If you’ve seen the disturbing found-footage horror film, V/H/S, you’re already familiar with screenwriter David Bruckner’s work. He and Nick Tecosky wrote the segment called “Amateur Night,” about several licentious young men whose bachelor party goes off the rails when they realize Lily (Hannah Fierman), the woman they’ve brought back to their hotel room, is actually a terrifying, flesh-eating beast.
The new film SiREN is a feature adaptation of “Amateur Night” that delves deeper into the psyche of young, American white men with truly terrifying results.
Writing with several voices
“Nick and I felt that it was best not to take the simplicity of the original short and duplicate that. We wanted to do something a little weirder, a little more expansive and take it in a new direction. We talked to different writers around town to see if they had ideas on how to take this to the next step. We were very lucky to find Ben and Luke. I worked with them, developing the script for about a year.”
Bruckner and Tecosky were happy to let go of the reigns on this script because they were busy working on other projects, including an Amityville script.
“I enjoyed the collaboration across the board. There wasn’t a lot of preciousness about the ideas.”
What the new writers effectively did was tap into four hundred years of repressed white male guilt, only making the protagonists a bit more likable than in “Amateur Night” and adding a female point of view. Issues explored in SiREN include slavery and its legacy, rape culture and the difficulty men have navigating sexual relationships with women post the porn-deluge. Bruckner calls it “masculinity going out-of-bounds.”
From short film to feature
“The original short, for us, was all about pornography and the influence that has on young male minds. How, without realizing it, they might have a predatory, self-serving approach to the opposite sex. We thought if you could take the audience and put them inside a piece of found footage that was filming people without their knowledge, that would be a very unsettling experience. That would sort of align us with their actions – whether we wanted to be or not.”
With SiREN, the writers softened some of the male characters so the audience could get behind for the duration of the film. “With a short, we could make the male characters more abrasive. But here, we had to get behind them for three acts.”
‘Masculinity in general is extremely confused’
Beyond being a well-made horror flick, SiREN is a savage commentary on the state of modern masculinity, because, as Bruckner puts it, “Masculinity in general is extremely confused. Men don’t know how to be. In the process of creating this, we talked to men who feel like there’s a real imbalance between traditional masculine roles, which are still expected to some degree, and feeling absolutely self-conscious about being out of bounds on some level. But that really uncomfortable place was good for the film.“
The themes in the film are what Bruckner calls, “Pre-existing anxieties that help fulfill the genre promise of the movie. Genre concepts themselves aren’t that frightening. Usually, it’s been predicated on some sort of social or personal anxiety – anything we can sort of attach ourselves too, that we sort of didn’t know the movie was going to deliver to us. I think it opens it up to let the genre stuff land a little bit harder. It also gives it a foundation and makes it topical.”
If all this analysis is starting to sound too heady, don’t worry. SiREN also plays as a straight up, heart-pounding monster film with enough scares, twists and dark fantasy to keep any horror fan frightfully happy for an hour and a half.
SiREN opens in theaters on Dec. 2. It will also be available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD on Dec. 6.