be great to know the film is now out there and readily available for home viewing. Tell me, what inspired you and co-writer Pete Wild to write Wolf Manor?
“Me and Pete are both massive horror fans, who met through the monthly double-bills at The Festival of Fantastic Films, held at The Unicorn pub in Manchester.
“In terms of Wolf Manor, we were inspired mostly by the old classic Universal and Hammer films, as well as ‘80s slashers and popcorn horror. Our main inspirations include American Werewolf in London, The Howling, The House of Seven Corpses, and Madam, as well as a million other films!”
Did you always have a horror-comedy in mind or was there a time when you were you leaning more towards straight-out horror?
“We were always learning towards comedy as we were both sick of the misery porn films, currently known as ‘elevated horror’! When I’m not writing, I’m a key worker and during the first COVID lockdown I realised that whenever I finished my shifts I would go home and watch ‘80s slashers and vintage horror on YouTube. The so-called important films made by people who think they are above horror were just boring me.”
Once you guys had an idea for the film, and maybe even a completed draft, did you then go to director Dominic Brunt with the script in hand or was he involved during the initial development?
“The script was finished in February 2022, five days after the plot was conceived in the Port Street pub in Manchester. At that point, another potential director was shown it.
“He wanted to get rid of the American Werewolf homages and wanted to make the film more a straight-up horror. We didn’t fancy that, so our editor suggested Dom.
“I had seen all of Dom’s films at festivals and was a fan of his work, so I said to Pete it would be great if we could get him and his fantastic producer wife Jo (Mitchell) on board.
“Dom and Jo only had a few weeks to set everything up as the shooting was to be conducted over the Easter holidays. We also had the editor work on the film every day during the shoot as we wanted the film to be considered for FrightFest in August.”
Considering how popular horror is right now, how difficult was it to finance the movie? Wolf Manor is a low budget horror-comedy, so I imagine you had to scrape together whatever funds you could, but did the current interest in the horror genre help at all from any outside sources?
“All the funding was done by Pete and his wife Wendy, so we didn’t have to get funding anywhere. The manor in the film is their home which they had just bought and hadn’t been furnished yet, so the cast and crew could do what they wanted with it while filming.
“Some of us stayed over there or in caravans on the land. The pub at the start of the film also belongs to them, so location-wise it was excellent. No Ed Wood-style guerrilla filming!”
One of the key things that struck me when watching Wolf Manor, was that despite the low budget, the film was clearly put together by a team who enjoy horror. Was this something important to you when devising this project, that whatever the end result, you wanted the ‘fun factor’ to come across?
“Dom and (prosthetics designer) Shaune Harrison are both massive horror fans, as were a lot of the crew. It was very important to us to get a sense of ‘fun’ from the film, because to me horror is fun.
“This film exists purely as a celebration of horror. I’ve been obsessed with horror and B-movies since before I could talk, according to my Gran anyway. I remember watching films like Scanners from behind my Castle Grayskull.
“The first video my family rented when we got a VCR was Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that made an impression on me. Even my Guinea pigs are named after scream queens. My little piggy Linnea died last week, so tonight my girlfriend is going to get Elvira to be Quigley’s new friend.”
Sorry to hear about your Guinea pig.
Let’s talk a little about the cast of Wolf Manor, which includes a number of faces that UK audiences will certainly be familiar with, including James Fleet, John Henshaw, Nicky Evans, and the ever-fabulous Rula Lenska. When writing the script, did you have any of these actors in mind, or did the casting director work overtime to get some star names?
“The cast were fantastic! I couldn’t believe so many experienced professionals wanted to be in the film. I’m assuming that Dom and Jo were responsible for attracting such a fantastic cast.
“I mostly watch low-budget horror and exploitation films, so have little knowledge of known actors. I know Pete really wanted James Fleet so he was over the moon when James signed up for the lead role!”
Of all the actors in the movie, it is fair to say that James Fleet steals every scene with some very humorous lines. Did he slip you a couple of quid to ensure he got some great gags? You can tell me – I won’t breathe a word of it to anyone.
