An interview with DEAN HOULIHAN, director of “Odyssey of the disturbed”

An interview with DEAN HOULIHAN, director of “Odyssey of the disturbed”


Dean Houlihan

“Film is such a powerful medium that can resonate with people from anywhere on the globe once you create something engaging.”

Dean Houlihan is a 25 year old filmmaker who was born in Dublin Ireland, who first started making films with his friends at age 14 in 2008. Dean is a 3 time Award Winning Filmmaker all of which he has obtained during 2019 within the last 4 months. Starting last August with his short film “From Black Into Beauty” which won a Runner Up Award for “Best Micro Film” at the Visionaries Film Festival in Hoboken New Jersey USA. The 2nd came in November winning an “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the L’Age d’Or International Arthouse Film Festival in India for his latest film “Odyssey of the Disturbed”. Then ending the decade off with a Special Mention Award for “Best Short” at the 4th annual Lake City International Film Festival this December, also for his work on “From Black Into Beauty”. The film was also in competition with 92 other short films in the semi finals. To date he has 31 Official Selections for his films at festivals that have been screened in USA, Canada, India, England, Wales, Spain, Ireland and Italy. Dean is usually involved in multiple departments of his films ranging from Director/Writer/Editor/Cinematographer/Producer while sometimes also an Actor and Composer. He currently works as a Videographer for the HSE and also freelances corporate videos for various businesses.

– Your film has a strong identity, and easily stands out from any other short film. Your narrative choices are extremely original and very fascinating, and often these things help to define the career of a true author, in the artistic panorama. How did your peculiar narrative taste develop? What are the things that inspire you?

DH: Well firstly thanks for showing such an interest in the film that makes me seriously happy. As for my peculiar narrative taste I suppose I don’t like following a basic formula in storytelling or else I feel it becomes predictable. For example I hate when 20 minutes into a film you know exactly how everything is going to pan out, that doesn’t challenge an audience to have a compelling experience in my opinion. Honestly most of my favourite films seem to ignore the traditional three act structure and I try my best to follow that approach. Plus I’m hugely inspired by the likes of  Quentin Tarantino, George Romero, John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick in almost every aspect. But definitely in terms of their way of having their narratives unfold in such a unique way, where the viewer has no idea what’s going to happen next. But that doesn’t mean a plot has to have constant twist and turns at every corner, but just that a story can unravel in a mysterious way that has an audience completely oblivious of what’s going to happen next. So that’s what I tried to do with this film because I aim to surprise the viewer and hopefully they enjoy it too. I’m just trying to create a distinctive style in the work I do and hopefully make a memorable film by placing my mark on it!

 

– The visual experimentation work you have done on this film is very fascinating. Do you think it is still possible to revolutionize the cinematographic medium? Will you continue this visual research or, in the future, will you return to a more classic style?

DH: Definitely I always think there’s no limits on revolutionizing cinema in any form. That being said though it’s easier said than done and so many people are concerned with jumping on the bandwagon of trends of what’s popular in contemporary cinema, rather than expressing their own artistic visions . But for me it’s important for me to try and be unique and stand out from the crowd. That’s why with the cinematography on this film I was very conscious with the composition and framing of every shot to get it exactly how I wanted. Then in the editing I wanted the visuals to be as abstract as possible for alot of the key scenes. Although I must admit the likes of David Lynch, Sam Raimi and even Marilyn Manson music videos were definitely strong influences behind the bizzare visual style I was eager to implement into this film. but it was always my mission to make my own expression piece.

I do plan on doing more projects that will involve this visual approach that I can develop on, however I don’t want to limit myself as there are stories I want to do also to show a more traditional or classic style. That way hopefully my films will all be diverse and not necessarily have to all be identical visually.

 

– The aesthetics of your film, set during the 80s, has a nostalgic taste that recalls certain pop suggestions typical of that culture and still very famous. What is the artistic reason behind this temporal and aesthetic location?

