'Tis the season for scary movies, so it's fitting that Thomas Jane's stylish, noir-fueled horror film "Dark Country" arrives on shelves this week. In his directorial debut, the "Punisher" actor not only makes his first bow behind the camera, but he also stars alongside Lauren German ("Hostel: Part II") and Ron Perlman ("Hellboy")—two actors not entirely unfamiliar with fright-friendly cinema.
Combining surreal, David Lynch-style visuals with a pulpy horror tale that would seem at home in old issues of "Tales From The Crypt" or "Creepy," Jane says comic books weren't far from his mind when he stepped behind the camera.
"I’ve been reading comic books since I was eight years old, and in comics, anything’s possible," Jane told MTV News. "They come up with angles that you could never shoot in life, and they really have to work hard to make that two-dimensional space feel three-dimensional, so it’s a fantastic resource for coming up with ideas for shots."
"I wanted to do something that was unique, and yet also paid homage to filmmakers who had a big impression on me," said Jane, "like David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, but also John Alton, who is a great cinematographer who worked with Anthony Mann on films like 'Raw Deal' and 'He Walked By Night.'"
According to Jane, when it came time to pull double duty on the film, he sought advice from one of the more prominent actor/directors in recent years—and discovered that he was just the latest in a long line of people to receive the same words of wisdom.
"I called Mel Gibson and he talked to me on the phone for an hour, and said that when he was getting ready to direct and star in his first film, he was nervous and he called Clint Eastwood," said Jane. "Clint Eastwood talked to Mel for a long time and told Mel that he was really nervous and he called Don Siegel, who had directed Clint in a bunch of movies, and Don told Clint, 'Don’t sell yourself short. Spend as much time on yourself—your own shots—as you do on every other actor, on every other aspect of production. Be careful, because you’re in the movie you have permission to just do one or two takes on yourself and quickly move on—but you need to spend as much time on yourself for your film to work.'"
"That’s what I took away from my conversation with Mel and I hung up the phone feeling much more confident in my ability to pull this thing off than I did before I’d gotten on the phone," he explained.
Originally intended as a 3-D theater release, Jane said the film was shot in 3-D but plans were ratcheted back due to the lack of home theater equipment able to present the film in all its multidimensional glory.
"But that equipment is coming, and when it does I certainly hope that we give 'Dark Country' a home theatrical 3-D release," he added.
While it could be a while until the film gets a 3-D premiere in homes, it did receive a screening in line with Jane's plans this past weekend at Long Beach Comic Con, where "Dark Country" debuted in full 3-D glory in front of a packed house of nearly 400 fans. Jane and comic book artist Tim Bradstreet hosted the screening along with 3-D developer Ray 3D Zone.
And though his 3-D plans for the film involved looking ahead to the future of the medium, Jane said his inspiration for the tone of the film involved more of a rearview-mirror take on filmmaking—especially when it comes to horror movies.
"I wanted to make a movie that was for people who enjoy movies that are off the beaten track, you know?" said Jane. "I wanted to make a movie for fans of cult films, for fans of 'The Twilight Zone,' for guys who stayed up late to watch 'The Outer Limits' when they were probably too young to do that."
"It seems like more and more now, people are really losing sight of some of the great, old drive-in films," he continued. "Quentin Tarantino tried to bring some of that flavor to the 'Grind House' stuff and I think that this film very much embodies that spirit—but instead of trying purposely to scratch up the movie and print frames out of it and yellow the film, let’s make this movie as if it’s really exists. And I feel like the feedback’s been really, really rewarding."
"Dark Country" arrives on DVD today, October 6, starring Thomas Jane, Lauren German and Ron Perlman. The film was directed by Jane, with a script by Tab Murphy.