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Devil Town: Our Infernal Interview With Nick Barrett

piuyfvbsjhgs1z4ixkmww8zfz7-hfyxado1tt5eisqc6npa2j5_o1xdezck5h3p4rdblj2gwwhfzjmupgctijf3hkwoowaut34jih51s0uy_hymq_cg5ivjyjx4gs8mrlscold2fgz5dat-j5fnkscyik2zbtd-2vf_adftpmbd54esgp0jtlfdranfhnlem5niid4ocLast week, CWR was given a chance to review Devil Town, a short film in the spirit of classic 60s horror.While Devil Town’s protagonist may have been unwittingly cornered, the fiendish flick’s creator was more than happy to speak with us about his inspiration. Here’s our interview with director Nick Barrett.
Could you tell us a bit about what inspired the story behind Devil Town?

As with most film ideas it’s usually a collision of different thoughts and influences. In Devil Town’s case I was given an old fashioned whistle as a present and just had it lying around my room, I kept picking it up and thinking why someone would pull it out of their pocket. I’m also a huge fan of the old fifties Twilight Zone as well and always loved their ‘containment’ episodes, ones that were set entirely in say a train station waiting room, a roadside café or, infamously enough, a plane journey at  20,000 feet. These kinds of shows were known as ‘bottle’ episodes (episodes designed to save money by using limited props, actors and locations) but they’re some of my favourites as well – and the concept lends itself perfectly to low budget shorts. When done well the viewer won’t even be aware of the contained environment, or it just becomes so integral to the narrative that it isn’t an issue – you can see it working brilliantly in recent films like The Invitation or Green Room or a TV show like Inside No 9.

Harold Pinter was a big inspiration too – the concept of a stranger invading another’s space, the power struggle between two characters, conflicting class systems, you see all that in things like The Homecoming, The Servant, The Birthday Party and The Caretaker – and I’m sure the concept of a rather sinister tramp was subliminally lifted from the great man’s work.

You reference Invasion of the Body Snatchers pretty directly in your film. What other movies would you count as having inspired you?

 I’d have to say some of the early Roman Polanski films, I love films like Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby or The Tenant, in all three Polanski creates a wonderful atmosphere of slow-burn dread where the main character feels there’s a growing conspiracy against them – and as the narrative tightens things get more and more claustrophobic and tense for them – hopefully we’ve done the same thing with Devil Town.
Polanski was a master at building these dread-fueled micro-worlds so I’d definitely say he was a prime influence, particularly the way he plays with sound and the use of foreground and background focusing; you can see a similar technique in our film where we place an important character or action in the background while the foreground is meant to hold the viewer’s attention.

From my understanding, Devil Town is your second horror film, following 2014’s Pearl. Is there a specific subgenre you gravitate towards?

 Yes Pearl was our ‘pastoral’ horror, very much indebted to films like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Don’t Look Now or Valerie and her Week of Wonders, wherever we’ve shown that one there’s been one particular moment that has repulsed and shocked every audience that’s seen it, we didn’t quite realise how terrifying the actor playing our ‘monster’ would be!

Regarding sub-genres I guess I’m moving towards the supernatural as I love a good ghost story! They’re the hardest horror sub-genre to get right though I think as they’re such delicate things, Roald Dahl writes an excellent introduction on the subject in ‘Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories’, it’s a great collection and the short story Harry was a direct influence on Pearl.

What were some of the challenges and rewards you encountered working on Devil Town?

Devil Town was the hardest short film I’ve had to put together as it involved quite a large number of logistics, even for such a contained film. I had to source about 25 extras, the location, hire out some camera equipment and have extensive talks with my DoP – the incredibly talented Marcos Avlonitis – who shot the whole thing beautifully, it has a real cinematic quality, it’s in 4K and we used some gorgeous Zeiss lenses to give it a real musty almost seventies-feel.
One of the hardest challenges was finding the right two actors to play our principles – the piece stands or falls on two guys who basically have to pull out all the stops as the script required each character to be so nuanced in each line they have to give – it’s meant to be like a conversational duel or tennis match! Luckily, after a long long search period, I managed to find Johnny Vivash and Matthew Hebden who both just astounded me in rehearsals – I actually couldn’t believe my luck finding two guys that just seemed absolutely perfect for their roles, if you watch the film I’m sure you’ll agree – although neither is anything like their characters in real life!

