Director Neil Jordan’s vampire drama Byzantium is finally getting a Canadian release this weekend. The melancholy film stars Saoirse Ronan (The Host) as Eleanor, a vampire (although that word is never used) tired of living on the run with Clara (Gemma Arterton, St. Trinians). The DLB had the chance to speak to Ronan during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival during a roundtable with the young Irish star.
Archive for the Interviews Category
The DLB had the chance to speak to The Last Exorcist Part II director Ed Gass-Donnelly last week in his hometown of Toronto about working with series star Ashley Bell, shooting in New Orleans, his vision for the franchise, and working with a low budget
First of all, tell me about New Orleans. Tell me about, obviously the typical thing is it’s a character in the movie, certainly Louisiana was very much a character in the first one, in terms of depression of Ashley’s character, Nell; talk about working there and New Orleans as a character in your film.
Well, the big thing for me is that you’ve got this girl in the first movie that has lived in such a repressed environment. Her father won’t even let her go to school and won’t let her listen to music that’s not Christian music, so I loved the idea of what would it be like for that girl to suddenly be…the movie starts with her sort of lost and feral in the woods, almost no memory of what happened, and then she gets put into a transitional home in New Orleans, so you go from like a cabin in the woods where you have no sense of culture, to suddenly being in the middle of Mardi Gras, and certainly what I love about horror movies is it a chance to explore bigger themes and ideas but in a very sort of pop culture environment, so to me this movie is sort of a metaphor for ultimately girls discovering their own voice and sexuality.
The DLB recently spoke to Dark Skies producer Jason Blum about the alien abduction thriller about to hit theatres tomorrow. Blum is the name behind Blumhouse Productions, the production company behind low-budget horror successes like the first Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister. Amongst our topics: making scary movies on small budgets, working with director Scott Stewart (Priest, Legion), the next Paranormal Activity and Insidious films, as well as working with Rob Zombie on The Lords of Salem. Part 2 of our chat will be posted tomorrow.
How excited are you about the way Dark Skies turned out?
I’m really happy with it. It’s exactly the movie that Scott…Scott brought me the movie a year ago, pitched it at me, well not exactly but very close to what you saw. and I really like an emotional story, you know, character, emotional work and the family drama that is depicted in the movie and to have a family upset by this dark force and I’m really proud of the movie and I am really pleased at how it turned out. I wouldn’t be doing these calls if I felt differently, obviously.
And why did you want to make it?
I always look for the same things in the movies that we decide to do, which is, is there a great drama and is there a great story. I think unlike a lot of the other companies that make horror movies I really look at the story first and the scares second, and I actually think that makes the movies scarier. I think a lot of places say, well tell me the scares and then we’ll work the story out later, and I think that’s not super effective, and so that’s a long answer to your question, but Scott checked all the boxes with this movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie we’re looking for and I would continue to make. Obviously I don’t want to repeat ourselves, we want to excel. And I think the movie is very different than Sinister and Insidious but certainly just as scary.
Speaking of Scott, what is he really good at and why did you want to work with him?
I never met him before we started the movie so I could only look at his movies, and what I got from his movies relates to what I just said, is that I thought he was really good at directing actors, he’s gotten really good performances, and that’s what I was drawn to, and I think that he continued to get that. Both Josh [Hamilton] and Keri [Russell] have seen the finished film, they love it, they want to work again with Scott, and I don’t have to tell you this but that doesn’t happen too often. So that’s what I thought he was good at, and I’m not always right, but I was right about that and I was happy about it.
Speaking of Keri and Josh, why did you want to cast them, especially given that they don’t have backgrounds in horror films? Or is that an advantage?
To me that’s an advantage. I did theatre in New York but I was just starting out in my career. I had a company called Malaparte and Ethan Hart and Calista Flockheart and Steve Zahn and Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Hamilton, among a bunch of other people who were in the company and Ethan did Sinister and Ethan did a second film with me called The Purge and the casting of all of our movies, ultimately the directors have the final say, but I’ve encouraged them to cast actors who aren’t necessarily associated with horror. You can say that of Ethan, and you can certainly say that of Josh Hamilton and Keri, for that matter.
There are a lot of alien invasion films, a lot of alien abduction films, but to what extent do you think is Dark Skies scarier because it’s told on an intimate scale – it’s one family, as opposed to a more global invasion big-budget films like Battlefield Earth or Independence Day?
I don’t see this as an alien invasion movie at all. I know that may sound surprising after you saw it but an alien invasion movie implies exactly what you said, being a spectacle close-encounter, I see it as a family disrupted by a menacing force and to me, in Paranormal Activity you never see what the force is; in Sinister and Insidious you see it a bit more, but to me what the actual evil is, is much less interesting to me than what the evil causes. And that’s what I like about this movie, I don’t look at it like an alien invasion movie at all.
On that note though, how much discussion went into how much you would show the aliens and what they would look like, given that they are secondary as opposed to the effect upon the family itself?
Very little. I think less is more when you are showing evil forces, and again, I think the conversations were about who should be in the movie, who should play it, what problems they were facing and in all the films that our company works on, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the…we give a personality to the evil by not showing the evil. We can’t compete with the bigger movies on showing evil forces, we just…so I feel we get a lot more mileage out of not showing them and letting people imagine. Whatever you can imagine is way worse than whatever we have the ability to show, so I encourage filmmakers to let audiences imagine what’s bad as opposed to see it.
