Older Gods Director Talks Lovecraft and What the Future Holds


Older Gods is one of the year’s best horror films, and that’s saying a lot when 2023 also includes films like Talk to Me, Good Boy, and Evil Dead Rise. It sports a compelling mystery, great performances, creepy imagery, and an all-around great addition into the Lovecraftian horror genre. It’s a movie that will really surprise audiences, especially considering it’s a very low-budget film with an unbelievably small seven-person crew behind it.

Filmed during COVID, Older Gods is a mysterious horror movie that follows Chris (Rory Wilson) as he travels to the Welsh countryside to investigate the mysterious death of his best friend, Billy (Ieuan Coombs). However, upon arriving at the cottage where Billy was last seen, Chris uncovers a horrific secret, as an apocalyptic cult attempt to control, entrap, and kill him.

Despite being such a small film, Older Gods has been a hit on the festival scene and with audiences, taking home awards at the London Independent Film Festival, the Breaking TV Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. On top of that, it’s been part of the official selection for the Santa Monica Film Festival, the Austin Lift-Off Film Festival, and the Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival. MovieWeb recently sat down with the director of Older Gods, David A. Roberts, to discuss his Lovecraftian inspirations, Wagyu Films, shooting during COVID, and what his future in the film industry holds.

Fear of the Unknown

Older Gods - Slow Burn
Wagyu Films

Older Gods isn’t necessarily the scariest movie of the year. At least not on its surface. The jump scares are effective, but few and far between. However, it’s the movie’s slow-burn, creepy atmosphere that will chill audiences to their core. “Older Gods is a bit of a psychological cosmic horror,” explained Roberts, which “sounds like a long-winded way of saying it’s a bit Lovecraftian. It’s a bit of a slow-burn built around a mystery, rather than jump scares.”

The film’s isolated setting, the mysterious unknown threat, and the undeniably gloomy aesthetic creates an immediate sense of fear before the film even kicks off. The sense of ‘the unknown’ pervades Older Gods, linking it to other cosmic horror films like Color Out of Space, From Beyond, and The Void.

“I saw somebody explain the definition of cosmic horror. It was just fear of the unknown,” explained Roberts, “which I think is to me much scarier than a horror with a psycho — you could outrun them if you’ve got some decent trainers. Or with zombies, you can just walk slightly faster than them. Whereas, if there is something out there, and you don’t know what the danger is, and you can’t really put your finger on it, and you don’t know which direction it’s going to come from, that kind of scares the sh*t out of me a lot more than knowing somebody is running toward me.”

Lovecraftian Inspirations

Older Gods - Feature Film
Wagyu Films

Older Gods is a Lovecraftian film through and through. It deals with cosmic horror and that aforementioned fear of the unknown, and the movie sports some impressive practical effects that bring to mind some of the more visual exposition in H.P. Lovecraft’s work.

“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘This is not Lovecraft enough,'” said Roberts. “It’s more Lovecraft-inspired, like all cosmic horror. Anything which is dealing with the grand scale of the universe, it all kind of comes from [Lovecraft]. But I’m not actually a huge fan of the books, per se. It’s more kind of like the concepts that he came up with.” Nonetheless, Lovecraft’s work is a serious inspiration on Older Gods.

Call of Cthulhu is the obvious one, which is kind of his greatest hit,” continued Roberts. “But At the Mountains of Madness, probably [is the biggest inspiration] for the fact that it’s like this spiral into madness.” After recommending The Shadow Over Innsmouth to any fans of OIder Gods, Roberts said:

The huge part of most Lovecraft stories is usually the hearing of some myth, and then going to investigate it, and finding something that they don’t understand. So that was the part that we were kind of inspired by.

Roberts had further Lovecraft connections in Older Gods — Jonathan Keeble, who stars in the film as The Watcher but also provides the narration for the entire H.P Lovecraft book collection on Audible. “Which was a strange coincidence, because I’d heard of him via […] video games and a lot of audiobooks,” said Roberts. “He just had this brilliant voice.”