The rewards on this project have been endless, I was pretty humbled to work with such talented people that gave their absolute all and we’ve all become firm friends and hung out on and off ever since – you can’t ask for a greater reward when making a film. Hopefully, for all concerned, the film itself is reward enough as well – I think the proof is definitely on screen that all our hard work has paid off, and we’ve been so gratified recently to see Devil Town do incredibly well, we were snapped up almost straight away by ShortsTV and then bought by an American production company for their next anthology film (Ruthless Pictures via Dread Central) and this is before we even hit the festival circuit! Last year we had our London and Los Angeles premieres and, as of the start of this year, we’re officially on the festival circuit and have had four official selections already – it’s looking good!

What projects can we be looking forward to in the future?

 I’ve just finished the first draft of a feature film that I’ll be setting up later this year, though we’ve got to find the right producer first. It’s a contained supernatural thriller that we’re hoping will scare the pants off our audiences (‘or your money back’ we should put on the posters). It’s not an extension of Devil Town I might add, but we’re using the short to show producers what we can achieve and the possible ‘tone’ of the film; we’re pretty positive that with the success of Devil Town we should be able to get some funding through. I guess all we can say right now is – watch this space (and like our Corporeal Films page for more updates!)


Devil Town has been added as an official selection of Dread Central, has also been accepted to play on ShortsTV, and will be available to buy through iTunes in 2017. Devil Town has also been accepted by Germany’s ARC Festival and will be shown this April.

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Devil Town: A Short Film Review

piuyfvbsjhgs1z4ixkmww8zfz7-hfyxado1tt5eisqc6npa2j5_o1xdezck5h3p4rdblj2gwwhfzjmupgctijf3hkwoowaut34jih51s0uy_hymq_cg5ivjyjx4gs8mrlscold2fgz5dat-j5fnkscyik2zbtd-2vf_adftpmbd54esgp0jtlfdranfhnlem5niid4ocWe open on a late afternoon as a ragged street preacher prophesies impending death and doom to disinterested passers-by. Among their number is Patrick Creedle (Matthew Hebden of Cartwheels and The Basil Brush Show), a character as fantastically despicable as his phone conversations are loud and abusive.

Which, for the record, is very.

Creedle steps into a local cafe for a coffee, unaware that the street preacher has followed him inside. Cornering Creedle at his table, Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style, the street preacher demands a few minutes of his captive’s time to relay a tale of creeping horror.

Hebden’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film, appearing instantly despicable without being cartoonish. He’s very much the self-absorbed ***hole that we know to well, and in his more sympathetic moments, Creedle could very much be us if we were caught on a bad day.

Our street preacher (Johnny Vivash of The Creature Below and The Collaborators) does a decent job of portraying a schizotypal vagrant who might not be quite as crazy as he first sounds. His insistence that a dark conspiracy is afoot grows increasingly eerie with every desperate whisper. Continue reading

Animus: Our Soul Searching Interview With Johnny Sachon

mv5bowrioda2ngmtntvjns00nzizlwjkzgqtmwe1yjhmmdlly2qzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymju5otazmzi-_v1_sy1000_cr006581000_al_Last week, CWR published our review of Animus, a short but powerful film directed by Mark J. Blackman. This writer had an opportunity to put a few questions to Animus actor/producer Johnny Sachon, who was nice enough to take the time to respond.

What inspired the story behind Animus?

It all came about quite organically. I’d worked with Katie [Goldfinch] a few times before. We both felt that we brought the best out in each other and wanted to challenge each other. As we’ve both produced films as well we made the decision to develop something together.

I met Mark [J. Blackman] in Cannes 2012 and had been following his work since. Out of the blue Mark contacted me regarding another project which sadly didn’t come work out for me. However, Mark asked me if I had anything else I was working on… and it just so happened I did. I guess everything happens for a reason.

