Tag Archives: film

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: 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

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

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


To directly quote my co-writer, “**** this year” has been an increasingly common sentiment as the days tick by, but even given the relentless, overwhelming flood of bad news that 2016 has embodied what’s particularly depressing to consider is how little some things have changed. It’s also telling that in spite of us collectively writing more blog posts than last year I’m left feeling like I wrote less, and that what was written is generally of a lower quality as well.

With that in mind and given the handful of bright spots I managed to find I decided to address this year and my coverage of it a little differently by using the “sandwich approach”. Instead of being presented in chronological order below are two positive aspects to 2016 that bookend what amounts to one singular, continuous problem, and one that I take very personally.

tf2overwatchThere’s something beautiful about the way a team can run like a well-oiled machine, each of its separate components working in unison to efficiently accomplish a shared goal. While not always my experience with Overwatch those moments, especially when with friends, have been highlights of my year.

With this post I took a closer look at Blizzard’s latest FPS that, since the time of this post being written, has grown the number of playable female characters to roughly 50%, and its place as part of a growing push in video games to expand beyond the male-only titles of the past.

kimmyasianUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a high point of 2015, a Netflix-exclusive sitcom with an unassailably positive young woman at its core. It even took up one of my slots in my last year in review post, where I praised them for including an Asian love interest while scrutinizing how much they truly valued the verisimilitude needed to portray them correctly.

One tragedy of 2016 is that I was never able to make it past the third episode of its second season, the reason being that Tina Fey et al. created twenty-some minutes of television that dragged those who value Asian American representation before running them over with a steamroller, and then putting it in reverse. Friends assure me that it gets better, but how could it not after falling to such great depths? Continue reading

The Swinton-Cho Letters, Part 2: Putting Down a Resurrected Argument or: When Isn’t Art Political?

I began the first installment of this two-parter making note of the long and ultimately wearying experience it has been, starting with Doctor Strange going into pre-production and continuing on to the recent exposure of the Swinton-Cho Letters. While I spent time describing the ups and downs of casting news what I neglected to mention, and what I’m going to focus on today, is the outset and ultimate resurgence of an argument in defence of whitewashing.

That’s right, an argument defending what Wikipedia helpfully defines as “a casting practice [. . .] in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles.” The very faint silver lining is that the justification here does not revolve around star power and A-list draw, or the idea that “the best person for the role” was hired, the latter of which rarely ever swings the other direction. In spite of not being deeply rooted in these ways of thinking, however, the argument is remains deeply flawed.

Before we get into that, however, we should probably get to its origin story.

Like I Said Last Time, “It’s Always Podcasts”

Having to hit all of this again it’s important to be thankful for small blessings, with one being that I don’t need to hear C. Robert Cargill’s voice again due to already having done the research for another post. The person in question was one of the screenwriters for Doctor Strange, and dropped in on the  Double Toasted podcast mid-April to answer a few questions about it.

Eventually, and and unsurprisingly, the issue of the Ancient One’s casting was brought up. Cargill’s response, as transcribed by CINEMABLEND’s “The Blunt, Yet Difficult Reason Doctor Strange’s Ancient One Isn’t Asian”, is as follows:

“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who 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 people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet [. . .] If you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”

In essence Cargill chalked the reasons for the casting decision up to politics and economics, implying that having the character played by a Tibetan would cause Marvel Studios to lose out on Chinese box office sales. He also suggests quite strongly that, conversely, having a Chinese actor play a Tibetan would cause a large amount of controversy. This was picked up by sites from IndieWire to ScreenRant to The Hollywood Reporter, with several using words like “reveal” in their headlines, as if a longstanding mystery had finally been solved.

The justifications he laid out were to become the go-to response for every commenter looking to defend the Swinton’s casting, and why not? After all, as one of the screenwriters of the film Cargill should be a direct and dependable source. The answer to that hypothetical starts with what happened a few short days later- Continue reading

The Swinton-Cho Letters, Part 1: What Went Down and How We’ve Responded

tiredaf

I’m just so tired.

I was tired when I wrote, last June, about how Tilda Swinton was in talks to play the Ancient One in the then-upcoming Doctor Strange, because it was just one of several announcements where a role that could have gone to an Asian person didn’t. And it made me weary to have to read comments like “if any young white woman can pull off an old Asian man, it’d be Tilda Swinton,” and “PLEASE TELL ME HES PLAYING WONG!” after it was revealed Martin Freeman would be appearing in Captain America: Civil War.

Swinton ultimately being cast as the Ancient One, a Tibetan man in the comics, was never far from my mind moving forward. I would inevitably bring it up when discussing whitewashing and racebending in The Martian that very same year, and in many ways it made Doctor Strange a film that loomed in the impending future, a comic book movie I would need to see for myself in order to determine whether or not they did right by the groups they were trying not to offend.

Just to be clear, I can’t honestly say that I was angry when finally watching the movie. Like the title of my write-up plainly states I was left feeling disappointed. It also notes that my expectations were never particularly high, and how could they be when the filmmakers rewrote the character of Wong back into Doctor Strange upon finding that casting Swinton left them without any prominent Asian roles [in a movie that is set in Asia roughly half the time].

It was over a year of waiting for a film whose creators touted the representation of an older White woman to offset what was, without argument, whitewashing. It’s a defence that implies that in some cases the choices are feminism/anti-ageism and racial diversity, and that the two are mutually exclusive. It was, to put it more strongly, exhausting. And it’s easy to say that I should just care about this less and not let it affect me so much, but Asian representation is an issue that directly affects me, and one that will affect my children if and when I have any.

I was already so tired of all of this, and was looking forward to being able to stop thinking about Tilda Swinton and Doctor Strange and enjoy the few moments before we get any closer to Ghost in the Shell being released [difficult as a teaser aired before the Marvel film being discussed]. And what should I find this past week but an email conversation between Tilda Swinton and Korean American comedian Margaret Cho, which I have dubbed the Swinton-Cho Letters, and the internet’s response to the whole thing.

When I first started putting my fingers to the keyboard this was meant to be a single blog post split into two parts, but over a thousand words in and I thought two separate posts might be more efficient. And what better way to end a horrible year than to devote so much time and effort towards such a truly draining topic?
Continue reading