It’s been seven years since we last did an interview apparently, so when we heard Mat Steiner of Gogglebox Entertainment (Breakaway, The Exit List) had an app to promote and the publicist got in touch we leapt at the chance to e-mail him a few questions about current Bother’s Bar favourite Release the Hounds:
Release the Hounds feels like an amalgamation of two ideas – a collection of horror challenges and outrunning a pack of dogs. Which came first?
We had always wanted to crack the reality/comedy idea for horror. But it was the breakthrough thought of being chased by dogs that allowed us to go back and unlock all those ideas we had had and for which we now had the vehicle.
Were there any ideas that had to be scrapped because someone considered them beyond the pale? Where is the line and how far is too far?
Absolutely. We had number of ideas involving burial that were perhaps a little too extreme. On the other hand we absolutely take the contestants and their experience right to the line.
Were there some ideas that came across better on screen than originally envisioned? What about ideas that sounded good on paper but were a bit disappointed by the end result?
We were pretty pleased with most of the executions – challenges like phone booth really surpassed expectations – but what you realise is that whilst many have scale, psychological terror does not necessarily need to be big. It’s often about the close up, the nothingness before a bang and the “idea” within the challenge. The puppet show with the chainsaw wielding clown that comes to life was quite compact worked brilliantly.
Is it more important for the show to be funny or scary?
Both are essential and in some respects linked. Laughter is the relief, the self-preserving emotion that comes off the horror.
Was Reggie Yates a choice by the production company or the channel? Were many other people considered?
We had worked with Reggie before (he fronted our Move like Michael show) and he was our choice. You could play the host various ways but Reggie just gets it tonally spot on.
I thought the series was well cast in the main. There was a concerted effort to keep the show a mystery from its applicants, did this make finding potential teams easier or more difficult? If the show gets a second run does it matter that much of the potential pool will be wise to it? What’s wrong with just telling people it’s for Release the Hounds anyway?
We like our contestants to feel like they are in horror film and that begins with the real disorientation of not even knowing what they are signed up to. That will not change….!
I note you’ve gone for an endless runner variant for the app which makes conceptual sense. What are the challenges of making an app of a tv show, and what do you think the app does most successfully?
We wanted the app to give players a little taste of the drama, fear and imagery of the show – the look and feel – which is why from much of the music and visuals come from the show. What I am most pleased about is that you play the game, especially in the dark, it gets the adrenaline going!
Part of the fun of the show is the contestants’ fear of what might lurk around the corner and what the estate might throw at them next. Is there a chance future apps (or updates) might be a bit more exploratory/puzzly?
We will certainly keep adding because the hounds franchise is only just beginning and we have a lot of dark and twisted ideas in our head waiting to be unleashed.
A question from our readers: what’s in the backpacks?
Jacket, water, compass and walkie talkie to speak with Reg.
Thanks Mat. The app is out on iOS and Android for £1.49 (features in-app purchases you likely won’t need). You can also stream the pilot and last series for a fee on Amazon Instant Video. The Christmas celebrity special airs on ITV2 on 18th December.