FrightFest Glasgow - Interview with Mathieu Turi director of The Deep Dark

A chat with the guy behind a really dark chiller

James Whittington
March 10, 2024

NYX: We in the UK know you for the superb movie Hostile, what have you been doing since then?

MT: Hostile had a great reception around the world, and I’m very happy about it. A year after the release, I directed my second movie MEANDER, which was released in 2021 during the pandemic. We had an other great festival tour, and the movie was a success that leaded me to many other exciting projects, including THE DEEP DARK.

NYX: Where did the idea for The Deep Dark come from?

MT: I’m a huge Lovecraft fan, and I was trying to write something linked to French history. So quickly, I knew I wanted to make an adventure/horror film, with some Lovecraftian vibes, a all practical creature, and a period movie. I did a lot of research, and decided the perfect people to find an ancient crypt would be coal miners. They were tough men, capable of everything. I wanted to tell their story in a different way.

NYX: The cast are superb, did it take long to get the right person for each character?

MT: I was lucky enough to have all but first choices. Samuel Le Bihan was the first to say yes. I wrote with him in my mind, so it was a great gift to have him on board. And then all the rest of the cast said yes. It was pretty much a quick process. And the first reading was like a dream came true to me.

NYX: How much research did you have to do to ensure everything from the mining techniques to the period settings were correct?

MT: A lot. First with books and some documentary, where I discovered a true cinematic period, with a lot of « scenes » I could use. They were very organized, as they had to, because it was a very dangerous job. So basically when they arrived, they had to go from one room to an other, picking material, putting their clothes on those strange hooks, etc… Well organized, very specific. Then, closest to the shoot, I met with old miners, who shared their stories with me. It was such an honour to hear them talk about what has been a big part of their lives. During the promotion of the movie, we screened it to these miners. One of them told me this : « Except the fantastic, everything is authentic ». It will stick with me forever.

NYX: Was any of it shot around or in a working mine?

MT: Actually, everything has been shot on real locations. No green screen, no studio. It was shot in a real mine for the historical part, and then, when they got in the crypt underground, it’s also shot on location, in a strange and huge cave, like a limestone mine. Not the best conditions to shoot, with freezing temperatures, pitch black and 80% of constant humidity, but it was fun, and again, authentic.

NYX: Did it take long to get the design of the creature to your liking?

MT: I really wanted to find a unique design, and I dig around some Japanese designers. I found some great stuff, and fell in love with a design by Keisuke Yoneyama, a great artist, who pretty much told me to use this one I loved so much, called the Neo-Paranoize. Then we brought it to France for our crazy FX team to make it life sized And that’s where the fun began. It was not easy, as I really wanted to give it a 80’s all practical feeling, with puppeteers and no CGI. I love how it moves, when you can almost fell the puppet movements, like in all these movies from that period I love so much.

NYX: Did you have much budget to play with?

MT: As usual, not enough. That’s always the case, even when you’re doing huge movies, which is definitely not the case here. We had a total budget of 3.9 millions euros.

NYX: The atmosphere and tension is outstanding, how difficult is it to gauge you’ve gotten it just right?

MT: You never know before you screen it to a real audience in a full packed theatre. But I was very careful about keeping an old adventure vibe, and having every shot count. The atmosphere of the undergrounds is underline by the great work of my DOP, Alain Duplantier. He’s a magician. Really. Like literally. He made some crazy things which I don’t fully understand, giving the light that old 80’s look, and using the camera has a magic stick to follow our group of miners without it felling artificial. I love working with him.

NYX: Do you get nervous when your work is shown at festivals?

MT: Not really. Maybe a bit the first time, but then, the movie is not mine anymore. It’s not their either. It’s somewhere else, I guess it’s kinda like a child you let go when he wants to left home and make his life. We’ll see each other again, but it’s never going to be the same. So it’s sad in a way, you know it’s gonna be tough sometimes, not every body will like it, but if you are happy with it, it’s all that matters. And I’m very happy with it. So then, each good review, each people sending me a message saying they like it, it’s just bonuses… And then you put it on a shelve with your other movies, and make a new one.

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

MT: Many things, but I can’t tell much. I’m still working on the adaptation as a TV show of the video game saga A PLAGUE TALE. It’s a medieval fantastic project, and I couldn’t be more excited. But it’s a long process, because I really want to adapt it the best way possible. Also my next film is a US film, big IP, but I’m not allowed to tell you what it is yet, or I’ll be killed instantly by a ninja sent by the studio. And a lot of French projects too. It’s an exciting time for me, and sometime I have to pinch myself to check if all this is real. Until now, I didn’t wake up, so I think it is. I can’t wait to tell you more… Maybe next time?

NYX: Mathieu Turi, thank you very much.