Pink Flamingos. Society. Ichi the Killer. The Sound of Music. Sometimes a film comes along so wild, weird, whacked-out and debauched, it sears itself into the brain forever.
Attack of the Adult Babies is such a cinematic experience.
A suburban family stumbles upon a world of privileged perversion in a palatial country manor house. Here they discover elite middle-aged men indulging in infantalised fetishism, and it’s all about to get murderously messy. Yet, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until they get to the bottom of things.
The brain child (or baby) of Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell, the team behind British horror flicks Before Dawn and Bait, and scriptwriter Paul Shrimpton, Attack of the Adult Babies is a film to witness in mouth-open disbelief. We implore you to watch the trailer below for a taste of what’s in store.
Electric Shadows’ Rob Daniel was fortunate enough to talk with director and particularly nice man Dominic Brunt about just what he and his cast and crew have wrought upon the world.
Rob Daniel: Okay, question one. What the fuck?
Dominic Brunt (laughing): Is that really your first question?
RD: Erm… it’s my questions one to five.
RD: Okay, moving on, can you remember where you were when you first heard of the concept of adult babies?
DB: I’d seen a documentary and imagery of a fella doing it. It might have been on Facebook from someone who was completely out as being an adult baby, which I admired. We were careful not to say that adult baby people are sexual deviants in some way. Thankfully, in this day and age you’re welcome to be whatever you want, so we didn’t want to mock anyone.
We liked the imagery, that’s what kickstarted it. An image of a fat man in nappies, you can’t ignore that.
RD: It is a striking image. And was it your wife Joanne Mitchell who came up with the idea or both of you together watching this documentary?
DB: I just had a title for a while. We’ve got a folder of stuff because we write shorts and features and treatments. If we think an idea’s got legs and can get funding, we’ll turn it into a full script. So, it was just that title, then Jo said we could tag it onto a story she had.
I had the idea of EC Comics and the American view of a rolling English countryside full of mansions. They get fed Benny Hill and Carry On films on rotation over there; they truly believe it’s randy old men chasing nurses, and everyone has a posh accent.
So we were toying with those prejudices of what people perceive as Englishness. And I love EC Comics, where there’s a monster in the cellar, a mad professor somewhere and an old mansion house. I was just trying to put all that on film really.
RD: You’ve directed three films and they’ve all had an element of social conscience to them. Are you and Joanne becoming British horror’s answer to Ken Loach?
DB (laughing): No, I don’t think so. I like the fact that a film isn’t about what it’s actually about. Before Dawn and Bait were very allegorical, but I think Adult Babies is more broad strokes. It tackles certain things but not in a preachy way. It’s not allegorical, the metaphors are easy to spot. It’s set aside from what we’re doing, we wanted to have a bit of fun with it.
I was actually hired to film something in America, with millions of dollars involved. I was going to Puerto Rico, so took five months off Emmerdale to do it with Radar Pictures. A cast was attached, but with two weeks to go it collapsed.
I’d been planning the film for the past year and now it wasn’t happening. Attack of the Adult Babies was ready so that’s why we made it. Otherwise, we would probably have given the script to somebody else to have a go at.
RD: The collapse of that project must have been hard.
DB: I was heartbroken. But, when funding for Adult Babies landed in our laps, we were like, “Thank God!”. I’d seen myself spending five months doing up an old Land Rover.
Usually funding takes about two years to come together, but a producer said we could get Adult Babies moving on the strength of the title alone. Suddenly I was like, “Yes, I’m going to be doing a film!”
RD: Attack of the Adult Babies is broader than your previous two films. What I liked about it is that there is satire here, such as the notion politicians are literally full of crap. When you see that visualised it’s quite something.
DB: I think Attack of the Adult Babies is all about the images. With the gore we didn’t want to cut away, we wanted everything on show because everything’s possible now. Modern audiences don’t want you to cut away.
I don’t like spiteful horror along the lines of Hostel or Saw. I hate seeing people tortured and I’m supposed to sit there with a cup of tea saying, “This is great!” I’m about the less spiteful stuff, along the lines of, “That’s a great effect, how did you cut someone in half?” This is that sort of fun horror.
Along with all those special effects we also used three different types of animation, just to keep the pace going.
Generally, reviews have been good. At FrightFest someone said it really wasn’t their cup of tea, but, they also said they were never bored for a second. I didn’t mind that, it’s kind of what we were after: as soon as we set up the story it goes off like a rocket.
RD: I didn’t see it at FrightFest, but a friend did. He said it was really gross out, but also weirdly erotic. Watching the film, I see his point; it is a pretty singular tone you’ve achieved here.
DB: We wanted a tone you couldn’t grasp. When the film’s going right, it suddenly swerves left and vice versa, so you can’t quite put your thumb on it. Also, the HBO thing of killing the last people you think are going to die, I had to have some of that. And everyone in this film who dies deserves it… or if they don’t deserve it there are consequences.
About the eroticism, we were careful with the nurses’ costumes. There were some really low-cut ones and some high up on the leg, but Jo and I didn’t want this to be too creepy or leering.
We did want suspenders and that gap between the dress to give that 1960s “Phwoar!” We wanted to take the piss out of that 60s and 70s era when fat, old white men ruled what was being made and what was being seen. That time was fucking hideous really, thank God it’s gone!
And the crux of the film is that these people who are our supposed moral guardians in this world are anything but moral.
RD: Sometimes it is sexier not to see than to see, and here the only real flesh on display is old white men.