2016 was a strange year for a lot of people and from my point of view I felt a lot happened in my own life as well that I wanted to explore and even exorcise in some way. The three of us met, and again, quite organically began discussing all of this and found a mutual subjects and ground to build upon. We spoke about absolutes – we wanted to produce a drama set in one location that focused on the performances.  Having recently worked on projects that were bold and intensive when it came to their scale of production  Animus was quite a refreshing challenge we all looked forward to. Out of these meetings Mark wrote Animus. The first draft was remarkably close to what you see on screen. Continue reading

Animus: A Short Film Review

mv5bowrioda2ngmtntvjns00nzizlwjkzgqtmwe1yjhmmdlly2qzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymju5otazmzi-_v1_sy1000_cr006581000_al_An earnest, plaintive piano melody opens as desperate figures stare out into the middle distance. A woman drops in on an old flame, using some flimsy pretext neither of them believe for a moment. What follows is a terse, tense, and incredibly human exchange as our two protagonists verbally fence over decaf and destiny.

And it’s good.

It’s really, really good.

Two individuals of differing (but equally compelling) perspectives clash over tea. It’s as simple a set-up as you can imagine, but director Mark J. Blackman manages to wring both depth and emotion from it. Sienna (Katie Goldfinch of Crucible of the Vampire, Genie in the House) and Elliot (Johnny Sachon of Cloud 9, Late Shift) examine each others’ lives, what they themselves have become in their time apart, and what they could have become. It’s a beautifully ****ed-up My Dinner With Andre, keeping in mind that I’ve never seen My Dinner With Andre and all I have to go on is Wallace Shawn’s showdown in The Princess Bride. Continue reading

The 2017 Women’s March: A Q&A Guide for Dummies

What rights have been taken away during Trump’s first 24 hours in office?

The ACA is presently being dismantled, meaning millions of Americans will be deprived of health insurance. Of this number, women are uniquely affected. As explained in The New York Times:

Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies — for people who do not have group coverage through employers — to engage in “gender rating,” that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care.

As deeply flawed a system as the ACA is, outright elimination will result in a sudden and fundamentally arbitrary penalization of women on the basis of their sex. The added cost will be especially detrimental to women in or near poverty (besides sucking for everyone in general).

So this is about Obamacare?

Not necessarily. The dismantling of the ACA is merely one of the many issues being protested by the millions of women marching in the US and around the world. Points include (but are not limited to):

  • Gay Rights – As the vice president has openly stated that gay marriage signal “societal collapse“, and has actively legislated the exclusion of gays from the military and a number of other civil rights issues.
  • Public Services – Which have been threatened with reduced funding, if not complete elimination, by high ranking members of the administration.
  • Defense of Racial and Religious Minorities – particularly people of color and Muslims, who have received ample disparagement and hostility from almost everyone within the administration.
  • Environmental Issues – The very existence of which Trump has denied, claiming global warming to be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
  • And easily a dozen more…

Bah! These protesters should be grateful for how easy they have it. Now women living in the third world, they experience real oppression. Why isn’t anyone speaking up for them?

imxzs1v Continue reading

Grading Obama

There’s a tendency in this country to speak of ex-presidents with the same generosity one would use to speak of the recently departed. A “funeral parlance” (if you’ll forgive the awful pun) that leads folks to look on the old administration with rose-tinted glasses. Considering the replacement, that’s going to be doubly true this year.

Not at Culture War Reporters, though.

Here’s our final grade for Obama,

Note: The issues selected here are based upon the principles we here at CWR seem to touch on most frequently. We hope to make this a regular tradition, provided the United States still exists in four years and that this writer will not have been imprisoned or sent to work on a lunar penal colony.

Economic Equality:

Advocates of the president will be swift to point out that the unemployment rate at the beginning of the president’s term was in the double digits, and has since fallen to about 4.9% after years of slow but steady recovery. And there absolutely should be credit where it’s due- the Obama administration has seen the recovery of the economy. Can I whine about it not being enough though? You bet I can.

While many Americans are finally back to work, the positions they find themselves in are often low-paying with little to no security. While that’s not entirely the president’s fault, the president himself has been agonizingly slow (and bafflingly conservative) in advocating a raise for the minimum wage. While the extremely wealthy are paying slightly more in taxes, taxes have also risen for folks making less than $250,000 a year (which is the overwhelming ****ing majority of us) with the majority of the president’s proposed reforms having ended in defeat. All in all the extremely rich continue to enjoy unrivalled luxury and unchallenged control of US politics and wealth.

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Final Grade: D+

Continue reading

How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

tewaame

Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading