Q&A With RED MIST Director Paddy Breathnach

By Heather Wixson

In the recent Anchor Bay release RED MIST, we meet the dangerous and depraved loner Kenneth (Andrew Lee Potts), whose life at the hospital where he works is a series of endless torments from a group of ambitious medical students.

When they decide to teach him “a lesson,” he ends up in a coma and practically brain dead. Guilt-ridden Catherine (Arielle Kebbel), determined to save his life, administers a powerful and untested cocktail of drugs to the coma victim. Rather than cure him, however, it triggers a powerful “out-of-body” experience and enables Kenneth to temporarily inhabit other people’s bodies and, through them, take revenge on those responsible for his “vegetative” state.

As her colleagues are savagely picked off one-by-one, Catherine soon realizes what started as a medical miracle has now transformed into a medical monstrosity.  She is forced to confront a comatose killer who moves in and out of bodies at will, getting ever closer to her as his supernatural powers increase.

Terror Tube recently had a chance to catch up with RED MIST’s Director Paddy Breathnach.

HW:  When did you get started in film? What appealed to you in terms of filmmaking?

PB:  After I left college I started working with a table top animation company. It was a very small company so I got to do a bit of everything but mainly production, set building and camerawork. It used to have a film lab as well but it had shut down before I started. There were a lot of old processing and editing machines out the back like a graveyard of the film business. It meant I could ask about how something worked and my boss Günter could just point to a machine and explain how the process worked. After that I worked for a wildlife documentary company and after a few years started to direct documentaries for them. My tastes have always veered between very democratic and accessible and more difficult and marginal and I suppose ideally I’d like to be able to draw both of those interests closer in my own work. My first film love was noir and it kind of marries those things. Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger did that as well. Something might appear light and insubstantial but it had an uncanny lingering effect. So they are some of the early things I liked. Horror can do it in an even more fundamental way.

HW: Your breakthrough genre film was ‘SHROOMS in 2007 and now there’s RED MIST; did you always love horror and/or thrillers?

PB:  Well, I’d done some other films before ‘SHROOMS. My first film AILSA and my second film I WENT DOWN both won prizes at San Sebastian. I WENT DOWN had a good critical and commercial life so it was probably the breakthrough film for me. It led to Miramax getting me to direct BLOW DRY, which was a steep learning curve for me.

HW: I noticed a lot of very stark visuals with RED MIST, especially in the beginning there was a lot of white and then the overexposure effect as well. Who are your influences? Was there anyone you grew up with and just felt connected to their work?

PB: RED MIST was a very tight budget and shoot so I needed to develop a style that suited the circumstances I was in. Ruari O’Brien the DP was brave in going for that and he kept needing to sneak behind the gaffer’s back to turn lights off. So, it was born of necessity as much as from design but sometimes the best stuff happens when you make gut decisions and don’t have the space to prevaricate.

I think I probably have a pretty graphic approach to my films. I always look for clear graphic shapes that imprint a sense of the world on the viewer. So there are lots of silhouettes within a dark frame and the opposite where things are composed against very bright backgrounds. The Coen’s do it a lot and maybe that’s where it started for me.

HW: Can you talk about the filming process for RED MIST? Did you face any challenges on set? Any sort of crazy instances?

PB: It was the hardest film I’ve made from the time point of view. A short schedule mixed with an ensemble cast is tricky. We also shot in a hospital for three weeks and had to eat hospital food (military hospital food) and that wore the crew down a bit. I lost it once or twice with some of the cast which I’d never done before so I must have been stressed or possessed!

HW: Were there any challenges in filming a movie in Ireland that takes place in the US?

PB: Yes, don’t look out any windows in the daytime! The story suited it more than most in that so much of it takes place in generic locations like a hospital, university campus and forest. It means you have to deal with making it plausible first and then the aesthetic detail thereafter which would be the opposite of what I’d normally do.

HW: I know this is probably a “marketing” thing but several people I know (including myself) wondered why they didn’t stay with the name FREAKDOG for the film in the States and what the significance is behind the title RED MIST is.

PB: RED MIST was the original title and I don’t know if you use the phrase in the US but here it means an overwhelming anger or rage which is what powers Kenneth’s possessions (as well as a cocktail of drugs). FREAKDOG came later and felt more provocative as a title. I have a favourite.

HW: What projects are you working on now?

PB: I’m writing an adaptation of a play called “The Good Thief” by Conor McPherson. I’m waiting for a draft from Kevin Brodbin (Constantine) of an Irish western set in the 1690′s called Swordland. I have a script by Joseph O’Connor based on his novel “The Salesman” that we might shoot later in the year and I’m working with a writer Terry McMahon on an adaptation of a story by John Connolly called “The Cancer Cowboy rides again”. What happens in what order, I don’t know.

HW: Finally, with the “open” ending, is there a plan for a sequel?

PB:  Well, it’s set up so there could be one but it hasn’t gone beyond that at this stage (as far as I know). There were a few other endings that we shot that could have spun a sequel in a few different directions. If it does good business that’ll drive a sequel but it probably won’t be me directing if there is.