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Entries in A Night of Horror (4)

Thursday
Nov302017

THE MARSHES: THE ROGER SCOTT INTERVIEW

Time spent deep in one of New South Wales’ most beautiful yet misunderstood eco-systems can mess with a young man’s mind, if Roger Scott’s debut film is any indication. The Marshes is a psychological eco-thriller, brought to malevolent life by a new kind of mythological Australian killer, The Swagman. Ahead of the World Premiere of The Marshes at A Night of Horror Film Festival, Scott (pictured, below) spoke at length to SCREEN-SPACE about conjuring menace and mayhem from Australia’s dark past and stunning landscapes…

SCREEN-SPACE: When did the mythology of The Swagman, Australia's most iconic bush figure, strike you as the inspiration for a horror film?

SCOTT: Ten years ago, I was working in the Macquarie Marshes as a research assistant.  I had been struck by the landscape’s filmic nature and that it was an Australian environment that audiences never see. I had a fair amount of discontent with how we manage our landscapes, which fed into the story process. From local level water resource management through to global level climate issues, you could say I was gripped by fatalistic sense of horror. [So] horror was the only genre in which the narrative symbolism would have the power and plasticity I desired. And the fact that it was a landscape of billabongs and Coolibah trees brought Waltzing Matilda to mind. Once those elements had come together the story took on a life of it’s own.

SCREEN-SPACE: You pull a skilful bait-&-switch on your audience; the film opens with familiar genre tropes but then begins to deconstruct its own reality. What influences and inspirations did you draw upon?

SCOTT: My observations of the difference between people’s perceptions of the world they inhabit and the reality helped form that structure. To capture that, I drew upon films such as The Cabin In The Woods, Deliverance, 12 Years A Slave, The Descent, Onibaba, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Upstream Colour, Under the Skin, Walkabout and Sampson and Delilah. Also non-film sources such as the art of Alexis Rockman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Terra Incognita. (Pictured, above; the the three leads of The Marshes, on-set) 

SCREEN-SPACE: One way you defy horror traditions is by finding terror in broad daylight. What specific challenges did that hold?

SCOTT: Trying to create tension and horror without darkness meant we were relying more heavily on performance, pacing and psychology. Deliverance is a film that does this particularly well. Lighting was still an issue, of course. Giovanni (Lorusso, DOP) is experienced at shooting against the light, aided by Andy (Robertson, gaffer) who has decades of experience lighting in tricky locations, so he was able to create great images despite the limitations. Once the characters became lost in the reed beds I wanted the light to remain ‘mid-afternoon’ for the entire time they were lost. It reinforced that sense of being trapped in a maze-like timeless limbo. This added a scheduling headache for Elisa (Pascarel, 1st AD); there was a lot of ‘cheating’ of shoot times to achieve this. Going into the grade I was hoping for enough latitude in the images for our post team to balance. Thanks to Giovanni’s skills, we were able to balance them. (Pictured, above; Mathew Cooper, left, and Sam Delich)

SCREEN-SPACE: The Marshes continues our strong cinematic tradition of being fearful of the 'The Bush', of city folk being at the mercy of the mysteries of this huge land. How did the location influence your storytelling?

SCOTT: It is common for directors to say that the location was one of the characters in the film, but this is only true when changing locations changes the story. This landscape is entwined in the story. The physical features of the land effect the movements and decisions of the characters. It provides both ‘Pria’s world and the socio-political context for the story. It also gave us a beautiful sort of eerie Australian gothic. Audiences have come to expect that when characters in an Australian movie drive inland that they will arrive in a dry red environment, so being in the marshes immediately confounds those expectations. In some ways, the story continues the cinematic tradition you refer to, but in other ways, less so; it is more about being at the mercy of the mysteries of the mind. I hope that different audiences view it in different ways.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does The Marshes further demonise country types? That the 'hillbilly horror' genre takes a condescending 'city-vs-country' approach?  

SCOTT: The fact that The Swagman is a 19th century symbol makes it harder for audiences to draw parallels between him and country people today. A character such as [Wolf Creek’s ]Mick Taylor looks and sounds like people you can find in any small town. What is unavoidable is the idea that the bush is full of monsters, but then so too is the human mind. What is so great about The Swagman is that he is deeply ingrained in the national psyche. Demonising The Swagman makes it more difficult for people to use him as a lazy stereotype to refer to the bush or country people or nationalism or any of the purposes for which he is invoked. I wanted to disrupt the familiar symbols and structures people use to think about these things, to challenge their perceptions. (Pictured, above; Scott directing actress Dafna Kronental)

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Pria' is an unconventional female horror lead; from the first scene, she's a strong, determined, intelligent woman that clearly won't be a victim easily. Tell us about creating her and what Dafna Kronental brings to the role?  

