South African born director Jonathan Liebesman made his feature film debut with Darkness Falls and was then chosen by Michael Bay to helm the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel.

This article / interview originally appeared in Something Wicked Magazine #2

A Trail of Blood from Jo’burg to Texas - JONATHAN LIEBESMAN

During the “video nasty” era of the 1980s many of us got to see movies banned on our soil by the former government who claimed to have our best interests at heart (further expanding their knack for oppression to include movie fans!) But, thanks to the Betamax video cassette, many tapes filtered through our borders, ending up as grainy third generation copies in our VCRs. Besides the obligatory Debbie Does Dallas pornos, classic horror titles like
The Exorcist, Evil Dead, Maniac and of course The Texas Chain Saw Massacre made its way to our TV screens in bleary, bleeding quality - but watch them we did, multiple times. And hey, look P.W., none of us are mass murderers! How ‘bout you? (And, Botha the Groot Krokodil, dying in Wilderness on Halloween is just beyond ironic).
As these vivid, shocking, yet fascinating images radiated at us, little did we know that several decades later, one of these legendary controversial underground titles would get a mainstream remake, and that a South African born director would helm its subsequent prequel.

Jonathan Liebesman had his big Hollywood break with the box office success of
Darkness Falls. Jerry Bruckheimer chum and power player in his own right Michael Bay produced the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake a few years back, and saw Liebesman as the right man to realize the origins of the cannibalistic family terrorizing the Texan wasteland in TCM The Beginning. I must admit, while in London in September of this year, it felt quite patriotic to see the movie’s poster in the subway – another chapter in a global phenomenon directed by a South African (a country not exactly renowned for it Horror cinema, but rather the horror of Leon Schuster-style slapstick!).
With leaps of this magnitude, going from a film school short movie to a financial hit and on to a legendary franchise, rubbing shoulders with A-list producers, we are foreseeing great things for Liebesman.

Paul Blom caught up with him recently for a little Q&A:

How did you get into movies?
I went to a film school in South Africa called the SA School of Film, TV and Drama after high school. I then attended NYU. My thesis short film Gesis and Catastrophe got me agents in Hollywood.

How did you get into horror and the more macabre side of cinema in particular?
Horror is usually where young director who have not had much experience with commercials or music videos get their break.

Do you feel comfortable in the genre or are you planning on expanding beyond its parameters soon?
I am planning on expanding very soon.

Many aspiring SA movie-makers are always encouraged to see someone from our part of the world cracking it abroad. Give us a little rundown of your path to success.
Just get a reel going. The internet makes the world a small place. People can see your reel all over the world. Don't be discouraged if it all feels so far away, just make a short film or a spec commercial or a music video. Enter film festivals.

What are your most fond-, and worst memories of South Africa?
I love South Africa. My friends and family. Game reserves, going to watch cricket at the Wanderers... Worst memories are getting car jacked and tied up at gunpoint in my house.

Is it easy for you to juggle entertainment, commerce and artistic expression?
It’s always a challenge to do a movie for the right reasons. I believe the most successful directors are those most adept at making the correct decisions under those constraints.

What are your top 5 movies of all time, and your top 5 horror movies in particular?
The list changes all the time.

Top 5 films today are:

1. Braveheart / 2. Jaws / 3. Exorcist / 4. Terminator 2 / 5. Seven Samurai

Top 5 horror films:

1. Jaws / 2. Exorcist / 3. Aliens / 4. Rosemarys Baby / 5. Seven

What do you think is the future of horror?
Hopefully the end of torture horror brings back more interesting stories like Rosemary's Baby and real old school stuff like Nosferatu.

What can we expect from you next?
Hopefully something great!

- Paul Blom

Click below for Darkness Falls & TCM Beginning reviews