[Justin Kerswell chats with Craig Singer]

If ever there was a perfect setting for a slasher movie it was the fairground - the sounds, the lights and the fake scares. It's surprising that so few films in the subgenre have mined this rich horror movie vein. Of course, Tobe Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE seemed to have the act all sown up - that is until Craig Singer took a group of typical slasher movie victims and made them take the DARK RIDE ...

Q: Your background appears to be in comedy, with DARK RIDE being your first horror flick. How did the project come about?

My first film Animal Room was a teen coming of age drama (also Amanda Peets first film) - my next film, Dead Dogs Lie was a dark genre road film - A Good Night To Die and Kill Charlie have some comedy but I don't feel I have a soft spot for comedy. With Dark Ride I wanted to do a straightforward Horror film that felt a bit retro and had a pacing that was sort of Anti MTV and NO CGI. Horror films in my opinion have become almost unwatchable because of CGI and excessive jump cutting. The audience doesn't really know what's going on but as long as its big and splashy and explosive - they come back. The goal for dark ride was to deliver a familiar story and attempt to up the ante both with the gore and also the intensity. So we start off watching one sort of film and as things progress, we increase the intensity. Or at least attempt to. I wanted to spot-weld the audience into that ride and deliver a really imaginative killer - something very challenging to do when you consider the popularity of the Freddy's and Jason's and Michael's.

Q: The DARK RIDE is often mentioned in the same breath as Tobe Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE, as they share a similar theme park location and hulking killer. Had you seen that film? And are you happy with the comparison?

I am a fan of Tobe Hooper but not so much "The Funhouse" I always thought that the Rick Baker mask under the Frankenstein Mask of the killer was really silly - it reminded me of the masks used in American Werewolf In London - and I didn't feel the film was lit well either. Explaining that Funhouse was not on my mind may be futile but it is the truth. Dark Ride was really taken from my life experience of going on these rides as a kid in Atlantic City and thinking about how scary it would be if the ride shut down and you were trapped inside with a homicidal maniac! I simply wanted to film an extreme version of those memories.

Q: One of the things that impressed me most with DARK RIDE was the perfect balance between scares, SCOOBY-DOO theatrics and a side (but not over powering) helping of comedy. This was the balance that some of the best slasher flicks from the golden age managed. I take it this was intentional?

It was - The first killing has this "Wizard of Gore" "Color Me Blood Red" vibe - I love the old Hershel Gordon Lewis films and the killings that follow were designed to escalate emotionally - as for the humor - we do wink a bit to the audience and I had always wanted Dark Ride to be a FUN Horror Film - not emotional root canal - I know some fans were critical of the humor & I understand that but that was never the film I set out to make (Next time :) - the tone of certain horror films won't stand for any humor or very subtle humor - A film like "Audition" could never get away with the humor we were mindful of in Dark Ride.

Q: DARK RIDE seemed to be a very affectionate take on the subgenre. Did you enjoy horror films when you were growing up?

Very much YES - when I was six years old my parents took me to a drive In in the middle of the woods to see Night of The Living Dead. I had reoccurring nightmares for about fifteen years - but I have always loved the genre. That experience really effected me - fucked me up a bit too I'm sure.

Q: As I'm sure you've seen, HYSTERIA LIVES! covers slasher movies from every age and country, but those late 70s and early 80s slashers always have a special place in our hearts. Do you have any favourites from that era? If so, what are they?

I liked Deep Red very much and also The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Last MAn On Earth, Omega Man, The orig. The Thing, Night of The Living Dead of course - I was not a big Freddie fan - while I like some humor in certain types of horror films I didn't enjoy the camp from Freddy - Michael Myers stoic quality was more compelling to me.

Q: DARK RIDE was picked up for the After Dark horror fest. Did that help the film get extra exposure?

It was a true blessing. It's so challenging to get any film marketed the right way - even studio films - After Dark was a unique event and very good for Dark Ride.

Q: Were you pleased with how the film was received?

When you take your film to market - you hope for the best however I could never have predicted how much Horror fans would embrace Dark Ride. I get some incredibly nice e mail and feedback for the film. In a way we feel Dark Ride it like the little engine that could - we made this very small horror film by studio standards and had this wonderful response. Dark Ride was even featured on E!'s The Soup - we were the "Clip of the week" - and at festivals and conventions - Rousing love for Dark Ride - fans are extremely complimentary to the film and in particular "Jonah".

Q: Perhaps more than any other film type, the horror flick seems to generate sequels. Any plans to bring back Jonah for some more teen pruning?

We are talking to Lions Gate about this - I would be thrilled to go back to the "Ride".

Q: Talking of Jonah, I liked the touch that this psychotic killer was a vegetarian! What was the thinking behind this?

I'd never seen that before - thought it would be fun.

Q: Have you got any other anecdotes or stories from the set?

We shot the film at Universal Studios. The interesting fact is that the interior Dark Ride was actually the guts of the exterior facades of the famous Universal back lot streets. We got a tremendous amount of production value from that location and it had never been shot in prior to Dark Ride.

Q: What's next for Craig Singer?

Working on a few features. One independent thriller and a Studio Film - will keep you posted. We'll eventually wake Jonah up.

Relevant Links

Read the review of DARK RIDE.