Fantastic Fest Interview: The director of Rabbit talks horror, psychic twins and a killer soundtrack
I talked with director Luke Shanahan about his feature film debut.
What if twins could sense when the other is in danger? What if there is an organization trying to measure that ability? That is the premise of Luke Shanahan’s feature film debut Rabbit, which played at Fantastic Fest. After the screening I had the pleasure to discuss the film with Shanahan about making a film about twins.
How did you first get the idea for the film?
I grew up being really close with a set of twins, they were not family, but we were close. And they themselves weren’t that close. One day at lunch I was talking to one of them and she said to me “If my twin was being tortured I reckon I’d feel it” and I thought that was fascinating. I also grew up watching twins in horror films, you know? Lots of horror films use twins as an extra element of creepy imagery, like The Shining. But then I was really into this idea of images of twins in a forest, and the possible telepathic ability they could have. And these twins I knew, they lived really far apart from each other. One lived in Sydney and the other in Germany, and I knew they were to be the central focus of the film.
From then it was just about finding a life-threatening situation to make the film interesting. But at the heart of it, this is a film about the relationship between to twins who fell apart.
So for me, the horror in the film is more of an afterthought, it was more about this girl trying to see if she could follow the breadcrumbs and find her sister.
What kind of research did you do about twin psychology?
Yes, we talked to a lot of psychologists. And they mentioned stored memories. A psychologist mentioned that memories could in a way be stored and then passed between the twins, but it isn’t an immediate thing like they communicate psychically. They are still doing research and experiments on this, there’s a hospital in Australia where you can sign up and they get you into a research facility. There they do a bit of shock therapy on one twin and see if the other can feel it on the other side of the hospital.
You touch on the old trope of the evil organization, but in Rabbit it isn’t necessarily what you’d expect. How did that come about?
You know, a lot of people have told me they wanted to know more about them and in a way, that was the point. Like I could make another film or a TV-series out of it. It was deliberately so; this film could be seen as two halves. The first one is sort of a typical American setting and then it gets taken to a European setting, like a fairy tale.
For the organization I wanted to take the idea of the twins in the film and show what the rich and powerful could think and do with that information. Take it to the English countryside. You see that in a lot of films, where you find how the other half sees the world of the film, and you never quite figure out what their deals is, but you’re still intrigued. Like when I first saw the X-files and I saw The Smoking Man, and you don’t really figure out what he is about, so that was the idea behind this organization that is very righteous about their evil plots.