INTERVIEW: Jonas Govaerts, director H4Z4RD (2022)

“I love old-school movie tricks!”

Fast, furious and bloody as hell, H4Z4RD is here to ram-raid your eyes. Ahead of its International Premiere at FrightFest, Ariel Powers-Schaub chats to director Jonas Govaerts about crafting one of the best action splatter-comedies you’ll see all year…

H4Z4RD is a perfect blend of horror and heist. What movies inspired you to go for that mix of genres?

I watched a ton of car-related movies for H4Z4RD, some more useful than others. Steven Spielberg’s Duel was certainly a major influence: despite being a 50-year-old movie made for TV, it holds up as one of the most suspenseful, claustrophobic car thrillers ever made.

For the chase sequences, I rewatched a lot of Friedkin films: The French ConnectionTo Live and Die in LA and perhaps my favourite, Sorcerer. The one pure horror sequence in the movie is directly inspired by Cujo, a rather underrated Stephen King adaptation from 1983.

Probably the most obscure reference is Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs: that one is hard to find, but it also features a gang of deranged gangsters crammed in a tiny car on a hot summer day, just like our movie.

The character of Noah is an impressive driver. Can Dimitri ‘Vegas’ Thivaios really drive like that? How much of the stunt driving did he do?

Dimitri might very well be able to drive like that, but seeing that H4Z4RD was his first leading role I wanted him to be 100 percent focused on the acting. For the stunt sequences, we used what’s called a top steer: a custom-built movie car that allows the stunt driver to steer the vehicle from a cage on top of the roof. Perfect for our movie, in which the camera never leaves the car! The steering wheel in the car moves along with the one up top, so all Dimitri had to do was grab a hold and pretend he’s the best driver in all of Antwerp.  

The whole film makes excellent use of stunts and practical effects. Do you have any favourite action moments?

I’m particularly proud of a fight scene near the end, in which Noah tries to clumsily run over another character. I wanted to try and do it in one long, unbroken take, so the stunt coordinator suggested what’s called a Texan Switch: halfway through the scene the other character is replaced by a stuntman (and then back again) without anyone noticing. I love old-school movie tricks like that!   

The sequence in the pedestrian tunnel is amazing. Did you use an actual tunnel? What was it like to shoot that scene? 

We used the Sint Annatunnel in Antwerp, a listed building from the thirties, which is regularly featured in student films and romcoms… But never before in an action movie! Gasoline-powered vehicles are not allowed down there, so we were forced to build an electric version of our car just for that one scene. We had only two short days to shoot it, so I mainly remember the incredible rush to get it all done in time. By the time we finished the final shot – featuring a GoPro camera taped inside a clear beach ball — pedestrians were already pouring out of the elevator on the other end.  

What’s next for you?

Not sure, though I hope it won’t be another eight years again before I get to make another movie! I’ve been working on a heavy metal horror script for a while; hopefully, that one’s next. Myself and Trent Haaga, the writer of H4Z4RD, also have another project together that’s been gathering some steam, so we’ll see… Whatever’s next, it will be bloody and weird! 

© Ariel Powers-Schaub

H4Z4RD has its International Premiere at FrightFest on 28th August.

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