On the cusp of his latest release, writer and director Alastair Train divulges the events and inspirations that have shaped his filmmaking career.
“It all began one windswept night in the Scottish Highlands.” Alastair, then 12, was holidaying with family. Evening had descended and he and his uncle were sat immersed in the glow of their holiday cottage’s telly. Flicking between channels, they struck upon the opening credits of John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror, The Thing.
Until then, Alastair’s experience of film had strayed little beyond the soft boundaries of Disney® and Pixar® movies — of the entertaining, but the innocuous. This was to be his first taste of a cinematic concoction of paranoia, claustrophobia, gore, flamethrowers, and man-eating extra-terrestrial monsters. He was spellbound. “The experience really opened my eyes to the strength of reaction that film can evoke.” That night witnessed the conception of the creative urges that would ultimately lead him into filmmaking.
While The Thing piqued Alastair’s interest in movies, his struggles with dyslexia were crucial in inspiring him to make them. His hampered literacy skills meant that, although he enjoyed inventing stories, he experienced difficulty articulating them in writing. Filmmaking, however, provided him with an alternative outlet. “I discovered I’m much better at expressing my story ideas by way of a camera than pen and paper.” His chunky round glasses attest to his knack for visual storytelling, giving the impression throughout our interview that he’s engaged in an eternal process of framing his next shot.
Alastair wrote, directed, and released his first short, Osteopathy, in 2018. It went on to win Best Dark Comedy at New York’s Macabre Film Festival and a Platinum Award for Dark Comedy at Euston World Fest. Despite these achievements, comfort in the knowledge that “no one has booed my films, yet” remains the central pillar of his pride. Alastair’s second short, All Stretched Out, premieres on the 12th of August at Short Com, a film festival forming part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
All Stretched Out is Alastair’s second splicing of horror and comedy. I wondered what draws him to combine his love of horror with humour? “My first film, Osteopathy, was inspired by a funny real-life situation.” Before cracking Alastair’s neck during an initial session for back injury treatment, his osteopath had joked, with feigned nervousness, about it being his first time. “My trepidation instantly gave way to fits of laughter.”
The experience spawned the idea that he could elicit strong reaction by way of abrupt shifts between fearful and funny. The success achieved by Osteopathy’s first foray into this technique prompted Alastair to explore it further.
Thematically, issues of trust and responsibility within father-son relationships are at the fore of Osteopathy’s subtext. Does this also have some grounding in personal experience? “No.” Subconsciously? Alastair laughed. “I don’t think so, but my dad has joked about the idea I have some deep-seated issue with him.” He admits that the yoga-themed All Stretched Out won’t help ally his dad’s suspicions, “what with him being a yoga teacher…”
Perhaps you’re wondering how the placid ambiance of a yoga lesson might translate into horror-comedy?
You’ll have to wait and see.