We chatted with the director and two stars of Deep Fear, the new French thriller (in collaboration with Belgium) that will be screened tomorrow, Friday, August 26, at the Fright Fest in London. Unfortunately while reading you won’t be able to listen to the laughter, but we assure you that thanks to these three guys, there have been many.
Sonia (Sofia Lesaffre, Les Misérables), Max (Kassim Meesters, Coyotes), and Henry (Victor Meutelet, Emily in Paris) are three young students, who recently graduated, who decide to have fun visiting the catacombs before Henry has to report for mandatory military service. They are far from suspecting that their expedition will turn into a nightmare when they discover the legendary 717 Bunker: little do they know it’s not the only thing Nazi soldiers have left behind them.
The first one to appear on the Zoom© video screen is Kassim (Max), shortly after Grégory Beghin (the director, Losers Revolution) and Victor (Henry) join him.
C: Hi guys, how are you doing? Are you excited about your European premiere this Friday in London?
Kassim: Yeah, I’m really excited about this; just the fact that the movie’s getting a life in general, like an international life. That’s very cool. That’s really the best we can hope for that kind of movie. And so yeah. Really excited about the festival and glad to be around London and the Festival with Victor of course.
Victor: I feel pretty much like Kas. It’s nice to see that the movie is travelling a bit, especially because we shot this more than a year ago in the catacombs, lost in the middle of Belgium. And now it’s nice to see that we can export this and that a lot of people are going to watch it. That’s nice.
C: Hi Greg, where are you?
Grégory: Hi everyone, I’m in a parking lot, so not that good, but it’s okay. I was supposed to be at the beach with my children and my wife, but we were late so I just parked the car, they went to the beach and I stayed here.
And at this point, it was clear the air that must have been established between the cast and the director during the shooting, surely an atmosphere that made this film so engaging.
V: I missed Greg’s explanations. That’s a shame.
G: Oh, that was a fun one.
V: I could tell, because, I had only your face on screen and I knew it was a good one, but I couldn’t hear a thing.
G: Long story short, I was late for the beach so I’m doing this in a parking lot. By the way, Victor you look good.
C: So Greg, besides a web series, this is your first horror feature movie, am I right? Are you also a horror-movie fan and how did you get involved with Deep Fear?
G: Uh, yes, it’s my first horror feature except for a web series that I did some time ago. The first time I heard about this movie was through a call from the production who knew me because I made, the web series. The producer called me and said: I have a script for a horror movie set in the catacombs, but you have to shoot it in 17 days with basically no budget. And I thought: wow, the challenge is great. I read the script and I was like, yes, let’s go, let’s try to do this. So I found myself in Belgium. I watch a lot of horror movies because I think, it’s a genre that evolves itself all the time. Before it was more like: you have a ghost in the house; now it’s getting more and more about fear, about the emotion that people can feel. And I think we still can do a lot of things; so Deep Fear is just a start for me, I hope. And for everybody else.
K: Yes, I am a huge fan too. It’s the kind of movie that I always like watching with friends. I never watch horror movies alone. I don’t know why it’s just, like, it’s not that I’m getting scared, but it’s just like in general, I just find those movies fun to watch with a crowd.
V: Way less than Greg and Kas. Of course, I watched some of them but only the most famous ones cause, that’s not my first type of movie even if I dreamt to play in one of them. Actually, before starting the movie, Greg gave us the names of a few films that were big references for Deep Fear. And one of them, It Follows, was one of my five favourites in the horror type. That was quite great news. After all, I felt included because I knew a big movie that was a reference. And also because I was glad that he wanted to make a movie with the same atmosphere.
G: Deep Fear is more a B series horror type movie; it’s more about the cliche of our era and it’s, it’s getting funnier and funnier because sometimes it’s getting too much even for a horror movie; so it’s interesting to have Deep Fear seen as a horror movie, actually, because it’s a cliche about those movies.
C: I don’t like horror movies so Deep Fear was my first horror movie experience and I laughed a couple of times actually.
G: So we were your first horror experience? Cool. And about laughing that’s good news.
C: The movie is set in the Paris catacombs. Have you ever been there?
G: Yes, we did. We did it with Victor and the production team because we wanted to see how it looks exactly down there. And the good news is that it really looks like what you see in the movie. We did a good job. It was crazy. We couldn’t shoot in the real catacombs, it was too difficult to go there, to get the authorization, to bring all the cameras and light and stuff. It was too complicated. So we had to do it differently and to make it look real, the catacombs as well as the Nazi’s bunker.
V: With the other actors, Kas, Sofia and Joseph, we asked the production to go there before shooting the movie, but they said no, because they didn’t want us to be scared and to say no to the project at the last moment. So they preferred to let us in just in the fake ones. And that was a good call. The fake ones were enough.
C: What was the most challenging thing or moment on set?
K: I guess the most challenging thing, in general, was the condition we were shooting in. It was like 17 days under the ground, basically trapped in a very humid environment and in the dark, for real, like for 17 days. So that was quite challenging, but the really cool thing it’s that we had such a great team and crew with us besides great energy with the other members of the cast.
V: Of course, the conditions were challenging, but to say something different, I would say that it wasn’t an easy acting exercise, because we really needed to put a crescendo regarding tension and fear but as for a lot of movies, we didn’t shoot in the chronological order. So that was the hardest part because we really needed to stay focused. Of course, the director was there to help us but I would say that this thing was the most challenging part.
G: For me, everything was challenging but one thing that I remember was also really funny as you are in the complete dark down there. So, all day long, you just have a little light on your forehead to see where are you going, what are you shooting, and basically what are you doing. And you don’t see the sunlight, for 12 hours, every day, each day, and maybe for even longer, but what was fun is that the actors had to do the lights just with the lights they have on the scene; so, all the time, the gaffer was like: okay, put the light there, put the light here, put the light like that, I have a reflection, I can’t see what I need to be seen, and so on.
C: And which was the funniest moment?
K: There were plenty of them but I just can’t get out of my head…
V: Don’t you dare…
C: So Victor, it is something involving you…
K: I just can’t get out of my head the fact, that, in a very serious scene, …
V: Ah ok, this one is not involving me.
K: … in a very serious scene you were supposed to be serious, like very serious and cry horrified and some actors, I’m not going to say who was accompanied by uncontrollable flatulence during the scene. So that was very ridiculous of course because who can resist a break-wind, I guess?
V: Yeah, that was very fun. And maybe that will be the front line of the interview: “who can resist a break-wind?”
And as you can see, who are we to not listen to him?
K: I mean, basically, we had such a fun team surrounding us, like Victor, Sofia, and of course, Greg, and of course, many guys of the crew, there were a lot of very fun people on set. So the cool thing about making that movie was like, we were supposed to be in a very dark situation and we were all making a lot of jokes.
G: I remember that something really fun was about Joseph Olivennes who plays Ramy. He is really scared of rats; like really, really scared. It’s a phobia and there was a scene where he shouldn’t be scared, the one when they have to walk in the water with all the rats swimming around …well, I’ve never seen someone, be in that kind of fear, in that kind of phobia. So, we had to shoot this scene, and it was incredibly funny. And, to see Joseph trying to stop his fear and to contain it just for the scene, and when I said, okay, cut. Everything went off. That was the best moment.
C: Which is your relationship with underground spaces and the tube now?
V: I try to avoid that kind of space, so it’s good. I’m not going back yet, but of course, if one day I have to, and I have no other choice than to go there, the first thing I will think about would be the movie, because as Kassim said, we spent 17 days in a row in the dark, you didn’t know what time was.
K: It’s a good one. We had to do a lot of scenes where we had to ramp into this very little hole into the ground and when we were shooting, it was very easy for me. I was very confident about the fact that I was not going to be stuck in it.
G: I remember that when we visited the real catacombs for the first time, I was with the production and someone, that we didn’t really know, and we went on a desert rail track; at one point this person just stopped and said, okay, you see that hole? That’s our way in, like in the movie. And I remember a strange feeling, I never felt that way before, it was like I couldn’t breathe, then finally, I said, ah, okay, you can do this, Greg. I never said it to the production. I never said it to the other guy. And I went in and there were no problems, and there were no problems during the shooting too, but I always think about that moment when I go to small places. I’m just afraid to feel that kind of fear again.
C: Kas, Max is a nerd. What did you bring to him? And there is something that Max left you after the movie?
K: That’s a great question. I think it was very funny to play that kind of nerd because in the film he’s like a cliche of what a nerd in the eighties or nineties was. And so the funny thing was to make him scared of basically everything. That was the most fun part because it’s not like an actual aspect of my personality. I feel like I was probably the actor that was the farthest from his character in this movie. It was very fun to wear those glasses and be with this camera and just be afraid of everything.
C: And what about Henry, Victor?
V: Henry was a fun character to play. And the good thing is that Greg let me a lot of freedom in building it; I could try jokes and everything, and 98% of the time he told me, I don’t think so, but that was a good proposition. And, I loved working like that because when you feel confident on the set, it literally changes your way to work because you can try, and you’re not afraid to miss the target. And that was good, especially for a character like Henry, because he is fun, and everything. And when you need to play a fun character, you have to be fun, but not all the time. I loved to play that guy because he’s not only the one he seems at the first sight, he has also something deeper and that is very interesting for an actor to play, both sides of him. He’s not that far from the guy I am in real life. So, so that made it even more fun portraying him.
C: And among all the characters you played in your career, which one is the most similar to Victor?
