Italian filmmaker Davide Melini is like most independent horror filmmakers. He lives in his own dark world when he writes and he oftentimes has to put a brake on his imagination in order to keep his film projects financially possible.
With a non-stop motor influenced by the classic Italian giallos of the 60’s and 70’s, Melini has made a name for himself on the film fest circuit with award-winning short films ‘The Puzzle’ and ‘The Sweet Hand Of The White Rose’. The films are polar opposites that showcase Melini’s wide range of talent.
Recently, the two films pulled off a rare double-nomination, being selected for the finals of the prestigious Fantafestival, an international science fiction and fantasy film festival, that will take place from June 18 to July 1 in Rome.
The enthusiastic Mr. Melini recently chatted with me about a number of topics and I am thrilled to splash the spotlight on one of the most energetic and passionate filmmakers working today.
MM: What was your first experience with horror films?
Davide Melini: The first movie I watched as ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master’. I remember I was alone in the house with my cousin and we watched the film. It was brilliant! Even as a kid, I really enjoyed it. Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger was simply perfect as ‘the boogeyman’. Every kid is scared of the boogie man. I discovered a deep, dark world within myself that I didn’t know before. I love watching horror films because of that roller coaster of emotions it puts you through.
MM: When did you realize film making, particularly horror, was what you wanted to do with your life?
DM: I have to say that, after my two sons, film making is the most important thing in my life. I don’t like only one genre, I love all kind of movies. When I watch a film, I don’t mind if it’s horror, drama, comedy, or whatever else. The important thing to me is that is a good film. But for me personally, when I begin to write a new story, I don’t know why, I always think about “dark things”… I’d like to explain it, but it’s impossible, because I only write when I have a big inspiration.
MM: In all these years, your name has been compared with a lot of great directors, such as Alfred Hitchock, Dario Argento and Mario Bava. In ‘The Sweet Hand of the White Rose’, I feel a connection to Guillermo del Toro. Who are your influences as a director?
DM: For me it’s a big honor to see my name next to all these fantastic directors, but to be honest, I don’t care much for the comparisons. All these directors wrote very important pages in cinema history and they continue to do it. I haven’t done anything yet! I’m just a filmmaker that try to realize short films, in the best ways I can, with a small budget. I’m influenced by everybody and anybody. I mean, while I’m watching a movie, I analyze it from all the points of view. Watch a movie and study- this is the best school! But after that, every director has to be able to develop his style.
MM: What is the horror film landscape like in Spain in this day and age?
DM: Actually, it’s always more difficult to find a horror movie in our theatre and this is for many reasons. The problem is that the producer element has completely disappeared. These days, the people have to go through the Cultural Departments in order to receive a grant for their film. It’s especially very difficult to receive money for a horror film! The latest Spanish one I really enjoyed was ‘The Orphanage’ (directed by Juan Antonio Bayona). Another one I loved would be ‘The Others’ (by Alejandro Amenábar).
MM: ‘The Puzzle’ is a very stylistic psychological horror film. How did this story idea come to life in your head?
DM: It’s hard to put into words how I come up with my stories. It depends on my mood and mindset at that specific time. Once the inspiration strikes me, it’s difficult for me to ignore an idea. Thus, a film is born.
MM: Both ‘The Puzzle’ and ‘The Sweet Hand of the White Rose’ have achieved massive success on the film festival circuit. How many film festivals have you attended for these films?
DM: I don’t like to make numbers my goal, so I don’t pay attention to the totals, because I know that I must continue to improve myself. The only thing I can say is that I’m very proud that my films have been screened in many countries and numerous international film festivals around the world. But I also think this is just a starting point. I want more and I know I can do better!
MM: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as a film maker?
DM: Like I said before, the most difficult task is finding the money to realize the project. This is the principal problem. So, when I write a new screenplay, I always try to limit my fantasy.
MM: What are your thoughts on the current state of Hollywood horror films?
DM: I have some friends in LA and often I talk to them about Hollywood films. What can I say? I love American movies, but I hate the sequels and the remakes.
MM: If you were running a horror movie marathon, what films would you show?
DM: Oh, this is a very difficult question, because a lot of thriller and fantastic movies, for example, can contain some pure horror moments. These are my eight choices (in alphabetic order):
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (Wes Craven)
‘Halloween’ (John Carpenter)
‘Jaws’ (Steven Spielberg)
‘Psycho’ (Alfred Hitchock)
‘Seven’ (David Fincher)
‘The Exorcist’ (William Friedkin)
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (Jonathan Demme)
But I can’t forget other great movies, like ‘Blood and Black Lace’ (Mario Bava), ‘Carrie’ (Brian De Palma), ‘Deep Red’ (Dario Argento), ‘Dracula’ (Tod Browning), ‘Frankestein‘ (James Whale), Friday the 13th’ (Sean S. Cunningham), ‘Diabolique’ (Henry-George Clouzot), ‘Mystery of the Wax Museum’ (Michael Curtiz), ‘Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero)’, ‘Nosferatu’ (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau), ‘Pet Sematary’ (Mary Lambert), ‘Saw’ (James Wan), ‘The Shining’ (Stanley Kubrick), ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (Tobe Hooper)… I have to stop myself!
MM: I know you are currently working on your next film, entitled ‘Deep Shock’. What could you tell us about it?
DM: I’d like to pay homage to the Italian “giallo” genre, that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. My idea is shooting it over the next year and do a premiere in 2014. I want to bring back some classic 60’s and 70’s “giallo” film ideas, using new technology. I can’t say much more, because the idea is still growing inside my head. The problem is the money. But I’m optimistic and I’ll try everything to shoot it. I don’t live without movies!
MM: Are you going to work with the same crew as your last few films?
DM: Only with two or three of them. I need to change things up to continue to improve myself.
MM: What about the cast?
DM: I have a definite idea in my mind. I know exactly what I want. But now it’s too early to talk about it.
MM: Any final words?
DM: Yes. I want to say thanks to you for giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit about my films. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks a lot!
I appreciate Davide’s enthusiasm and support with this interview and look forward to his future projects.