SCOTT: I spoke to a lot of women in science to develop a character formed by the wealth of her experience, providing her with particular strengths and weaknesses. I was cautioned a number of times to maintain her likability in a way that doesn’t happen for male characters. I needed a very knowledgeable person at the heart of the story that wasn’t fearful of the bush. Dafna brought her own strength and intelligence to ‘Pria’ and worked hard to define the character’s vulnerability, because her failings and vulnerability are just as important to the narrative arc as her strength. And Dafna showed great physical aptitude, performing as she did day after day in the waders, the reeds and the cloying mud. Just traversing that landscape was no mean feat, let alone performing too. (Pictured, above; Kronental, as Pria)

SCREEN-SPACE: The opportunity exists for your villain to spawn a new horror franchise; were you conscious of the 'origins' factor in your narrative? 

SCOTT: We actually joked about it a bit as we were making the film, about what The Swagman’s next “adventure” might be but there was no grand plan in terms of a franchise. Telling this story well was my primary concern.

Read our review of The MARSHES here.

THE MARSHES will have its World Premiere at A Night of Horror Film Festival. Ticket and session details are available at the event's official website)

Monday
Dec052016

"SPAIN REIGNS", SAY SYDNEY GENRE JUDGES. 

The Closing Night award ceremony of Sydney’s A Night of Horror / Fantastic Planet Film Festival became una noche de celebración for Spanish genre cinema.

The 10th annual staging of the fan-favourite horror, science fiction and fantasy event closed out its 10 day program bestowing gongs upon body-horror shocker The Night of The Virgin (La Noche del Virgen) and twisted identity mystery, Gelo (pictured, above). Both films are in the early stages of their respective global expansion, continuing a festival tradition of rolling the dice on programming choices that don’t necessarily come with the safety net of overseas festival credibility in place.

A hilariously dark and twisted tale of foretold demonic reincarnation, The Night of The Virgin earned bragging rights with wins in three key categories in the A Night of Horror line-up. As the titular innocent who endures unspeakable black magic horrors, leading man Javier Bodalo (pictured, right) earned Best Male Performance; as the alluring W.I.L.F. whose sorcery unleashes all manner of torment upon him, Miriam Martin took home the Best Female Performance honours. Debutant director Roberto San Sebastián also guided his impressive debut to a win for Best Foreign Language Film, but was pipped in the Best Director category by Scott Schirmer for his dialogue-free woodlands cannibal pic, Plank Face.

The other highly-touted A Night of Horror feature was Matt Stuertz’s wildly entertaining gore-a-thon Tonight She Comes, a vivid and energetic reworking of classic cabin-in-the-woods tropes which impressed with its fearless doubling-down of shocking splatter effects, delivered with a wickedly perverse sense of scale and humour. The US production earned Best Film, while lead actress Jenna McDonald shared the Best Female Performance category with her Spanish genre sister.

Directed by the father/son team of Luís and Gonçalo Galvão Teles, the moody atmospherics of the Spanish/Portuguese co-production Gelo supported an ambitious, at times complex narrative. In addition to the Fantastic Planet Best Film nod, it earned the Best Female Performance trophy for its leading lady, Spanish cinema icon Ivana Baquero, best remembered as Ofelia in Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 fantasy masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.

The other Fantastic Planet jury favourite was Dead Bullet, a riveting Vegas-set neo-noir thriller that earned Erik Reese the Best Director trophy and actor John T. Woods (pictured, right; with co-star Andrea Sixtos) a Best Male Performance gong. Both trophies were collected by the film's associate producer and 1st AD Kat Castaneda, currently based in Sydney. Ian Truitner’s intergalactic survival adventure Teleios was granted a Head of Jury ‘Special Mention’ award for the technical prowess displayed in crafting the spectacular deep-space setting.

Held at the Dendy Cinema multiplex in the inner-city suburb of Newtown, a dedicated and enthusiastic crowd remained well into the Sunday night event. Following a rousing Q&A with actress Elizabeth De Razzo, star of the Closing Night feature The Greasy Strangler, festival director Dr Dean Bertram acknowledged his dedicated team, the support of his audience and the current high standard of international genre cinema. His Director’s Choice honourees were Tax Shelter Terrors, a work-in-progress documentary that chronicles the Canadian horror boom of the 1970s, and The Second Coming: Volume 2, director Richard Wolstencroft’s final instalment of his free-wheeling interpretation of W.B. Yeats’ epic poem.

