Wicked Witches: Interview with Director Martin J. Pickering

Wicked Witches
"Wicked Witches" is a creepy new horror movie by talented director Martin J. Pickering whose childhood fear of witches has never entirely gone away.

“Wicked Witches” is the latest movie by director Martin J. PickeringAudiences have been fascinated with witches, the iniquitous things they get up to after dark, for many, many moons. With brother Mark, UK filmmaker Martin J. Pickering adds a fresh spin to the anachronistic ‘wicked witch’ movie, with his very fun but equally disturbing new film ‘’Wicked Witches’’, which gets a theatrical release across North America on August 9.

He recently discussed this movie and more via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): What is about ‘witches’ that fascinates audiences, you think?

Martin Pickering (MP): Witches are something that terrified me as a kid. As I’m sure they did to many other kids around the world. I remember having a nightmare about one hanging upside down, screaming into my bedroom window when I was a boy. I think audiences find witches fascinating because they have so much power. Powerful, scary women that can possess your thoughts and have the power to completely seduce men. There’s just something intriguing about it all.

MM: And did you have to research witches, or brush-up on your witch terminology, mythology and jargon, before putting pen to paper on the film?

MP: At first, I didn’t think we would do any kind of in-depth research and just make our own style of demonic, terrifying witches, but my brother Mark did actually do some research into old demonic languages, which is what you hear them chanting in the film. That actually scared me to a degree because we filmed some scenes in my own bedroom. Sometimes I wish we hadn’t filmed satanic chanting in the room I sleep in. We also named the witch characters in the terms that real witches use. Saying that, these are our creation. They might not be normal witches, in my mind, they are scarier than any normal witch because they are directly connected to Satan himself. They are his tools to consume the souls of sinful men. That’s why they are so demonic, so animalistic and have sharp, razor like teeth.

MM: What were you surprised to learn about witches that you didn’t previously know?

MP: I felt like I knew a fair bit about witches before anyway and that they aren’t as bad as we think they are in real life. They are basically just people who believe in a different way of life and are part of an old pagan based belief. I feel a little bit bad about how I’ve portrayed them, because in real life, they certainly don’t have razor sharp teeth, black eyes and rip men apart limb from limb.

MM: How are the witches in the film different to some of the other portrayals of witches we’ve seen on screen?

MP: I think they’re kind of close to the “Hansel and Gretel” 2013 Witches. Really quite scary but they also appear as beautiful women at times. However, my witches are really, really terrifying. They are as close to the devil as you’ll get and I’m not sure I’ve seen that in a film before about witches.

MM: Did you sit down and watch any other ‘Witch’ movies before the shoot? If so, which ones?

MP: I’ve always been into horror films from a young age, but I always remember the film ‘Legend’ with Tom Cruise. There’s a horrible moment when a Witch bursts from the swamp and questions Tom while he’s on his mission. She basically wants to eat him and it’s one of the scariest things I saw when I was a kid. So that witch, with her sharp teeth was definitely an inspiration.

MM: Any favorite ‘witch’ films or ‘witch’ performances?

MP: I like the witches in Roman Polanski’s “Macbeth.” A great witchy performance as well as being pretty horrific to look at.

MM: If you could remake a classic ‘witch’ movie, what would it be?

MP: Hmmm, I’m really not sure. I’m not a massive fan of other ‘witch’ films I’ve seen. They’re usually based around teenagers or housewives, or like the recent Hansel and Gretel ‘Witch Hunters’ film, more action/comedy. I thought they could have made the Hansel and Gretel film really scary, instead it’s a bit of a joke. So, I’d remake a film about the Hansel and Gretel witches and make it a terrifying tale. 

MM: Have you and your brother always worked together? 

MP: We work together on certain projects. I do my own film work that makes me a living and he sometimes helps me with that too. But this film came out of his head in the form of a bad dream he had that led to a song he the wrote, called “The Witches of Dumpling Farm.” That was the original name of the film. I wanted to make a horror and I said to my brother that his dream/song is a great idea for a film. So, we made it.

MM: What do you think are your strengths, are what are his?

MP: A difficult question, but I guess I’m the driving force behind the work. I wrote the script and produced it all. I make it happen, where as he has a creative input that I find valuable and of course, he wrote the song that inspired the movie. Mark is a great audio guy. He did all the sound design and brought the score together with other talented musicians so his contribution to the film was huge. We’re a strong partnership. Mark and I are like twins. What’s stronger than that?

MM: What would you say to those considering working with family or friends in a business venture? Advice?

MP: Its incredibly hard at times. We always argue and sometimes have big fights but then at times, we are a force to be reckoned with and together, we can be an amazing team. I’d say to anyone going into such projects with a family member to be careful. It’s not for everyone. Mark and I can beat the hell out of each other and we’ll be ok the next day. Not everyone can do that.