Scott Reynolds has said that his first memories are of movies. Both his parents worked at the Hollywood Cinema, west of Auckland. By the age of 14, Reynolds was working at the theatre as a projectionist. Soon he was able to watch films in the wrong order, and still understand the plot.
Reynolds began writing and directing in his 20s with The M1nute (1992). Reynolds was able to maximise suspense by paring the plotline to an absolute minimum: man in room, with (what may be a) bomb. The M1nute provided early proof of his inventive way with imagery, storytelling and unexpected time-shifts.
Reynolds returned with stylish thriller A Game with No Rules, replete with overheated imagery, and references to old Hollywood movies in the opening titles. The tale of romantic betrayal paired M1nute star Marton Csokas with Danielle Cormack and Jennifer Ward-Lealand.
A Game with No Rules won invitation to multiple festivals, among them Dresden (where it won a runner-up prize), key short film showcase Clermont-Ferrand, and Cannes, where it played as part of a special season of Kiwi shorts.
Reynolds’ first feature followed quickly after. He chose a serial killer storyline because it promised "more opportunities to fuse fantasy and reality". The Ugly was the tale of an incarcerated serial killer (Paolo Rotondo in his breakout role) and the shrink (Rebecca Hobbs) who comes to interview him. The film’s local grosses were unimpressive; the list of rave reviews and international sales (35 countries plus) more so.
Locally, Listener critic Philip Matthews praised The Ugly for showing less interest in "flash and slash than getting to some psychological truth", and for being "claustrophobic and genuinely creepy". Matthews argued that the movie "shines with a freshness and taste that we don’t often see here, a sense of real directorial personality, control and vision".
Overseas, enthusiastic reviews ranged from specialist horror publications (French mag Mad Movies, calling it "a rare commodity") to American showbusiness bible Variety. Time Out’s Nigel Floyd praised The Ugly’s originality, complex and striking flashback structure and its use of "bold formal ideas rather than expensive special effects to achieve its ends". In Sight and Sound, horror film expert Kim Newman added that "there is a lot to admire and be disturbed by".
The Ugly won invitation to a host of film festivals, both fantastical and otherwise (plus a banning in Singapore). Among its awards haul, Reynolds beat Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) and Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin) to the best director award at leading fantasy fest Sitges.
By now Kiwi producer Sue Rogers had brought Reynolds’ attention to Heaven, a novel by local writer Chad Taylor. She imagined that the complex structure and mixture of reality and subjectivity might appeal. Rogers was right.
Heaven stars Hal Hartley veteran Martin Donovan as a gambling addict, encountering a dancer who can see into the future. Reynolds shot the film in New Zealand, but set the film in an "anywhere" metropolitan city, using a multi-national cast (including local Karl Urban as a mysterious heavy).
With cash from American indie powerhouse Miramax, Heaven proved a rare case — Peter Jackson being the obvious exception — of a Kiwi director shooting a movie on his own soil with largely offhsore funding. But the film may also have ultimately fallen victim to the vicissitudes of Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who appear to have shown little interest in giving it wide release. At the 1999 Fant-Asia Film Festival in Quebec, Heaven took away the award for Best International Film.
Reynolds’ third feature is 2001’s When Strangers Appear (sometimes known as Shearer’s Breakfast). Shot in New Zealand but set in the US, the thriller stars Australian Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland) as a woman working in a diner when a young man arrives, claiming murderers are in pursuit. Website Reel Film Reviews praised it as "a surprisingly engaging and involving little thriller".
In recent years, Reynolds has continued to develop feature projects, and directed two episodes of TV thriller The Cult. His script work includes contributing dialogue rewrites to Kiwi-shot fantasy The Warrior's Way.
David Nusair, ‘When Strangers Appear’ (Review). Reel Film Reviews website. Loaded 4 February 2002. Accessed 20 June 2011
David Stratton, 'The Ugly' (Review) - Variety, 5 October 1997
Heaven Press Kit
‘New Thriller praised in UK’ - NZFilm No 60, May 1998, page 11