Interview with Ryan Haysom, Director of Neo-Giallo Short, 'Yellow'

Italian giallo films are renowned for their brutal violence, dazzling style and convoluted ‘whodunit’ narratives. The combination of grind-house exploitation, art house aesthetics and bizarre fetishisation of violence, render the giallo a highly distinctive and unnerving cycle of films. The giallo is exclusively Italian and was initially popularized by Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The films began to lose their commercial appeal in the late Seventies, but recent films such as Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer, Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes and Federico Zampaglione’s forthcoming Tulpa, to name but a few, highlight the overwhelming influence of the giallo on a new slew of international filmmakers. These ‘neo-gialli’ have sparked a resurgence of interest in the film cycle that looks set to continue with a new short film by Berlin-based filmmaker Ryan Haysom. Yellow is currently in production and looks set to draw heavily from the gialli of yesteryear, with its story of a man and his increasing obsession with tracking down a vicious serial killer who has been sadistically murdering women across the city.

Hailing from Cornwall, England, Haysom began making low budget shorts as a teenager when his father gave him a VHS camera. After studying digital film at university, Haysom then relocated to London and worked as an art department assistant, cutting his teeth on music videos and short films. I caught up with him recently to discuss his latest project, the influence of the giallo and the morbid allure of black leather gloved killers, glinting switchblades and bloody ultra-violence…

What formed the genesis of your latest project, Yellow? 

Ryan Haysom: I love horror and that’s what made me want to make films in the first place, and I have always been really interested in Italian horror, specifically the films of Dario Argento, so it has always been in the back of my mind to make a film in that style. Yellow happened quite organically. Jon, who is Yellow's cinematographer, and I shot some test video for a giallo film over a year ago, and we had so much fun that we started thinking seriously about making a neo giallo short film, and from then it’s just been gathering momentum.

What was the writing process for you? 

My main note was to always propel the film using imagery. We are really steering away from dialogue filling in the gaps, so the film is very visual and Jon has done an amazing job so far. Above my desk I had the words “The giallo Michael Mann never directed” and that is the core of our Yellow influences.

Is Yellow a straight giallo (complete with whodunit plot), or like a number of recent films - such as Amer and Julia’s Eyes – are you just employing various visual tropes and narrative techniques typical of the genre to tell a story? 

I loved Amer which was a really beautiful film, and Yellow is a little like it in our visual style, but it is very important for me that we are not just making a retro styled giallo film. I want to take all of the things that really interested me from the genre, like black leather gloved killers, switchblades, extreme violence, but leave behind all of the retro parts that make them feel dated. Yellow is definitely a neo giallo in everyway. Importantly, the Italian giallo films are not our only influences; I am also a big fan of American genre cinema, especially the films of John Carpenter, William Lustig and Michael Mann, which have been big inspirations, especially Michael Mann’s Manhunter, which for me is the definitive detective vs. serial killer film. It has a great aesthetic of being an 80’s film but not feeling really dated; it has a very specific atmosphere which we want for Yellow.

Ryan Haysom gets all 'Argento' on the set of Yellow

From what I’ve seen of the film so far, it has a very unique look – a beautiful echo of Italian gialli. How have you achieved this look? Were you guys trying to evoke memories of any particular past giallo titles? 

Before we started shooting the film, my DOP Jon Britt and myself sat down and talked about all of the films that we really loved, and why we loved them, but we tried to make it a thing that we didn’t watch a lot of the old giallo films before we shot Yellow. We really wanted to avoid feeling confined by following a long list of rules, we have a strong giallo influence flowing through the film but we definitely want to put our own fingerprints on it.

The setting really evokes memories of non-Italy based giallo films such as Who Saw Her Die and Short Night of Glass Dolls. How important was it for you that filming take place in Berlin? 

The Berlin location suits the film perfectly, it is a really interesting city of old and new architecture, and it is the main character in the film, it has a very special atmosphere which is hard to explain. It’s also a geek-boy thrill for me as one of my favorite horror films, Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento’s Demons, was shot in Berlin and we came across a lot of the locations for that when we were location hunting for Yellow.

What is it that you love so much about Italian gialli? Any particular favourite giallo titles, writers or directors you admire? What is it about them that appeal to you so much? 

Giallo films had an incredible amount of creativity and ingenuity in them, they were this beautiful, haunting art-horror genre which I think the horror scene really needs back. The first Italian horror film I saw was Dario Argento’s Suspiria when I was fifteen, and since then I have been hooked by everything. The great thing about a lot the gialli and Italian horror from the 60’s to the late 80’s is even the bad films had more creativity and love in their craft than most of the horror films that are made nowadays. I am a big Dario Argento fan so I could talk about him for a while, Tenebrae, Opera, and Deep Red still send shivers up my spine, but a few of the gialli that I really love outside of Argento are Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling, Aldo Lado’s Who Saw Her Die, and Andrea Bianchi’s Strip Nude For Your Killer. It’s just something about these films that I just love so much. 

Gloriously gruesome make-up effects by Anna Zwanziger
With Italian cinema (arguably) all but dead, how much hope do you have that we will ever see a full resurgence of these types of films coming out of Europe? Or will it just be a case of their influence being felt in the work of a new generation of filmmakers such as yourself? 

I think the films will live on in the inspiration of new film makers like myself, but I’m not sad that these films aren’t being made anymore like they once were, I actually like that there is this insane moment in Italian cinema where the most outlandishly sexy and violent films were being made in huge amounts. For me, it’s a very special moment in time.

What can audiences expect from Yellow? 

What people can expect is a very ambitious short film for the budget we have. We’re attempting and achieving pretty crazy shots for the mount of money we have to spend, but sometimes that’s how you get the best results. You can’t put a price on the blood, sweat, and tears that are molding the film. I am really happy with what we have done so far, and in a couple of weeks we finish shooting the film and then the real adventure in the edit begins!

To keep up to date with Haysom's short film, check out the official website


psynno said…
Sounds like he's doing something of his own with the genre. Really like the look of it. Looking forward to seeing this.
James Gracey said…
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this one myself.

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