DB: Yeah, there’s no real nudity apart from that guy who is being a pervert watching porn on the internet. For that we wanted a clip from Babestation, but they were charging thousands of pounds, so we had to get someone in on a trampoline. That was a bit strange.
We don’t hugely sexualise the adult babies. The worst moment is when someone’s got an apple in his mouth while a nurse is knitting, so she’s totally sexually uninterested.
RD: The film also works because the cast play it straight. How did you go about directing the actors?
DB: The key to that was Sally Dexter who plays Margaret, the villainess. Her face never cracks, she plays it as if in a very, very serious film. That cracked me up, so I showed the others what Sally was doing and said that was exactly what we wanted.
RD: Was there anything in the script or that you shot you removed because it did tip the tone?
DB: No, because I’d done that with Bait when Vicky Smurfit is beaten up and tortured. In that film we needed a hideous reason to kill the monster that the audience would truly buy into. But, I was also thinking, I don’t want to be sat putting someone’s head in a river at half past one in the morning, it’s horrible.
So in Adult Babies nothing has that spiteful tone. The violence is knockabout, but played seriously by the cast as you said. So no, no regrets really!
RD: Could you tell us how you got that massive manor house and a little about your approach to directing?
DB: Originally we were trying to get Allerton Hall where Victoria is filmed, but it wasn’t available as Victoria had gone over by two weeks.
Then we found Broughton Hall in Skipton, which was perfect. We lived there when we made the film so didn’t have to spend money on transport, food, location and accommodation. That whole budget could be thrown into one which meant we could afford it.
We were very respectful and had someone with us at all times to ensure everything was looked after. So for three weeks we could wake up in the morning, already set up from the night before and just film, film, film until we’d done that day’s schedule, then wrap up and go to bed.
We had two nightmare days with special effects that took longer than we’d anticipated. But, because we were on time with the rest of the shoot, the cast and crew were understanding of those delays.
The entire shoot was three and a half weeks. We had pre-shoots on green screen for Alex Chandon’s digital animation. Then a few days at the Blind Institute for the scene when all the backsides blow out. So about ten hours on camera.
I’m a stickler for schedules. I always get the assistant director to tell me if I’m going over because I don’t want the cast and crew getting tired and losing the energy.
My advice to any up and coming directors is planning, planning, planning. I always know my shot lists and camera plans and stick to them. I tell the actors after I’ve given them notes the character is theirs. They can play it however they want as long as they stand and move where I say. For that I promise to make them look good and stay on time!
RD: Apparently that’s just how Clint Eastwood directs his movies and is how he gets everything done by four in the afternoon.
DB: Four o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus! I think it’s also casting it correctly, knowing the actors can do it. You don’t want to have to pull a performance out of someone if it isn’t there.
RD: Although there is gross-out in the film it has a well-judged distancing effect because everything is composed in quite elegant widescreen. It looks like what John Waters and Stanley Kubrick would come up with if they made a film together.
DB (laughs): I’ll take the John Waters, but I can’t take the Stanley Kubrick. Maybe one day in sixty years if I keep going. But I’ll definitely have the John Waters element.
It was important to have a Downton Abbey feel as we were playing with class structures. Getting cinematographer Geoff Boyle involved was key because he could bring out rich textures in the mahogany and skin tones, which was crucial.
My first film, Before Dawn, was just two SLRs which we threw around, picking up what we could. On Bait we learnt about camera plans that we really put into use here. Hopefully Adult Babies looks like a serious film… even if what comes out on screen is fucking ridiculous.
RD: We need to briefly touch upon the poo in the film. There’s a lot of it. When Pasolini was making Salo, he said that film’s poo was Belgian chocolate, marmalade and broken biscuits, squeezed through a tube. Can you tell us how you did yours?
DB: To be honest, I wasn’t actually involved in it. I left that to (screenwriter) Paul Shrimpton and his assistant Graham Taylor. We told them we needed runny poo with guts in, thick poo for nappies, and sticky poo to go on someone’s face. I put in an order and they gave me the menu really.
RD: So this could be the first film in history where the screenwriter was also the poo wrangler?
DB: And probably the only film forthwith!
RD: A key set piece in the film features Lee Hardcastle’s animation. Was that because you wanted to work with him or was it more budgetary?
DB: It’s because I love working with Lee. We had him on the secret ending of Bait and I’ve always been a massive fan. I’ve done voiceovers for his shorts and my wife Joanne has just done some voices for a feature he’s trying to do.
We shared an office in Leeds for quite some time. We first met up on the festival circuit for Before Dawn, then we got him in for Bait. I’d love to use him for everything because I’m obsessed with his stuff.
Lee’s so prolific, but I’ve seen him work, sitting there for hours and hours for ten seconds of material. I’m like, “My God, why would you put so much time into that?” But he’s a master at what he does. He really is unique.
We wrote that scene specifically for him, but yeah, we couldn’t have afforded to do it practically.
RD: What has been the reaction on the festival circuit?
DB: It went down really well in Manchester. The best one was Leeds because it was like a homecoming screening. We had it at the Hyde Park Picture House, so there were 260 people. It didn’t start until nine o’clock, so everyone turned up really hammered. It was a really raucous, bustling screening with people shouting at the screen and laughing. We loved that, it’s why we made the film.
Joanne took it to Paris and they loved it there. The Q&A was very much like, “You must have meant this” and “This obviously meant that” and she was like, “Er… yeah, that’s right.”
At FrightFest one of the screenings was really quiet and the other was really responsive, so you just don’t know what you’re going to get. For me it’s a festival film or a Saturday night film with your friends when you’ve had a few. But it’s all been dependent on where and when it’s played.
I don’t think it would work at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon…