Storage 24 is “Gremlins meets a John Carpenter siege film”

Horror director Johannes Roberts on the influences of Spider-Man, John Carpenter, Alien and Gremlins in Noel Clarke’s sci-fi horror movie Storage 24, in cinemas now.

Storage 24 Laura Haddock
Storage 24 Laura Haddock
Laura Haddock in sci-fi horror film Storage 24, in cinemas now.

How did you come to be involved with Storage 24?

I was working out in Ireland, doing some TV work, and I got the script through my agent, who happens to be Noel’s agent. Noel had written it but didn’t want to direct it, and they wanted a genre specialist. I really responded to it, and we just took it from there.

You’ve got a writing credit on this movie as well as Noel, so how much of a collaboration was it? How much was changed from Noel’s original script?

Oh, it was all me. Noel just took a credit. [laughs] No, basically what happened is that I was brought in to do the genre side of things. Noel is a big comic-book guy and he’s very funny, and I’m half German so I have no sense of humour at all. So I was brought in for the structure and the horror side of it. That was really my thing when I came on board, I said, ‘look, I know exactly how to scare an audience’, well, hopefully I do, and I was like ‘let me take this and shape it for the horror side’. But the whole storage thing and the characters, that’s all Noel.

There are some similarities between this and your last film, F – it’s all set in a single location, and there’s a man trying to rescue a woman who he’s had an argument with of some kind…

Yeah, I am the one location specialist, yeah.

Why is that? Is there something that appeals to you about that kind of film?

I like it! I grew up on John Carpenter movies and I just love siege movies and single location movies, so when I read the script, the thing that I most responded to was what everyone else was frightened of, really: the endless long corridors. And to me that’s amazing. Everybody else was like, ‘oh God, what are we going to do? It’s gonna be the same thing over and over again’ and I just love it.

It’s part of what makes the film scary, really.

Yeah, I think so. So yeah, that’s something that I really look for. I mean, I think certainly the stuff that I brought in, in terms of the structure side, a lot of that was F-enhanced, I used what worked in F.

With a more dramatic ending, though.

[laughs] Yes, right! It has an ending! Which some people will be very happy to know. There was a different ending initially, and I just didn’t feel we could do it justice. I just felt it wasn’t going to work, so I said to Noel several times, ‘you know, I don’t know if this is going to happen.’ He fought for it a lot, and then one day he just turned round and said, ‘we can lose that as long as we do … this’, which is the ending we’ve got, and I was like ‘yes!’. And yeah, I love that ending. I remember Noel seeing it for the first time and – he won’t admit this, but he’s quite geeky, and he was bouncing, beaming like a little boy.

Let’s talk about the monster, the alien – how did the design for that come about?

Having just done this thing for the Syfy channel, where they love their CGI monsters, the big thing for me was not CGI. I really wanted a physical presence there. But then on the other hand, you can’t just have a guy in a suit, it just doesn’t work. So it was a mixture of things and I’m really really pleased with it.

It’s funny – while I was working on the Syfy thing, I was working with Billy O’Brien, who did Isolation, the cow movie. He taught me you must understand your monster – you must love your monster! In F, you just didn’t know anything, they had no character at all, whereas with this I felt, if I did that, it’d just be a poor Alien rip-off. I really wanted to love this character – to me, it’s Gremlins. It had real personality. The whole way we designed it was very much to get that character, and get the humour, and transcend the Alien comparisons.