“Ha, yes James was fantastic and I can’t imagine anyone else in that role now! He is a lovely bloke and the other actors loved working with him. Unlike his character, Oliver Laurence, James was very professional and sober all shoot, even on our day off when we went to Ludlow Brewery!”
Tell me a little about the shoot. How involved were you during the filming, and what was the turn-around like on this project?
“The film was shot over the Easter holidays of 2022 and I was there for the first ten days. I would get up every morning about 9:30am and help set the breakfast table up, empty bins, check the grounds etc.
“From 17:30 pm until around 3:00 am, me and Pete would drink bottles of Ludlow ale and watch any outdoor filming. I also have a Man City bottle opener on my key chain, so I would open bottles of beer for any cast and crew that had finished their work for the night!
“During filming it was decided that we needed an epilogue to build up the running time, so Pete and myself came up with the backstory that got filmed later on. Besides that, I left the cast and crew to it as they are the experts. My work had been done prior to filming.”
Did everything get filmed on the shoot, or did any major scenes get dropped due to time or budget restrictions?
“Everything was filmed, nothing had to be cut from the script. On the second day of filming the original werewolf actor tested positive for COVID so we were without a werewolf briefly! Luckily, we managed to get Morgan (Rees-Davies) to step in, who was fantastic. Morgan saved the day!”
One of the triumphs of Wolf Manor are the special effects. The werewolf is very impressive and a great deal better than many on-screen werewolves. What did you think when you first saw the creature on screen? Did it live up to what you had imagined when writing the script?
“Shaune Harrison was the first person Pete contacted about doing the film. Wolf Manor had to have practical effects – I hate CGI monsters and I’m not interested in big budget fantasy and sci-fi stuff at all. I will happily sit through an old Larry Buchanan monster movie, but haven’t even seen the Hobbit films!
“In any case, not only are Shaune and (prosthetics supervisor) Paula (Anne Booker) two of the nicest people you will meet, but Shaune is a massive horror fan. I knew they would do a fantastic werewolf as I have been a fan of Shaune’s films for decades.
“He is known for big films but he has worked on classic low budget horror films like Mind Ripper and Proteus, which is a favourite of mine. I said to Pete he might be interested in Wolf Manor as he had provided effects for a horror film I worked on a few years ago called Pandora.
“Shaune and Paula did a fantastic job with the werewolf, as well as all the gore effects throughout the film.”
I’ll bring my questions to an end momentarily, but tell me what does it mean to you, and to your co-writer Pete Wild, to see your words brought to life on screen? And do you have plans for a Wolf Manor sequel?
“It was surreal watching Wolf Manor on the IMAX screen at FrightFest. I had been going to FrightFest since 2009, so to have the crowd cheering and laughing through the film was ace. Pete had drunk about nine pints by the time the film started, so I’m not sure he knew what was going on!
“Since then, Wolf Manor has played at other festivals and has gone down fantastically well – especially at Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham, where the crowd went wild at the end. I’m also a big fan of Abertoir – The International Horror Festival of Wales, so we loved showing it there!
“As for a sequel, we do have an idea for a follow-up, set in an open-air theatre where Oliver Laurence is the star of a Shakespeare play when a werewolf goes wild. It is more of a homage to Jaws, with a lot of gore, some comedy, and James Fleet in a G-string!
“We don’t know whether we will do it, or if James will agree to wearing a G-string, but Wolf Manor has already done a lot better than we thought. Our only aim was to get it to FrightFest, but the film got a UK and international distribution deal sorted before its premiere, so you never know!”
Sounds great – especially the G-string. Tell me, what’s next for Joel Ferrari?
“I don’t know what the future holds just yet. I’ve wrote a script called Hands of Satan, which is a Lucio Fulci-inspired gorefest that I would like to get funding for. Besides that, hopefully I will get to work on more old school horror films!”
Marvellous.I wish you all the success with Wolf Manor, as well as all your future endeavours, and I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope to see James Fleet in a G-string.
A big thank you to Joel, for taking the time to speak with me on It’s A Stampede!, it was a pleasure. And for those who want to check out Wolf Manor, the movie will be available on home video in the UK from January 9th.