Related: Why Movies Need More Lovecraft

Wagyu Films and Indie Cinema

Older Gods - Movieweb
Wagyu Films

Roberts always enjoyed writing, and he and his friends were big film fans growing up. They still are, and though Roberts wants to “make all kinds of genres of film, horror’s just one that fascinated” him the most, generally because “they’re just more fun to make.”

David continued by recalling when he met his filmmaking friends at University, who were part of the crew for Older Gods. “We met Shaun Bishop, the director of photography, met Keith Lupton, our production designer, Scott Bishop, who’s Shaun’s brother,” explained Roberts. “You surround yourself with people who all want the same thing. That’s when you realize, well, we could actually do this.”

“So that’s when we started Wagyu Films,” said Roberts about the production company he and his friends started together. “We started just doing commercials to try and pay the bills. But the plan was to kind of just do feature films eventually […] we got to the point where pretty much all we have to pay for is actors and locations. And that’s how we were able to pretty much make Older Gods.”

Older Gods - Billy
Wagyu Films

The team behind Older Gods only consisted of seven people. After watching the movie, you really wouldn’t know it. In fact, the crew was actually ready to make a whole different film instead of Older Gods, but COVID changed that. “We were all good to go for a much bigger-budget film. And then, well,” said Roberts, “then all of a sudden there’s some worldwide pandemic. It hasn’t happened in my lifetime until I’m just about to [make] my debut.”

So the other guys [and I] were kind of like, “Well, we can still do something. We still got the heads of department, we still got a bit of budget left, what can we do?” So rather than waiting for permission, we worked out a story that we could do if we kept it smaller […] The funny thing is that all the crew actually stayed in that creepy little cottage in the middle of nowhere.

COVID and Older Gods

Older Gods Poster
Wagyu Films

The worldwide pandemic impacted everyone in completely different ways. For those in the film industry, working on a movie set could feel so incredibly unnatural compared to what the rest of us might have gotten used to. “It was actually quite great, because we were miles from anywhere else. So you could kind of focus on it,” explained Roberts. “There was no internet, so you couldn’t be checking phones or anything […] So everybody really dug in, and especially halfway through, it became some kind of a weird summer camp.”

Related: The Best Horror Movies of 2023 So Far

COVID of course caused some issues, too. “Scott, one of the producers, I think he went on a six-hour drive just to find a white shirt,” explained Roberts, who added that the lack of internet forced them to film in a cinematically archaic way. “If you needed something or if you forgot something, all of our fancy production schedule software was online based.” He continued:

So it kind of made you go a bit more old school. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, probably. But when you look back, you don’t look back at it in terms of the hard part. I just look back as if that was something I’d like to do again, you know?

That’s the kind of passion Roberts and his film exudes, COVID be damned, and the secret to Older Gods’ success. No matter how big or small a film’s budget is, passion and artistry will always outweigh anything else that goes into making movies.

“I think that sometimes — I’m not putting anybody else down — but sometimes in big budget jobs, you could say that a lot of those jobs are just that: a job,” explained Roberts. “But the good thing about this one was [that] this is going to be everybody’s calling card, so to speak. Obviously it’s my debut directing, but the director of photography, Shaun, it’s his first feature. It’s Andy’s, our art director who did lots of the prosthetics; it was his first thing to show off what he could do to get other jobs in the future if it’s not with us.”

Passion and a bit of creativity will always get you […] something a bit better, rather than if you just throw money at a problem.

What’s Next for David A. Roberts

The trailer for this small seven-person film with a microbudget has ended up garnering more than 367,000 views on YouTube, a massive accomplishment for indie cinema (and of course, for Wagyu Films in particular). “The beauty of it overperforming, shall we say, is that we now have less reliance on other people,” said Roberts. “So the trick now is that we can move into a slate of films rather than one.” You can find more information about what Roberts is working on at the moment, including the dark sci-fi thriller Patriarch, at the Wagyu Films website.

Older Gods is available to purchase now on any VOD platform, and will soon release in theaters. You can find information about showtimes and where to watch the film now at the Older Gods website.

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