Independent Spirit Award trophies were accepted by attending guests Seve Schelenz, for his zombie/stripper crowdpleaser Peelers, and Rob Taylor and Bryna Smith for their superhero/time travel send-up, Neil Stryker and The Tyrant of Time.

Monday
Nov212016

FEST ALUMNI RECALL GLORY DAYS AS GENRE LOVE-IN TURNS 10

Of the many achievements that can be credited to Sydney’s A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival, the ability to spot and nurture ferocious genre talents is perhaps the most remarkable. Co-founder and programmer Dr Dean Bertram’s celebration of the macabre and imaginative has created a legacy of extraordinary visionaries, many of whom consider their festival experience a professional and personal turning point. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival, SCREEN-SPACE asked previous honourees what they recall most fondly about the spotlight shone on them by Bertram and his festival team…

"A Night of Horror has given me the opportunity to expand on many levels of this art, thanks to the incredible life long relationships, both personal and in the business arena, that I have embraced from it. Dr Bertram has evolved this event into an extraordinary experience for fans of the horror and sci-fi genre that no other festival in Australia has even begun to understand. It has brought filmmakers and fans together, sharing wisdom through unity, to expand the Aussie scene into a powerhouse world contender.' - Dalibor Backovic (right), Dir: The Ancient Rite of Corey McGillis. WINNER - Best of The Fest, Best Special Effects, 2007.

"I didn't know what to expect when Family Demons was selected. I had never made a horror film before; making it was pretty tough. I self financed, working as an office temp and I couldn't get any funding bodies to cover completion funds. I can't describe how nervous I was at the World Premiere at A Night of Horror in 2009. So to discover that people dug the film and got what I was trying to do was such a surprise. I got to hang out with other horror filmmakers, horror fans, and the film festival organisers themselves. The experience is a highlight of my career." – Ursula Dabrowsky (left, with actress Sarah Jeavons), Dir: Family Demons. WINNERBest Australian Director, 2009 (Dabrowsky would return in 2014 with multiple award-winner, Inner Demon).

Ten short years ago, in the desert of Australian genre festivals, Dean Bertram’s A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet emerged as a much needed spring of enthusiasm for independent genre cinema. With an open mind, Dean ignores obvious festival hits to instead deliver diverse programming year after year, providing a true sense of discovery for fans. ANOH has unearthed countless cult treasures over the decade, films you wouldn’t read about in most of the print and online film journals. And whilst many festivals are just there to milk filmmakers, Dean always looks after his guests in a sincere and personal way you rarely find. - Steven Kastrissios, Dir: The Horseman (pictured, right; on-set with actors Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy). WINNER4 awards, including Best Australian Feature, Best Australian Director, 2010.

"I never expected Found would play internationally, and I certainly never expected any awards. So the A Night of Horror's Best Feature and Best Actor awards were a big deal for me. It meant that people on the opposite side of the globe were connecting with the story and its characters. Connecting with me. It made the world feel wonderfully smaller, and it gave me confidence that maybe this weird little labor of love could connect with more people. I appreciate what Dean Bertram has created over the last 10 years; the venue, the audience, the press, the awards, and the attention he has brought to independent films and filmmakers. A Night of Horror helped make Found what it is today – a movie with far wider reach than I ever anticipated. Thank you for everything, Dean!" - Scott Schirmer (right), Dir: Found. WINNERBest Feature Film, Best Male Performance, 2013 (Schirmer’s latest film, Plank Face, has its Australian debut at A Night of Horror 2016).

“The festival was an amazing experience, where our film played to perhaps its best audience. Dean has done a phenomenal job as festival director; he makes all his guests feel like part of his festival family and puts in a huge amount of effort to provide as much help and support as possible. He’s gone out of his way to help promote other projects we’re working on and he doesn’t just champion the film’s playing at the festival but the filmmakers themselves.” – Guy Pigden (left), Dir: I Survived a Zombie Holocaust. WINNERIndependent Spirit Award, 2014

“I remember hoping for an award, but definitely not the big one. I said that when I received it! It was the first award in my life. I posted the news on Facebook and it was immediately picked by the biggest news agency in Romania. I was sending them press releases for months about all the other festival that selected Be My Cat and they never published anything, but news of my Best Film win at A Night of Horror gets picked up immediately! It was a great experience, feeling like a star, with the top media following me.” – Adrian Tofei, Dir: Be My Cat: A Film for Anne. WINNERBest Feature Film, 2015.

