Colin Cairnes on his new film ‘Scare Campaign’

Colin (left) and Cameron Cairnes.

When 100 Bloody Acres was released in 2013, it had the unlucky honour of being one of the most illegally downloaded Australian films of that year.

Directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes debuted the trailer for their new film, Scare Campaign, last week, and are gearing up for a roadshow release.

“This time around”, said Colin Cairnes, “we’re going to be a little more careful”.

The film will be released domestically by Jonathan Page’s Bonsai Films, with Madman taking home entertainment.

After debuting at Melbourne’s Monster Fest last November, the horror film will screen in special one-off previews in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and the Gold Coast in the coming month. It will also screen at the ex-lunatic asylum in Beechworth where the film was shot.

Scare Campaign is about a TV prank show that humiliates and horrifies its victims. After years on-air the show decides to up the ante, but victimises the wrong person.

Colin Cairnes was heartened to see the young turnout at Monster Fest, where 20-something ticket-buyers were “the people you’d think would be most guilty, potentially, of freeloading”.

Cairns thinks the landscape is different now than it was three years ago, when 100 Bloody Acres was released.

“With the arrival of streaming services, there’s more content available at a reasonable price online, and obviously there’s been legislation in the last twelve months as well, so it does feel as though things have improved”.

“We won’t be going wide on 150 screens. We’ll start very small but really focus on event screenings and put our energies into one thing at a time, because we’re a small team. Then hopefully we’ll get good word of mouth and go from there”.

The film’s international sales agent, Paris-based Films Distribution, is currently in Berlin spruiking the film.

Cairnes describes the international release plan as out of his hands, but is hoping that home entertainment release abroad can be concurrent with Madman’s at home in order to minimise piracy.

After 100 Bloody Acres, the brothers shopped around a follow-up script but found little enthusiasm.

“I think people were a little wary when it came to genre hybrids – horror plus comedy, or plus crime. So we decided we’d make something at the same budget level but make it a fairly pure genre film”.

“Cameron and I sat around for a couple of weeks and came up with a few ideas, some better than others, and pitched them to our producer Julie Ryan”.

“There were two that we agreed had legs, and one of them was Scare Campaign. At that stage it was a one-page outline. That was only about 18 months ago”.

Six months after that initial brainstorming session, they had a second draft ready to submit to the screen agencies.

The film was greenlit in late October-November 2014, and a few months later it was filming.

“It all happened really quickly. We thought, gosh we better get back and write another draft, it can’t be that good”. (laughs)

“I think the idea was strong, and I think we’ve gotten better as writers. We don’t faff about as much, and we know when something’s worth pursuing”.

The shoot at a disused asylum was full of stories and “anomalies”, the director said.

“Many of our cast and crew were open to the idea of the supernatural, you might say”.

Private ghost tours were offered by an ex-psych nurse doing security for the shoot.

“He knew the place back to front, and offered private tours after hours. He took people up into attics and into places they shouldn’t have been, actually. Don’t think the safety officer heard about that”.

Now that Scare Campaign is in the can, the brothers are halfway through the script for a new film.

Growing in Brisbane, the duo was weaned on the films of the late 70’s/early 80’s – “that great golden era of Lucas and Spielberg, action and adventure and horror”.

“My brother Cameron was seriously into special makeup effects. At the age of nine or ten he had his own little workshop with latex and plastic daggers and whatnot”.

That experience is visible in the pair’s output so far, in which the blood flows freely.

“You do want to carve out a niche for yourself. We love all kinds of cinema. We’ve made a comedy-horror and a horror-thriller. There are other genres we’d love to pursue, but if we only end up making these kinds of films for the rest of our careers – assuming we get the chance after this one – that’s great. It’s a privilege just to be able to make something”.

“I think we’ve been quite adept at knowing what kind of money we might be able to get our hands on, and writing scripts we know we can pull off for that amount. But we do have twenty ideas in our back pockets that would require substantially bigger budgets, and hopefully we get a chance to do that at some point”.

Watch the trailer for Scare Campaign here.