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‘A sequel to Dog Soldiers is the plan’ – Neil Marshall talks new film The Lair, his inspirations, and creating strong female characters

7 min read
Neil Marshall

If there's one thing can do well – among many things – it's a good, old-fashioned, terrifying monster. From the creepy Crawlers in to the hair-raising werewolves in , the Newcastle upon Tyne director has created creatures that have haunted the nightmares of a generation of genre film fans.

And in 2022, he offered up another creature feature in the form of , a military action-horror hybrid filled with guts and gargantuan aliens that prey on military forces based in the desert nearby. Speaking to FILMHOUNDS, Marshall discusses his latest film, while also giving an update on an eagerly-anticipated sequel from his filmography.

 

You released The Lair late last year and it's coming to DVD and Blu-Ray next month, I wanted to know what the reaction to the film has been like for you?

It's been great. I got to get back onto the festival circuit with it which was a real joy. I haven't done that for years. I haven't had the kind of film to do the festival circuit with for quite some time. So it was great to take it to FrightFest and then to Italy and Norway. Just getting around and meeting lots of people has been a real pleasure.

 

Did you find that audiences around the globe have reacted to it differently?

Absolutely. We had two screenings in London, one was the FrightFest screening and one was more of an official premiere with a whole bunch of guests and our friends. And what was interesting was that the official premiere was a much more vocal and rowdy audience than the FrightFest audience. They were both great, but they were quiet for the most part. It was the same in Norway, they don't make a sound there they're super respectful and just watch in silence. Whereas in Spain, they're very vocal and they're whooping and hollering. It's interesting that different cultures show their respect for the film in a different way.

 

The film centres around a military setting much like your previous film Dog Soldiers. I wanted to know what attracts you to this theme and how you make it so authentic?

It was a lot of research and a lot of my own life experience. My dad and my grandad were in the army, and I grew up with the kind of stories and the gallows humour that comes with soldiers. Apart from that, it came from a lot of reading, meeting people, meeting soldiers, things like that. I was determined when I made Dog Soliders and also with The Lair to depict British soldiers authentically. When I made Dogs, 28 Days Later had just come out, and it's a good film, but it depicts soldiers in a negative light where they're all a bunch of psychotic rapists. It's only been 28 days and they've lost their minds. I didn't like that portrayal of soldiers under pressure, so I wanted to do something more realistic.

Language is everything. I read up on it looking at the dialect and the language they use which means nothing to the general public, but everything to them. That all came from research and then I just applied the same kind of principles to The Lair. With this film, what I was also interested in was more of a sort of character and culture clash between the soldiers by having British and American soldiers bouncing off each other, and one sense of humour and another not necessarily meshing.

A scene from The Lair
Acorn Media International

 

Through a lot of your films, there is that blend of horror and humour. Is it a difficult thing to achieve and what do you think is the successful formula to make it work?

With The Lair, I think that a horror audience seems to want to sort of take it more seriously than it's actually intended to be. It's not meant to be like a really straight horror film, it's meant to be like a fun B-movie. It is full of funny one-liners and funny moments. Aside from all the action, there is a lot of hilarious stuff in there which is delivered by the actors to perfection. I call it a distant relation to Dog Soldiers. It's like a second cousin. It's sort in the same family, and perhaps in the same universe.

That sense of humour that is delivered through the lines has to come from the character. The lines have to feel right for that character and appear that that character would say that. In a way, they're speaking for the audience. After one of the action sequences, Kabir (Hadi Khanjanpour) says ‘that was some fucked up shit,' and it absolutely speaks for the audience and what they're thinking while feeling right for the character. Then, boom, you've got it and it lands perfectly. You have some characters who are like surrogate audience members within the group.

 

Speaking of Dog Soldiers and The Lair being sort of cousins and in the same universe, I was wondering with how the films both end, if there would be a possibility for sequels to either of the films?

Well, if the lawyers get their fingers out, a sequel to Dog Soldiers is the plan. We're literally just waiting on lawyers right now to figure out the right situation. I'm keen to get all of that story sorted. I just want to get the green light so I can start writing it. But I can't do that until these lawyers get their fingers out. It's taken us several years to get us this far, and yeah, we're kind of close. I'll do some kind of announcement when I can finally start writing. It's a tough one, though, because it's kind of a double-edged sword. If I have £1 for every time somebody asked me if I will do Dog Soldiers Two I could probably finance the film myself. But you know, it's great that the fans out there want it so much. I better do a bloody good job of it though, because if it's not good, they won't thank me for it. I want to do it for everybody and myself, but my God, I better make it good.

With The Lair, I'm sure there are more adventures. We left it open-ended with the microfilm and stuff like that. So anything's possible.

 

Many of your films focus on strong female leads, such as Captain Kate Sinclair (Charlotte Kirk) in The Lair, Sarah (Shauna MacDonald) and the wider cast in The Descent, Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) in , and I wondered what inspired these characters and how you develop them?

With The Descent, I wanted to do the flip side of Dog Soldiers, which is a very masculine film. Big hairy blokes with guns, things like that, with one strong female character. So with The Descent, I ended up with an entirely female-based story and characters and then it picked up from there. I thought there are female action stars that were massively underrepresented. When I was making Doomsday I was thinking about female action stars and thought, who do you talk about? There's Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor but that was kind of it. There certainly was more, but these were the only ones really being talked about so there was a gap in the market. Off the back of The Descent I was given carte blanche on Doomsday to do what I wanted so I created the female lead I envisioned. That applied with too we kind of flipped it again and made this strong woman character that was also a villain, though she's a very sympathetic character. We did it again with The Reckoning, and then with Kate in The Lair, who is actually linked to Eden Sinclair's in Doomsday.

When it comes to where it all originates from, we were trying to figure that out for years. I think it's to do with my family. I see my mom and my sister as incredibly strong women and both of them have very much been inspirations for these characters. There's something there in wanting to write strong female characters and not make them just like men in another body. It's not like you just write a male character and suddenly switch and put a woman in the casting, they've got to be written as a woman would think, react, and behave.

Charlotte Kirk in The Lair
Acorn Media International

 

I can't talk about The Lair without discussing the monsters in it. They're absolutely horrifying. How did you come up with the concept and then how did you create them?

I wanted something I was gonna be all teeth. Then I wanted to strip away all the other senses so it hasn't got yours or eyes or nose. Because it's alien, I wanted you to not fully understand what the rest of the face was, so we made it full of holes. That was also because I want to tap into trypophobia, the phobia of holes, where they make people want to vomit. It's just like, holes, boils, and a horrible textured skin that acted like body armour so they can be shot and get up. Then I wanted them to be practical, with guys in suits. So we took all these elements and started designing, slowly putting them together. We ended up only having two suits for the movie. For their movement, we did a lot of training to achieve the look and they were hanging from wires.

 

Lastly, I wanted to know what is coming next for you and what project you have on the horizon?

I have two things in the pipeline. I shot another movie last year, a gangster movie called Duchess, which we're just looking for distribution for right now. And I've literally just come back from Malta from filming a Giallo film out there. So yeah, there's lots to look forward to.

 

The Lair is released on digital, DVD, and Blu-Ray via Acord Media International on July 17.