By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Inhuman creatures tend to get into some messy mayhem—but who scrubs down the splatter afterward? That would be the hero of THE CLEANER, an in-the-works movie for which we have exclusive words from the creators.
THE CLEANER, which is closing a financing deal at the current European Film Market in Berlin, is the first feature by award-winning Dutch short filmmaker Jan van Gorkum, with Jan Doense of the House of Netherhorror company producing. The filmmakers sent over the concept art by Stijn Windig seen above, and spoke with RUE MORGUE at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, where they pitched the project at the Frontières International Co-Production Market. “It’s the story of Barry, a middle-aged, working-class guy who accidentally discovers that our world is filled with monsters in human disguise,” van Gorkum (pictured below at right with Doense) says. “This discovery brings him into contact with a secret organization that keeps the monsters hidden. They offer him a job cleaning up crime scenes where the creatures have made a mess, and that’s the beginning of Barry’s descent into an insane underworld.
“It’s going to be played pretty straight, with some dark humor,” he continues. “Tonally, you can compare it to a show like PREACHER, which also deals with strange creatures; that’s the kind of feel we’re going for.”
Unlike most series, not to mention movies, dealing with ordinary people thrust into supernatural worlds, THE CLEANER features a protagonist who’s well past his 20s. “It’s important to me to have an atypical main character,” van Gorkum notes, “because in horror films and shows, you usually have lots of teenagers, and I felt it would be an original twist to tell this story from the perspective of someone middle-aged. I thought that could be something cool, and fresh.”
Although THE CLEANER is a Dutch production, its creators intend to shoot it in English, to give it more appeal to the international market. “I’m a Dutch producer, so I would love to shoot Dutch horror movies in the Dutch language,” Doense says, “but in fact, the Dutch audience doesn’t trust horror movies in their language. They have been fooled too often, I think [laughs]! And it makes a lot of sense for this particular film to be done in English. It’s not a traditional Dutch folk tale, or something that is only understandable for that audience. So just like a film like THE WINDMILL MASSACRE, which caters to international audiences with imagery of the Netherlands as we all know it, we believe that approach will work for THE CLEANER as well.”
“It will be an interesting backdrop for the story,” van Gorkum adds. “It sets us a bit apart from all the horror films that take place in the U.S. or Canada.” The filmmakers are hoping to attract internationally known Dutch actors like Rutger Hauer and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE’s Michiel Huisman.
At the time of this interview, THE CLEANER was budgeted at 1.2 million Euros (about $1.35 million), which Doense describes as “low and high at the same time. Jan is a first-time feature director, and in the Netherlands, you usually don’t get more than 800,000 Euros for your first full-length film. But obviously, this movie has to be a little more expensive because of the effects. Also, we want to use the Netherlands Production Incentive, which is a 30 percent cash rebate, and in order to access that, your budget has to be over 1 million.
“On the other hand, it is a bit low for the kind of effects we’re aiming for,” which the duo plan to be as practical as possible. “But we have companies in the Netherlands that can provide these effects with international quality, like one called Unreal, which worked on makeup effects for all of the LORD OF THE RINGS and HOBBIT films and FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY. These companies are willing to invest in projects they really like, so we think that we can do this one on a moderate budget.”