Dark Skies opens Feb. 22.
The DLB recently spoke to Russell Cherrington, the restoration director of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, the extended/re-purposed version of Clive Barker’s notoriously troubled second film as a director, for MSN Canada. You can read that article here.
Cherrington, alongside Mark Miller from Barker’s Seraphim Films and effects animator Paul Jones, will be in Toronto tonight (July 19) to present the new Nightbreed as part of Rue Morgue Magazine‘s Cinemacabre film series. The screening starts at 9pm and takes place at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St. West).
28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s follow-up film Intruders hits DVD/Blu-ray after receiving only a limited theatrical release this spring, and we recommend it to rent. The dark fantasy film stars Clive Owen (Closer) as a father whose daughter Mia is being terrorized at night by a figure in her room she calls Hollow Face. A parallel story shows a boy in Spain dealing with the same monster. There’s a connection we won’t give away, but figuring it out is half the fun.
I got the chance to talk to Fresnadillo about Intruders at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Winnipeg-born actor Kristopher Turner will soon be seen across North America starring as psychiatrist Dr. Gavin Murphy in the upcoming CTV/NBC hospital drama Saving Hope. But before he landed that prestigious gig (as well as his recurring role on the MuchMusic drama The L.A. Complex), Turner starred in first-time director Casey Walker’s horror comedy A Little Bit Zombie as Steve, a harried husband-to-be who tries to keep his brain cravings hidden from his future bride.
Are you a horror comedy fan?
I certainly am now. That movie was one of the most fun I’ve ever had working on a set. It was a blast. And most of it came down to our director Casey Walker who had complete control over this film. It was a crowdsourced movie before even Facebook was around. He started crowdsourcing it in 2006. It’s been a grassroots project right from the beginning, and with this being his first big feature and having complete control over it, it was such a freeing experience to be able to be creating this and not having other producer notes coming over our head; like, we got to make the movie that we wanted to make.
What can horror fans expect from this movie?
In the same way it’s paying homage to and making fun of the horror genre, it’s making fun of the romantic comedy genre. It’s sort of taking the piss out of and paying homage to all those zombie worlds.
Saving Hope premieres on CTV and NBC Thursday, June 7, at 9 pm ET/PT.
Katrina Bowden co-stars in the horror-comedy sequel Piranha 3DD, which opens wide today. The 30 Rock star plays the virginal Shelby, not her first venture into the genre as she also starred in the underrated Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Bowden can next be see in the Toronto-shot psychological thriller Nurse 3D co-starring opposite Paz de la Huerta (Into the Void, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
Katrina, you’ve starred in a couple of horror films now, including Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Are you a horror or horror-comedy fan?
I like horror-comedy. I think it’s a really fun genre, and when it’s done well it’s really great to watch.
Horror movies I’m not so great with. I get so scared. I’m kind of a baby when it comes to that. I’ve never really been a horror fan myself, going out to go see the new horror movies, for the only reason being that I can’t really handle them. I respect how they’re made; I think it’s a really cool genre to be part of it and to make.
What do you like about your character Shelby?
She’s kind of like the damsel-in-distress. She’s kind of shy and a little bit more reserved, but then everything bad that happens to her and has all these close calls and she almost dies. She’s in no way a hero type of person, but it was fun to play a shy type of girl.
What is your director John Gulager really good at?
He’s really good at making things look really gross. The blood, the vomiting scene, he was very excited to do that scene. I think I did that five times because he wanted the puke-up to be the perfect one. And he’s really good at setting things up to be really shocking. He did all the Feast movies; that’s kind of his thing and he does it really well, and he does it in a funny, humorous way.
What was the mood like on set?
It was fun. It was very light-hearted and fun, and we all had a good time. We all knew we were getting ourselves into something… we’re going to be covered in blood and be in the water, and we were down for anything.
Without giving away too much, your character Shelby is involved in a rather nasty sexual encounter with a boy and a piranha. What was that scene like to film, especially given how bloody it gets?
It was pretty difficult. I think like any kind of love scene, it’s really uncomfortable to shoot, but then you add all these extra elements into it, it becomes that much more uncomfortable and awkward for everyone.
So that was a really hard night, wondering how it was going to turn out. I wanted it to look good and be funny and realistic. It was a hard scene to shoot, but I think it turned out really well. It was worth it.
What was it like working with the piranha themselves?
That was actually really cool because the guys who did the special effects for the movie they made all that, and I just find that fascinating that they can create these kinds of things that can move and do things and spit blood. They’re really beautiful in person. I think it’s cool that they did so much practically instead of relying on CGI for everything.
You also star in the upcoming horror film Nurse 3D. What was it like to work with your co-star Paz de La Huerta?
She’s definitely a very intense person. Not the easiest person to work with, but it really helps her craft. She just dives into a character, even if her character happens to be a psychopathic serial killer. So it doesn’t really equal a fun working environment, but I think it will help the movie definitely.
Are you eager to have fans see a darker side of you in that film?
Yeah. I was really eager to do some darker roles or something more intense or different from what I’ve already done. I think it’s challenging
Both that film and Piranha 3DD are in 3D. What are the challenges of working in 3D?
I do like 3D. I think it’s a really cool way to shoot a film as an element that a lot of movies don’t have. It makes it a little more difficult shooting-wise because there are more shots where you have to be conscious of where things are in terms of where the camera is. But it’s fun, and it’s not really that much different from shooting a regular movie.