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‘The Apology’ Spins Horror’s Tired Revenge Trope To A Deeper Direction

December 13, 2022
3 min read time

On the eve of Christmas, a lonely mother sits in an empty house waiting for a daughter who is never coming home. Suddenly, there's a strange knock at her door. It's late. She's by herself. She's been by herself for twenty years. She opens the door to find her estranged brother-in-law. He says he was in the neighborhood. His car broke down, so he decided to stop by. These are the opening moments of Alison Locke’s directorial debut feature, The Apology. During my ten-minute conversation with Alison earlier this week, we spoke about skipping outlining, first draft dumps, and transitioning from writing to directing.

The harrowing, yet eerily accurate inspiration behind the one-hour and thirty-four-minute thriller came to Locke in a dream.

"I had done a little bit of dream work type stuff in school”, said Locke. "I went to USC film school, I was a screenwriting major there. I had a professor, Joseph Genetti, who taught us how to lean into our dreams and meditations for inspiration. The meditation thing didn't quite take but the dream stuff did. I woke up, started to work on it as a story, and wondered what would be like for these two people. What do they want from each other? I was really connecting with this mother who just kept trying to be there for her little girl and I related to that a lot as a mom.”

The film analyzes the process of grief through a mother whose daughter was brutally murdered twenty years prior. As a mother herself, Locke wanted to portray a different type of revenge horror.

Locke tilts her head and says carefully, “I was interested in the idea of what would cause this conversation to be forced to continue and what would she actually want from this conversation. That is different than what we typically see in revenge stories. For me, it felt like maybe there was a more female POV on revenge and the idea of justice that we could start to explore in the film. How can we find that satisfaction within ourselves? What do we have control over?”

Once the core premise and characters were solidified, the real work began.

“I don't really like outlining”, she says plainly. For me, it ends up kind of sucking in the joy out of it a little bit. I know for some folks it's a lovely comfort blanket. My comforter blanket is carding. So I take the cards and I have like a giant cork board and I just start writing them. I don't get pressured about what the scene is doing. When I start to sit down and write the draft it feels less daunting. I just really accept, every time, that that first draft is a mess. It is a nightmare, no one will ever read, and therefore there is freedom.”

Once the script was done and filming began, Locke transitioned into focusing on the directing… but the writing never stopped.

“I just kept rewriting until the day before the last day of shooting,” she chuckles. I was rewriting the whole process because we would just constantly discover things. I realized this movie started morphing at every stage. Two big things I learned between the writing and directing aspect was just because you technically have somebody say something or you show something, doesn't mean the audience will get it. Sometimes your emphasis in the rest of the scene can kind of throw off the audience's intake of that information or that tone. You can take from it that there's a lot of heart, soul, and thoughtfulness to those details but it doesn't mean that it needs to be translated. It’s better if to leave things a little more mysterious.”

Looking in the rearview mirror, Locke has some encouraging and responsible words of advice for her younger self.

write-and-direct-horror-Alison-Locke

“What I would love to say to young Allie is manage your time better,” she says with a smile. “I think a lot of writers will sort of psych themselves out of writing time because they're obsessed with getting several hours of pure silence. It’s not most people's reality to carve out time. Even if it's only fifteen minutes at a time, just do it. Those fifteen minutes will roll you into more work. Especially as a mother. You have to do it because so many other things will take over your time, and those are meaningful too, but you got to take care of yourself. If you're a writer, you have to write in order to take care of yourself.”

A stunningly delicate balance between drama and horror, The Apology is one of those movies that will make you curse at the screen, while also feeling a visceral connection to the characters. With a single location and two characters, Locke captures an impressive showdown of the century between mother bear and villain. The highlights of the film are the quieter moments with lead, Anna Gunn, displaying that hidden ferocity that made her a star on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Along with a satisfying ending, I'm sure audiences will find The Apology on their nice list this holiday season.

THE APOLOGY will be in theaters and streaming simultaneously on Shudder and AMC+ on December 16th.

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