Richard Rowntree’s latest film Mask of the Devil is headed to festivals across the globe and will be playing at the Austin Revolution Film Festival in Texas on 10th February followed by a screening at the Bloody Flicks Awards in Stoke on 25 February and Romford Horrific Film Festival on 26 February, The film has already had a great run at lots of other festivals in the UK and North America, and is available in the US via distributors Level 33 Entertainment.
So lets delve into Mask Of The Devil, What is the film about and also of course about its production.
Africa, 1878 – a group of white mercenaries attempt to steal a tribal mask, unwittingly releasing an ancient evil.
In present day England, the mask is purchased as a prop by a dysfunctional band of wannabe filmmakers.
When a fiery young woman named Mary accepts a job with these low-rent pornographers in order to gain financial independence from her over-bearing parents, the ancient evil finds the perfect conduit, and unleashes unimaginable carnage on the unsuspecting cast and crew, who must do battle to survive.
Will Mary and her new acquaintances be able to defeat the evil, and banish the curse o the Mask of the Devil…?
The third feature film from writer-director-producer Richard Rowntree and production company Ash Mountain Films Ltd. “Mask of the Devil” is a supernatural slasher horror feature film, set in the murky world of low-rent pornography. With an 80’s aesthetic and sensibilities, it’s a satirical take on the difficulties of indie filmmaking told through the kaleidoscope of horror.
Following successful festival runs with both features and shorts, Richard Rowntree once again teamed with co-writer Matthew Davies to pen a script which, at it’s core, is about the difficulties of ultra-low budget indie filmmaking and the struggle many filmmakers have between balancing their desire to make artistic films with a very real need for commercial success.
Filmed during 2021 in an entirely COVID-safe environment, which meant shooting on a stage rather than using locations, “Mask of the Devil” was completed in February 2022 and is ready to do the festival rounds and seek distribution worldwide.
Working for the first time with DOP Frank Hammond, and utilising exciting practical effects, miniature work and numerous set builds, the film represents another big step forward for Ash Mountain Films.
Director, Producer and Writer Richard Rowntree also answered a few questions about the film, its making, and its story.
Can you tell us a little bit about the film & why you wanted to make it?
The script for the film was something of a culmination of our experiences of working in the low/no budget indie film world over a number of years, and with some relatable stories we’d been told by filmmakers in similar situations to ourselves. The last few years has seen a period that has been difficult for those of us in this position – that nowadays, it’s actually easier to make a film than it is to get it distributed and seen. So we started writing from that perspective – what’s commercial? Slasher films with a very defined structure, tropes and character arcs was the answer we came up with. So how could we approach that, but without “selling out” and just re-hashing what had been done numerous times before? And the answer to that was to take that formula and to subvert it, making a satire about the situation we found ourselves in as filmmakers. We sent the script to some other indie horror filmmakers to gauge their opinions, and it was a resoundingly positive response from people all over the world – so we set out to make the film something that would appeal to both those “in-the-know” about how the industry works, and to a commercial audience who would want something both familiar and new.
Why do you keep making horror films, and how do you go about it?
Horror is something that not only myself, but everyone involved in the production is very passionate
about. On a personal level, I want to be able to entertain and scare audiences – to bring new ideas
and techniques and push the boundaries of what is possible within the budgetary constraints which often shackle us as indie filmmakers. At Ash Mountain Films, we are very lucky to work with so many talented, innovative and passionate
collaborators across the board. Many of the crew return to work with us time and again because of
the ethos we have here and the vision we have for creating indie horror films which we want to make to the best of our abilities.
What makes “Mask of the Devil” different to other movies?
In some ways nothing at all looking at it from an outside perspective! We always intended the film to have two audiences – firstly, those people who know what it’s like to make a low/no budget movie – for them, hopefully the rewards will be rich and varied, with self referential (but accessible) nods to the environment we work in. Secondly, we wanted to try and make a movie which was aimed at the “core” horror audience according to commercial demographic studies (white, middle income males aged 14-25) – they will hopefully find an entirely different level of enjoyment in the movie without having to scratch the surface too deeply, as is their wont in a lot of instances. Combining the two areas of “special interest” was a challenge, but a very fun one.
How long did it take to shoot?
Principal photography was 21 days, with 20 days on a stage and just 1 on location. Due to insurance requirements, we had to stagger the shoot (when we began rolling cameras, we were only allowed a max of 2 actors on set without masks at any time) – so the ensemble pieces had to be delayed. It was a totally different experience shooting during the pandemic, but one that the cast & crew all adapted admirably to.
When we went into pre-production in January 2021, everyone had just come off the back of a pretty horrendous year following COVID – so there was a great enthusiasm to get out and start creating again which bought us all together. In many ways it actually gave us a greater emphasis on pure entertainment – wanting to give the audience the full range of emotion – laughter, fear and enjoyment. I think most of us also have exhausted the supply of new indie horror offerings available, given that we’ve all had more time to catch up on what’s been available during lockdowns! There’s also been something of a dearth of indie horror filmmaking in the U.K. over the past 18 months or so because of the restrictions, so hopefully “Mask of the Devil” can come in and fill a small part of that void for
Who or what inspires and influences you most as a filmmaker?
I try to take something from every film I watch, whether it’s a good idea or a bad one.
Experimentation yourself is important, but very often, what you’re experimenting with is the ideas of other people. So long as the storytelling is the most important thing in your mind as a filmmaker, I don’t think you can go wrong. I love the very visual storytellers – Fincher, Kubrick, Lynch – but I also hugely admire filmmakers who produce gold on minimal budgets (at least early in their careers!). I don’t want to emulate anyone, but I do take influence from everything I watch. With “Mask of the Devil” I was inspired during the writing process by the back stories of people like Sean Cunningham,
Wes Craven, Stanley Kubrick and Abel Ferrara who all made adult movies before becoming horror icons in
their own right – despite not really setting out to do so in most cases.
What’s up next for you?
We have several completed scripts for both shorts and features – and I would like to push myself by making a feature from someone else’s script – I think that would be a really great challenge. Hopefully “Mask of the Devil” will have a good festival run – I love attending festivals all over the world and discussing movies (mine and other people’s!) with audiences, other filmmakers and anyone who sits still for too long! I would like to, at the very least, fit another short into 2022, and then maybe go into pre-production on another feature later this year for an early 2023 shoot – the glorious (and awful) thing about indie filmmaking is that you just never know when or where or how the next project will happen – so you have to stay on your toes and make it happen.
‘Mask of the Devil’ stars Nicole Katherine Riddell (White Sky) , Kemal Yildirim (Wastelands) , David Robert Lenik (An English Haunting) , Martin W Payne (Video Shop Tales of Terror) , Gregory A Smith (Nefarius), Nadia Strilciw (Locock), Kemi Kentebe(Quentin Quarantine), and Alexander Nathan Woods (Tales from the Great War)