V: Oh, that’s not an easy question. I would say that maybe Henry is one of the closest to me and the one I played in a TV show called Le Mensonge (The Lie) that maybe is the character I’m most attached to, even if we don’t really look like each other, but I find that character very moving so I would say that one.
C: And Greg, you have experience as an actor, writer and director. How has this kind of experience shaped your work on set?
G: I used my acting roles to understand how directors bring out the best in each actor on the set.
There isn’t just one way to do it. You can be a director, who does it exactly the same every single time, because you think it is the best way, or you can be different with every actor you are working with. I remember how it was to be an actor, how it felt when you were understanding the scene or when you felt like, okay, now I need someone to tell me how to do better each take.
C: And, if in the future you would have to choose only one thing between acting, writing and directing…
G: …for a second I thought you were going to ask between one of these actors! I don’t wanna do anything else anymore in my life besides directing. For years and years, I was acting to be on set and to understand how it works but now I just want to be behind the camera…for the rest of my life.
C: Lately, we are surrounded by a lot of remarks. For example, in Italy, this year, they made a remake of the 2019 Victor’s Netflix© Le Bazar de la Charité. In this case, it was set in Sicily. How do you feel about this?
V: I didn’t know about that. How did they call it?
C: Stronger than Destiny (Più forti del destino)
V: It makes sense. I think that’s a good thing. I’m quite happy and proud that something we did in France, was an inspiration abroad. Maybe it certifies that we did it right, that we did a good job because people now want to do the same even if with a different location or historical period. Of course, the first version was related to that part of history, when the fire happened but what is really important is the opportunity of changing your own destiny; that’s why I think they chose a great title…and you can put those destinies, whenever and wherever you want in the world. I also played in other series that were adaptations from other countries so it wouldn’t be very fair to say that that’s a bad thing. I hope I will be able to watch Stronger than Destiny because now I’m curious about it.
G: Oh, I couldn’t say it better than Victor. I’m not a writer, so maybe it’s more difficult for a writer to see all those things you put in the script being changed for another country or for another market and I understand that it could hurt, but I think it’s a good thing to see a story you did and you made going further and trying to be told in a different way or point of view.
K: Well, it never happened to me, but let’s put it like this. I always rather go for the original version. When there is a movie that comes from, I don’t know, like Japan or Korea, and there is like an American remake, I always rather go for the version that comes from Asia because I think it’s closer to what the writers wanted to say, but I think it’s very cool to do remakes, but I think that when you make a remake you have to put something new in it. It’s not a bad thing, you just have to tell something new differently.
C: And as part of the audience, are you more movie people or TV series people?
K: Movies one hundred per cent.
V: It depends, I go for a good story. I don’t care if it’s web series, TV series, movies, short movies,…I just want something that I like to be told.
G: Sometimes big directors went to TV series for a project and they said we tried to bring movies to the TV and cinema to the TV series. And I’m sure it’s a completely wrong way to do it. It’s not a competition. You don’t write TV shows the same way you write a movie. I love both of them. I love all the ways you can see stories, as well as Victor. So I’m watching everything I can and I’m taking, like, not ideas, but references. And, I’m sure I won’t have enough time to see all the things I would like to watch.
C: Have you ever been to London for work before? How are you imagining the Fright Fest?
K: No, never. And about the Fright Fest, we have a festival here in Belgium. It’s actually the most famous Belgium festival. And it’s a very fun festival, just fun people who want to see cool movies and shout and scream when bad people come onto the screen. So, yeah, I think it’s supposed to look a bit like this, but I really don’t know. I, I just want to be there and, and see what happens.
V: I only went there 10 years ago with my dad for the Olympics. That was the first time I left France. I have good memories over there, but no, I haven’t been there ever since. About the FrightFest, I hope that the room will be full and the good thing about festivals is that the people who are watching it are people who wouldn’t have watched it without the festival. So it’s nice to bring a new audience to our movie. And yes, that’s what I hope about it. That new people would be able to watch it, as it was for you.
G: And the movie is also going to another big festival in the US. It’s kind of crazy because I don’t know what kind of festival is that one, but I have so many emails about people who want to know if we have already a distribution there, if we have someone representing it and stuff like that. So I don’t know what’s going on but it’s good for my ego. And the movie has already been sold in England, the US, Spain and in Germany. So it is having a good life and it’s the best thing we can expect when we do a movie, especially in that kind of conditions. I’m not going to those festivals at the moment, but I hope to go to one of them soon because it’s so great to go and to see the reaction of the people in the cinema and talk about the movie.
As it was nearly noon we gave Greg back to his family and the boys to their schedules but we would have liked to keep them a little longer with us as, for sure, will happen to you if tomorrow morning you will be at the Prince Charles Cinema at 10:30 BST for Deep Fear screening at the FrightFest.