The 10th A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival runs November 24 to December 4 at Dendy Cinemas Newtown. Full program and session details can be found at the event's official website.

Read SHORT CUTS: HORROR HEAVIES PACT ON ANTHOLOGY PROJECT here.
Read DR. DEAN'S WOMEN OF HORROR here.
Read BLOOD AND MEMORIES: 2013 A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTIC PLANET FILM FESTIVAL WRAP-UP here.
Read FIRST BLOOD: THE LAUNCH PAD INTERVIEWS here
Read A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTIC PLANET 2013 FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL here
Read THE LAUNCHPAD DIRECTORS: REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS FROM A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTICPLANET 2015 here.
Read THE SHELTER: THE MICHAEL PARE INTERVIEW here

 

SCREEN-SPACE editor Simon Foster is Head of Jury at A Night of Horror 2016.

Monday
Mar302015

SHORT CUTS: HORROR HEAVIES PACT ON ANTHOLOGY PROJECT

They are two of Australia’s genre giants. With the 9th edition of his iconic screamfest due later this year, Dr Dean Bertram is the founder and programming director of A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival (ANOH/FP); producer Enzo Tedeschi, CEO of the recently-launched Deadhouse Films, reinvigorated found-footage horror with the global 2011 hit, The Tunnel. Now, the long time friends are pairing on a feature film initiative that will ensure the worlds best horror short films are seen by a bigger audience than ever before…

Set to be unveiled at the 2015 event will be a feature-length anthology film, comprised of the finalists from a new category in which all submissions must, in some way, reflect the theme of ‘blood.’ “That isn't that much of a stretch in a horror film, of course,” Bertram (pictured, above) concedes. “We don't expect the films to necessarily be about blood, just for blood to appear or to be referenced somewhere.”

The idea emerged as the 2014 festival drew to a close. “Enzo pitched me the idea and I thought it was just fantastic,” says Bertram, talking to SCREEN-SPACE from the US. “There's a renaissance in horror anthology filmmaking taking place at the moment: think The ABCs of Death and VHS series, for example.” The concept was particularly appropriate given Bertram’s dedication to fledgling talent. “To open the doors to include emerging filmmakers in the project fits A Night of Horror's mandate perfectly,” he says. 

“I'm personally a fan of anthologies,” says Tedeschi (pictured, right), during a break from a sound mix session in Sydney’s north, “and I thought it could be a valuable way of helping filmmakers leverage their short into something more 'valuable', for lack of a better word. “ Tedeschi was also aware that many fine short films never find the audience they deserve and hopes the project helps to redress the imbalance. “With the (high) quality of films screening at the festival each year, it seemed like a natural approach to pitch the idea to Dean for A Night of Horror. When I was getting started with making short films, a guaranteed festival berth and a feature film credit would have been a big incentive for me to contribute to a project like this.”

The pair are being cagey about the structure that their as-yet-untitled co-production will adopt. When asked for insight into the narrative device that will bind the collection of shorts, Tedeschi says, “We're keeping that under wraps for now,” although he does concede that they may be influenced by the submissions. Bertram acknowledges that, “Enzo has come up with a fantastic wrap-around device to connect the films, but we're keeping it secret at the moment.“

Both men are energetic multi-hyphenates, each with several projects in various stages of development. Tedeschi is in the final stages of post-production on his highly-anticipated sci-fi series, Airlock; Bertram is in pre-production as producer on Virgin Forest, the latest feature from festival alumni Kerry Prior (The Revenant, 2009; pictured, left, with Bertram and ANOH/FP co-director, Lisa Mitchell). Their shared vision stems from a mutual admiration for each other’s talent and career achievements to date.

“The reason I was so enthused to collaborate had as much to do with Enzo's fantastic pitch as having the chance to produce something with him,” says Bertram. “He always has his finger dead-on the pulse of the genre zeitgeist and its audience. And he understands alternative and unique models of production and distribution better than anyone in the country.” The emergence of Deadhouse Films, which will take distribution rights on the project, was also crucial to Bertram’s involvement. “(It has) really filled a massive hole in the Australian industry for a boutique genre production and distribution company. I can see it bringing a sea-change to independent genre film distribution,” he says.

For Tedeschi, his experiences as an audience member at A Night of Horror for much of the past decade was evidence enough. “I've always found the festival program a wonderful mix of established filmmakers and fresh takes on the genre. Dean goes out of his way to find the gems, and we should be able to attract some of this for the anthology as a result. I'm very much looking forward to going over the submissions with him. It's going to be a blast!”

Further information on how to submit your short film can be found here.