The Horror Honeys: An Interview with 'The Lodgers' Screenwriter David Turpin

An Interview with 'The Lodgers' Screenwriter David Turpin

By Supernatural Honey Kim Douthit (@seattlescreams)

It is a lucky few who have their very first screenplay produced. In his first ever screenplay, The Lodgers, David Turpin, known more for his music under the name "The Late David Turpin," creates a haunting and beautiful story of twins Rachel and Edward in 1920s Ireland. Living in their families crumbling home, they are not the sole occupants. Living with them are Lodgers, who inhabit the house after midnight each night. Rachel longs to escape from the house and the family secrets that still live within.

Kim Douthit: Now this is your first feature length screenplay. Have you written any other screenplays before?

All photos courtesy of Tailored Films
David Turpin: No, I've never written a screenplay before. This is the first one.

KD: Oh wow.

DT: I mean it was strange because I didn't really have any frame of reference until people pointed out to me that this was unusual.

KD: What made you want to write a screenplay?

DT: I've always been really interested in film. Films have always been the kind of, I guess the art form that I use most to understand the world. But I'm very very very shy and I always grew up having the image of the filmmaker who shouts through the megaphone and the screenwriter kind of bashing away at the typewriter. I always thought I didn't have the personality for it, you know? And so I actually became involved in academia and I became involved in music and music for me became a way of creating stories, creating environments, creating worlds. So it's a little bit like filmmaking in the way I approached it except, you know, a song is three-and-half-minutes long and a film is ninety-three minutes long.

Gradually I kind of just came back around to it. And I was working at a University actually. I just called in Ruth (Treacy) and Julianne (Forde), the producers of the film, who were my friends from college and they mentioned that they were looking for a ghost story. I think that was pretty much how I got interested in doing a ghost story. And I remember how when I was little I used to have this game that I played with myself where I would imagine there was somebody living in the basement and after dark, this person came out of the basement and kind of used our house. I was seven so I imagine it was very innocent. I don't know what I thought he did in the house but I used to think about this person who used to hide and when Ruth mentioned a ghost story, I guess a little hand went in back into my subconscious and kind of rang the bell with it and I remembered this game that I used to play and it sort of started to cook and it became a story and eventually being The Lodgers.

KD: I love the way it's described as being a, "tastefully pervy, gothic, romantic, supernatural mystery," which might be my favorite description ever for a film.

DT: I didn't know they were using that. I thought that was just my personal description. I didn't know that was in public.

On the set of The Lodgers
KD: It's quite accurate though.

DT: I think the most exciting thing that horror can do is it gives us a way to talk about sexuality. It gives us a metaphorical way to look at all of those strange feelings that go on in our minds and our desires that we can't quite put our finger on and we can't quite express. I definitely also thought about films that way because The Lodgers is quite a restrained film more than a full-on explosive horror film. But there are some of the elements of horror in it.

KD: Right.

DT: I don’t know who would win in a battle between the Lodgers and Leatherface.

KD: So, you're a fan of the horror genre?

DT: Oh God, yeah. Ever since I was a small child, I've loved to be scared. Even the films that I saw as a small child that weren't horror films somehow in my memory I've turned into horror films. One of the very first films that I saw, my mom took me to see Disney's Cinderella, and I've always had this intense recollection of a scene of the stepmother emerging from shadows and her eyes glowing green and the shadows kind of leaving off from her and it is this terrifying kind of emergence. And then I saw Cinderella as an adult and you know that scene is not in the film. I kind of invented it in my memory. I think I've always been drawn to the gothic, and the scary and the tastefully pervy and when it wasn't there I invented it. So, yeah I've always loved horror films.

KD: Do you believe in ghosts?

DT: Do I believe in ghosts... I don't know. I certainly believe in the presence of an atmosphere that our consciousness can create, and atmosphere can take on a personality of its own, especially if it's dark. Do I believe in ghosts as a manifestation of the dead? I don't think about it very often. I have a lot of friends who will talk about ghosts and the supernatural and say,  "I hope I never see a ghost because of how terrifying it would be, or they might do something awful to me." But in my mind, what an extraordinary privilege it would be to see a ghost and see something crossover from beyond the ultimate barrier of death and choose to reveal itself to you. There's no higher compliment. So, I don't know if I believe in ghosts but I know that if I one day do see a ghost, I would feel incredibly flattered.

KD: The film was shot in a fairly renowned haunted location, was it not?

DT: Yes, the film was shot in Ireland’s most haunted house, Loftus Hall. I was there and I visited when they were making the film, and it does have an extraordinarily eerie atmosphere. I think when we talk about ghosts, what we're really talking about is the presence of the invisible, (and by extension), the past. When we get the feeling that we are in the presence of the past, it’s uncanny, it's like being haunted, and you certainly felt that in the house (Loftus Hall). You could sense the generations of the past layering on top of each other. It felt otherworldly. When people move into a house, we remodel it, we make everything new, we get rid of the traces of the people who have lived and died there before. But if you don't do that, if you allow the traces of those who have lived and died before you to remain, they become so much richer so that you can feel that history, and that is the feeling of being haunted.

KD: David, thank you so much for talking with me today. At the Horror Honeys, we always like to end our interviews by asking, "What's your favorite scary movie?"

DT: Oh God, there are so many. At the moment, I'm pretty sure my favorite is Cat People, from 1942. I find it so thrilling. I thought it was so extraordinarily sensual, with such small strokes. It had a wonderful scene where the heroine is leaping, and she falls on a couch and her hand rakes down the couch, tearing through, and you understand that's the cat inside her yearning to get out. I just think that's fantastic.

The Lodgers debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8!