DH: Thanks very much that’s one of the most important things I wanted to get across from making this film was to make it as 80’s reminiscent as possible without a budget, since this was made for no more than 25 euro. Funny enough even though I was born in 94, 80’s film and music has definitely been a huge part of my life growing up. I love that period of time and everything the culture represented, my parents definitely were hugely responsible for introducing all this to me at such a young age. That’s why I feel like this film was my love letter to the 1980’s, it was a much different time and alot has changed for example I was about 9 or 10 before VHS tapes died out in the early 2000’s completely. However the 80’s was when home video was introduced and for the first time, so it was essential to have a VHS tape feature prominently in the film even though I did get Fionn’s character to piss on it.There’s so many little nods to the pop culture, fashion and entertainment of that era for example Laura is seen gifting a cassette tape of Fleetwood Mac. Then Holly’s character is seen reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which was an actual print from the 80’s as it say’s “Now Available on Home Video” on the cover, also another 80’s book print is visible in the scene of Nedra’s character throwing a “Nightmare on Elm Street Vol 1-3” novella at Alan’s character. The scene with Dan and John in the arcade playing Pacman was a nice addition, as that game was a huge sensation in the 80’s and in the background you can even see an Alien’s shooter game. I have to give full credit to entire cast of this for all bringing their own wardrobe that perfectly matched the fashion styles of the 80’s while also still being quite relevant today. For example Dan Vaughan who plays the lead is a hardcore rock fan and has that jean jacket filled with patches of alot of bands from the 70s and 80s like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Misfits, so it was an easy way to cram in as much logos of the 80’s rock music scene into the film. Plus Nedra who plays the gothic girl Blair in the film her attire although was quite popular in the 80’s, it’s probably even more in style today so it goes to show a lot of the spirit of the 80’s is here to stay!

 

What will your next projects be? We can’t wait to see more!
DH: With it being 2020 now and a whole new decade ahead I’ve a lot of big plans and things are happening. I actually have a feature film that I directed and have a small role in a segment for titled “Ted Bundy Had A Son” which Alan and Holly were involved with too and that’s gonna be part of a new trilogy from creator Shane Ryan. This is kind of a continuation of his Brandon character known from his very controversial but successful “Amateur Porn Star Killer” trilogy, so it should be getting a dvd release sometime in 2020.

Plus there’s a possibility that “Odyssey of the Disturbed” will be part of Shane Ryan’s 80’s themed anthology “Awesomely Righteous & Radical”, so maybe this can get a dvd release but we’ll see what happens. Even if it doesn’t I still have the utmost of respect for Shane Ryan he’s one of the most inspiring down to earth filmmakers out there I’ve been lucky to be in contact with. His films “Paper Kid’s” and especially “Guerrilla” were actually what inspired me to make “Odyssey” to begin with.

I’ve been writing a serial killer film titled “The Human Defect” which I’m aiming to make it like “American Psycho” meets “A Clockwork Orange” tone wise so that’s in the pipeline. I’m planning on shooting a short film on a Super 8 camera too, as it’s always been a dream of mine to shoot on celluloid film stock. I also have started writing a script that will be a homage to the Italian giallo films in the style of Dario Argento, while mixed with that 70’s grindhouse exploitation feel like that of flicks like Driller Killer, Toolbox Murders or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However I do want to give it’s own Irish identity as I feel it’s a film that’s never been done before in this country.

I’m very fortunate to be recently attached as an Associate Producer on a documentary “Masters of the Grind” about the history of grind house films during the drive in theatre hey day and this has been a passion project for Jason Rutherford for almost 20 years. He’s got the film completely stacked with interviews from so many icons of that era such as Sid Haig, Clu Gulager, Dean Cundey, Lloyd Kauffman and Hershell Gordon Lewis so I’m fanboying over having my name associated with it. Jason also directed a very fun horror flick called “SHHHH” which has one of my favourite actors Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead) in one of his last roles, so that’s what introduced me to Jason’s work and is how I got into contact with him.

I’m currently acting in a film directed by a very talented friend of mine Alan Mcloughlin, who I’ve worked with countless times including on ‘Odyssey”. The film is called “Dyadic” which is about a girl who gets diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is given a week to complete her bucket list. The lead is played by Nina Donnelly who’s a lot of fun to work with and an absolute workhorse of an actress, she’s done like 26 acting jobs in the last year and it’s easy to see why she’s got alot of charisma.

Then another very talented guy named Greg Young has a really original and thought provoking concept for a mini series titled “Unknown Enemies” which I’m supposed to have a role in. I’m also meant to have a scene in an upcoming horror feature film “Dracula’s Raven House”, so fingers crossed it gets off the ground soon.

So I’m hoping to keep very busy. Lastly I also want to give a big shout out to Dan Vaughan, Alan Mcloughlin, Nedra Cullen O’ Brien, Laurajane Sherlock, Holly Ruth Bailey, Fionn Noonan and John Nolan all for giving very natural performances in this film. I’m really thankful for everyone being so accomodating in helping me bringing my vision for “Odyssey of the Disturbed” to life. It’s amazing the attention this film is getting and I’m grateful beyond words.