[MAYHEM] Interview: Joe Ahearne (Writer/director ‘The Secret of Crickley Hall’)

Whilst at the festival, Platform was lucky enough to be treated to a screening the upcoming BBC three part Drama/Horror miniseries The Secret of Crickley Hall. Based on the book by James Herbert, Crickley Hall tells the story of the Caleigh family whose youngest son suddenly goes missing whilst playing in a park. A year later the family feels that moving away from their house will help with the grieving process and decide to move into a secluded residency called Crickley Hall. However not long after moving in, it becomes apparent that supernatural beings are also residing in the house and that they may be connected to what happened to the Caleigh’s missing son.

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a tense, unnerving and pretty darn scary ride which should please many a horror fan.

Nathan Gibbons asks director/writer Joe Ahearne some questions on the project:

Platform: So what influences you in terms of horror films?

Joe: Probably The Shining and the Hitchcock end of horror films like Psycho

Platform: I see you have worked on Doctor Who and Ultraviolet for the BBC, how does this compare to working on those projects?

Joe: It’s sort of the same in the sense that I apply the same stuff to this as I did to those. I would try and get something that’s intense and I’d try and get something that’s scary and visually interesting and so on. What’s different I suppose it’s less, obviously fantastical because there’s not a lot of prosthetics and CGI. Well there is some of those but they are disguised, they are not in your face like Ultraviolet and Doctor Who.

Platform: I know that this has probably been said before but this has an absolutely fantastic cast (including: Suranne Jones, Tom Ellis, Olivia Cooke and Bill Milner), how easy was it for you to get them together? Did you get the ones that you wanted the first time?

Joe: Yeah pretty much, people liked the story and it’s from the book really I mean in a lot of ghost stories, the main characters go in and they find out stuff that doesn’t really have any great emotional effect to them but they find out horrible stuff that happened to loads of other people. Whereas in the book and the way this is done, first of all the main characters have got this big emotional thing going on with them but in so they are actually seeing what happened to the ghosts fifty years ago, so I think it’s a bit more emotionally involving than a lot of ghost stories where it’s more like they are just sorting out a puzzle. Here you are much more engaged with the characters.

Platform: Great, that kind of ties into my next question actually. Because this kind of story has been done before with films such as The Amityville Horror and The Haunting in Connecticut, how do you think this compares to them?

Joe: Well it’s been a long time since I’ve seen The Amityville Horror. Basically the format of all ghost stories is the same in that people go to a house and find out the history of the house. I think what’s different in this version, is that characters are given a much better reason than people normally are to stay in the house and find out it’s haunted and also that you find out the history of what happened to the ghosts and I’ve never seen a ghost story where you keep going back to the past. Not just to see what happened to them and how they died but to really investigate them as characters.

Platform: Do you reckon that it would have worked just as well as a ninety minute film?

Joe: It would have worked very well as a ninety minute film but in a different way. As a ninety minute film it probably would have been a more conventional drama because you wouldn’t have had time to go back and see the characters’ past so it would have been less innovative in that sense but it would have worked because the book worked.

Platform: This is a bit of a cheesy one but did anything happen to you on set?

Joe: Sadly not, but if you had asked me about the last one yes lots of spooky things happened on Apparitions but nothing really spooky happened on this except for one of the extras I think felt that there was kind of a spooky presence in one of the rooms that happened to be Cribben’s bedroom (Cribben is the main antagonist of the piece). But no horror stories, I should make some up really.

Platform: Last question, what are your top five best horror movies and top five worst horror movies?

Joe: Oh God I’m not really sure off the top of my head, the top one would probably be The Shining. In no particular order The Shining, Psycho, The Birds. The worst ones that’s not really fair on the filmmakers because I’m sure they were trying very hard however bad they were but I suppose they would be my top three.


Audiences looking for a good scare can venture into Crickley Hall when it premieres on BBC 1 on November 18th.