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Austin Film Fest: Rattlesnake director reveals how fatherhood helped get Netflix horror film made
Two years ago, filmmaker Zak Hilditch had an idea. It involved a young mother on a road trip. Her child's bitten by a rattlesnake, then saved by a mysterious woman. Later, she learns that in order to keep her child from succumbing to the snake's venom, she must take another human life before sunset.
Eventually, this would become the basis for the horror flick Rattlesnake, which Hilditch wrote and directed. Ahead of its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival Thursday night, just hours before premiering on Netflix, Hilditch told SYFY WIRE about how his own budding fatherhood was the catalyst for getting the movie made.
"I didn't know what to do with it," Hilditch said about his initial idea. "I didn't know how it was anything; I didn't know how it was a story, I didn't know how it was a script."
Two years would go by before Hilditch started to really develop the idea, which he credits mostly to the impending birth of his son.
"So, I'd been walking around with this idea for two years in the back of my brain, [and] my son was one month from being born, and it just clicked," Hilditch said. "I knew that I needed to smash this script out quickly because once he arrived, it was lights out for that idea — for a while."
With parenthood on the horizon, and knowing he was about to lose out on lots of extra free time, Hilditch started to hammer out the script rather quickly. He even admitted that "I'd been sitting on it so long that it sorta just came out of me."
Eventually, Hilditch showed the script to producer Ross M. Dinerstein, who'd previously worked with the director on the Netflix adaptation of Stephen King's 1922. As a parent himself, Dinerstein said he immediately related to the story, but was intrigued by the way Hilditch wanted to drape the film in ambiguity.
"I think that's why the movie really works," Dinerstein said, even admitting that his own interpretation varies greatly from the Hitditch's. "The fact that there are different ways to interpret scenes and different themes works, that's a real plus."
Similarly, Hilditch explained that he wants Rattlesnake's viewers to decide — and debate — for themselves what 'really' happened.
"I don't really dig movies that would have gone out of their way to explain what's going on to the letter, and also have the character one-up the thing that's f*cking her over," Hilditch said. "I'm more interested in, 'No, you're courting this thing, and you have to figure it out. You have to follow the rules.' That's a much more interesting concept to me."
If you're interested in cooking up a few theories of your own, Rattlesnake is available to stream on Netflix right now.