FrightFest 2023 - Interview with Airell Hayles writer and director of Werewolf Santa

Santa's back and this time he's hairy!

James Whittington
August 26, 2023

NYX: Obvious question, where did the idea for Werewolf Santa come from?

AH: The idea for Werewolf Santa, which has had previous titles of Frost Bite and The Bite Before Christmas- came from having a love of Christmas horror films and seeing there was a movie missing. Where was the movie where Santa gets bit by a werewolf on Christmas Eve, turns into one himself, and leaps down chimneys to eat families alive?! It was a fun high concept that haunted me for ages, and finally I just had to put the idea out there. I love Werewolf Films and this seemed like one I would run to see!

NYX: Was it all shot at night and if so, what challenges did that create for you?

AH: Though it wasn’t all shot at night, it was mostly shot at night. Issues involved are making sure the camera can work well with low light settings. Keeping spirits up when people are tired and ruining their sleep pattern for you. I personally live night shoots being a vampire, rather than a werewolf. I come alive late at night. Late at night is a magic place. I’m really not a morning person, though the morning people on the film likely found the night shoots harder than I did. Horror and nighttime are bound together. Aside the brilliant day lit ones like The Wicker Man etc Plus the dark can let you get away with more if you don’t have the biggest special effects budget.

NYX: Was it a working fairground you shot in?

AH: It was a working fairground yes. In Great Yarmouth. It was a lot of fun shooting inside a real ghost train in the dead of night and leaning on the already brilliant lighting and sound effects it had built into it. I’ve always loved fun fairs and see horror movies as the scariest ride at the fair that you’re not sure you want to go on. A real werewolf inside a ghost train that has fake werewolves and howl sound effects that start to confuse our characters, presented a really fun opportunity!

NYX: Were you restricted by budget?

AH: We were restricted by budget yes. A movie called Werewolf Santa could scale up massively. You want more Werewolf doing more things but you want it all to look as great as it can, so it disciplines you to just show bits of wolf here and there l, revealing it fully only in certain scenes. Budget restrictions can be your best friend, and help you find creative solutions, and to some extent it did that. But there’s also a lot more that could have been done, and could still be done with a re visit to the Werewolf Santa concept.

NYX: Every werewolf movie the audience can’t wait to see the creature, did it take you long to design it?

AH: In regard to the design of our Werewolf that was the brilliant work of Dave Darko of Darkworkz Studioz. He didn’t have lots of money to work with and managed to creature a creature not only through the right kind of face mask but also through his wonderful creature movement. He became feral and menacing as the werewolf version of Santa. But it’s also a fun monster as inside the beast there are still echoes of Santa Claus himself who’s trying to win his own jolly mind back over.

NYX: How did you get the legend that is Joe Bob Briggs to be involved?

AH: Joe Bob Briggs is indeed a legend, and I knew he was the perfect man to narrate to opening. I knew the movies ticked off his three boxes of blood, breasts, and a beast, that all true B movie horror should include. It was Covid-19 and he had a slightly less busy schedule and so I sent him the script and he agreed to be part of the project. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. Like I said, he’s a legendary horror host. And I also have another legendary British horror host/ actress in the film with Emily Booth! Who I know is a huge fan of Joe Bob Briggs.

NYX: What’s the greatest horror movie set at Christmas?

AH: The greatest horror movie set at Christmas, the one that is really horrific, is the original Silent Night Deadly Night from 1984 when Slasher movies ruled the world. Though I love Gremlins, Christmas Evil and the rest of the gems in the genre it’s Silent Night Deadly Night that is a sleigh ride straight into bell! The bit with the old man telling the kid that Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year, the insane kills, the nuns, the utter madness of that movie every bloody minute - makes it the clear winner.

NYX: Do you believe in creatures such as Bigfoot etc?

AH: I don’t believe in Bigfoot, UFO’s etc but I wish I did. I wish I was one of those people. Monsters and ghosts etc will however always exist in film, and I’m delighted by that.

NYX: Do you still get nervous when your work plays at festivals, and do you watch with the audience?

AH: I’m nervous any time anyone watches a film I made or helped make. A festival audience is tough cause they’ve seen everything and there’s this giant context your new film gets dropped into. Watching it with an audience is maybe the first time you really watch your own film. Cause you see in through their eyes, hear where they laugh or don’t etc It’s like having your soul turned inside out in in front of you. You really want the movie to work. Movies are all about the audience. Horror movies have a shopping list of things you need to deliver so the pressure is truly on when sharing a new horror film with a new audience. FrightFest has the best audience in the world.

NYX: So, what are you working on at the moment?

AH: Next up I’m teaming with the brilliant Jake West to create a (hopefully) very scary, bloody and intense new version of the Scrooge story. Think A Christmas Carol meets Hellraiser. We are also currently working on two other (Santa in peril) movies, Vampire Santa and Zombie Santa are the other Christmas monsters that will be climbing down chimneys in the near future.

NYX: Airell Hayles., thank you very much.