[Interview] Director William Brent Bell Talks ‘Lord of Misrule’, Halloween, and More

The new harvest folk horror movie Lord of Misrule hits theaters this week, and to celebrate its release, we talked to director William Brent Bell (The Boy, Orphan: First Kill) about creating the rich mythology of the town at the center of his film, how ancient Halloween traditions influenced those of the townspeople, and more.

The film positively overflows with autumn atmosphere, as viewers are immersed in this strange town with their mysterious traditions, featuring what is probably the most unique, elaborate, and creepy Harvest Festival ever put together for a movie, but Bell tells us that it was not always supposed to be that way. In a video conversation last week, he tells HDN, “Initially the story was set in the summer, when I first read the script. But I was really drawn to autumn, and the colors of autumn. Those are my favorite colors and my favorite mood. Halloween is kind of my favorite time of year, and so making it an autumnal Harvest Festival was really important to me.”

In Lord of Misrule, the daughter (played by Evie Templeton) of the town’s new minister (Tuppence Midleton) goes missing after the annual Harvest Festival, a theatrical event with bonfires and costumes, in which the Lord of Misrule (Ralph Ineson) leads the people in summoning a spirit they call Gallowgog so that they can then drive it away, allowing for a good harvest season.

While the town’s own mythology is very much created for the film, it does draw a lot of inspiration from real life pagan traditions and rituals surrounding the end of harvest, including Samhain, which would eventually become Halloween. “Tom de Ville wrote the script and he created most of that mythology of the town, but there’s a lot of the story that we didn’t tell that does draw on the origins of what Hallows’ Eve and that stuff is, for sure.

“We were even joking about a sister movie called the Celtic word for Halloween, Samhain, and that feels like an offshoot of what this story is in a way. And then, those festivals, they have variations of what they are like, but they all happen in the U.K., and so the people there are kind of used to it. They’re used to growing up around these things. So I kind of leaned into the darkest version in a way, with the fire.

“But just the costumes and everything, being able to create that kind of autumn Harvest Festival. Just everything about it, even the little girl’s wings, making them hay. Just every little detail, like her crown, the mask they had, that kind of stuff is so fun for me, and it was like a kid in a candy store to say, ‘How can we create something kind of fresh and interesting in world that kind of has existed for thousands of years really, since Roman times to some degree?’ So that was really fun.” 

We also discussed the design of the many masks featured throughout film, including that worn by the Lord of Misrule, himself.

“That was one of the first things that excited me about the project,” Bell said, “because I love puppets and dolls and masks, and usually I get to kind of maybe create one for every movie. Then as soon as I’m reading this script, I was like, Oh this has all these other ideas I’ve never really been able to follow through with, I get to follow through with on this movie.

“And especially Lord of Misrule’s mask, which was like the hero mask. It was not trying to purchase something or create something that we’d seen before. That’s the fun of making movies, you get to create things that will live on forever. So it’s like, ‘What can we do that’s different?’ It led to Libby Irwin, who’s our costume designer, who had this amazing concept artist, who was kind of like a police sketch artist. So I would just sit with her for hours to try to kind of figure out how we wanted this to look over the course of many days.

“At the time, it wasn’t in the budget to create something for that particular mask that specific. It was kind of a helmet it became, kind of like from the movie Excalibur, Mordred’s half-mask. I loved that idea, that you’ll see Ralph talking, see his eyes, but there’s still a mask. And it was just incredible artisan work be people in the U.K. creating this amazing looking mask. And it was like that in everything – the symbology in the books, creating everything from scratch, it just became very exciting for everybody.

“Doing that festival, which was the last thing we shot, gave everybody time to create all these looks. Sometimes that’s the sad thing about making movies, creating amazing sets and you’re like, ‘Wow, we were in it for 30 seconds’, yet it took us weeks. So that festival was one of those things – and of course it carried on through to other parts of the story, with different masks and different outfits – it was so rewarding that everybody had enough time to create all these amazing looks and masks.” 

Of course we also talked about celebrating Halloween itself, as Bell goes into his thoughts on how the holiday in many ways has kept the horror genre alive over the years, and more.

You can watch our full exclusive video interview with William Brent Bell below, premiering at 10:31 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 6. (HDN Channel Members can watch it early right now.)

Lord of Misrule will be released in theaters and on VOD this Friday, Dec. 8.

For more Halloween news, follow @HalloweenDaily.

Matt Artz

Founded Halloween Daily News in 2012 and the Halloween International Film Festival in 2016. Professional writer/journalist/photographer since 2000.