How exactly did The Body end up becoming the inaugural installment to Hulu's new anthology series of horror movies?
Davis: This is really the fun part of the story, because this time last year, we hadn’t even finished the script! We were writing the script completely on spec without any clue that Blumhouse or Hulu were going to come calling. I turned in the draft to my reps on December 16 and we literally got the call a week later on December 23 -- it happened that quickly.
At that point, I knew that it was Blumhouse and Hulu, but I wasn’t aware of it being for an anthology. I remember, at the time, thinking that Hulu was getting into feature films, and this was their first. I then had to wait out the holidays before flying out to LA to meet with both Blumhouse TV and Hulu, and the deal was put together really quickly. It was probably a week into my meetings that I was told of the anthology concept, but we didn’t know it was called Into the Dark until it was announced to the trades. We were really excited by all of it! Not only was this going to be my first feature, but to be the vanguard of this huge project -- made by two huge entities in the industry -- it was incredibly overwhelming.
With the limited locations, The Body definitely has a cool indie feel. Can you expand on the production experience, given that this was your first feature film?
Davis: Both Paul and I continued to polish the script until we finally went into hard prep at the end of March. We didn’t know an exact number, but we were aware that we had to make this film in 18 days for under $2 million dollars. So yeah, locations were a biggie. I think we shot in around nine or 10 places but were very smart about finding spots in downtown LA that we could really utilize with the little time we had. At one point we even made the joke of having the three kids realize that they had been walking in a circle all night and ended up back at Jack’s [artist loft] -- because come on, no one walks in LA! It was funny for about a week until we came up with the funeral home ending, which was more in keeping with where we wanted to take the last third of the film.
Let's talk about that funeral home ending. Not only does that mausoleum offer a haunting backdrop for this all to play out, it feels that each kill seemed to ramp up as the murder spree went on. How did you guys come up with the kills and were they how you envisioned them to be on paper?
Davis: When you’ve got the Emmy-winning makeup department head from American Horror Story looking after your effects, you just let them do their thing. We were very lucky to get Eryn Krueger Mekash and her team on this -- as it was probably the only window they didn’t have a Ryan Murphy show rolling. Initially, it was really just Jack’s eye gouge, Nick’s knife to the head, the cop’s throat slice, and the embalming that were the key effects in the movie.
It wasn’t until after we shot the throat slice that the folks at Blumhouse wanted to ramp up the ending. So Eryn and I had four days to really go to town on poor David Hull’s character [Allan]. She mentioned that she had a finger gag, so it was suggested we cut a finger off. I said, "Nah… let’s have him bite it off!" In fact, the shot of Wilkes spitting the finger out was totally improv-ed. I then put in the insert of it landing in the bucket because it made me laugh so much.
Same can be said for him placing the finger on [Allan]’s hand in the incinerator. That was an alternate take that just made me giggle. As for the knife to the head… I wanted one last bloody moment, and oddly, I thought of a chocolate fountain effect that could be caused by the fact that he was convulsing. I only put David through one take of that, but I left him going for the longest 60 seconds of his life before cutting. He was a trooper.