Friday, November 16, 2007

Gore, Flesh, Sex Noises and Animal Cruelty

I started off the week with some additional filming for Jeanie's Goth Cruise project, which involved filming a couple of interviews with Goth (or former Goth, or never Goth in their hearts but described as such in the media - it's a tricky definition...) musicians, Andi from the Sex Gang Children and Wayne Hussey from The Mission and The Sisters of Mercy

We shot the interviews in 'The Tudor Room' at a place in South Kensington called The Gore Hotel. (I found a dressing gown in the room's closet which just said 'The Gore' - I was half tempted to pinch it and wear it next time I make a horror film, like some wierd Hefner/Argento hybrid)
The interviews went well, despite the normal problems of shooting dark people against dark backgrounds (especially people who don't ever take off their dark glasses) and we got some great anecdotes off Wayne Hussey about recreational drug use and afternoon quiz shows, which hopefully will make it into the cut.

Back in Nottingham, I started work on the 'Empire of Flesh' script. Having already produced a short (8 page) outline, I'm having a go at moving straight into a script. I did have the option of doing a step outline - basically all of the scenes laid out one by one, usually 20-30 pages - but I'm not sure that it's the best way to go. In my experience - as with 'World of Pain' - step outlines tend to get bounced around for months, with notes from execs going back and forth, and just when it gets okayed, you suddenly realise that you've got to translate a prose document into something with dialogue and action. Going straight into the draft at this point feels right, but might mean that it's a bit of a slower process.

On Thursday, I had to do another change of heads and get back into 'Mum & Dad', because we had our ADR session booked. This involved getting most of the primary cast back to rerecord lines which the sound designers deemed necessary - because of being off-mike or with excessive background noise. It was great to see them again - Perry (Dad), Dido (Mum), Ainsley (Birdie) and Olga (Lena) - although a bit nerve-wracking for me because none of them had seen any of the film, and I'd decided (maybe foolishly) to offer them the opportunity to watch the cut before we went into the session. Perry and Olga were both champing at the bit to see it (not so sure about the other two, though..), so we put it on for them. I totally chickened out of staying in the room with them and went off to listen to some of the (excellent) sound design that Tom and Ben at Spool had been putting together.

When I came back, the film was just finishing. Luckily, they all seemed to like it (although I had said to them beforehand that even if they didn't like it, they had to act like they did so that I could make it through the rest of the day.) - Olga even giving me a big hug. Not sure if it's what they were expecting and I know it's difficult for actors to watch themselves with impartiality, but it was a really good response.

Then it was on to the ADR. There weren't too many lines to have to re-record, and a lot of them weren't sync, but we still had to do a bit of lip-synching, especially on one very noisy breakfast scene. They were all great at it though, matching rhythm and timing perfectly. It was like they'd never been away.

As well as getting the lines redone, I also got some additonal sound effects - breathing, gasping, snoring, being-stabbed-in-the-neck, that kind of thing, as well as making some more 'specialist' requests - 'Could you do some more aggressive wanking for me?' is a phrase that tripped quite comfortably off my lips, before I'd even registered it. Yes, loads of sex noises and cries of pain + one noise from Perry that was a weird mix of the two...

With the ADR in the bag, and the sound design moving on, we're getting ever closer to finishing the film. (Although we still do have to find some cheap, royalty-free porn.
Curse my lazy hide!)

We ended the week with a double-bill of films at home. First up was the Pixies documentary 'loudQUIETloud' - following the band on their reunion tour. I love The Pixies - I went to see them a couple of times in the late Eighties - and to me they were the best band around at the time. The film shows them getting back together and heading out on tour - and basically, from about 3 minutes in, you realise that they are the least communicative four people ever to work together - at least when it comes to talking to each other. It's hard to remember one single meaningful conversation any of them have together throughout the film. But that's one of the things that makes it interesting - everything seems buried and weirdly mysterious - where the songs come from, how they write, how they work together - and the fear that you're going to see a band you love revealed as charlatans or idiots is dispelled. Yeah, they're all dsyfunctional (except Joey Santiago, who looks about 10 years younger and healthier than the rest of them) and unhealthy and uncommunicative, but when you see them on stage it's just like watching them twenty years ago.

We followed up the Pixies fiilm with something a little more hardcore - 'Cannibal Holocaust', which I got for my birthday from my brother. I'd never seen this although Cooke (who, let's not forget, spent the entire Eighties in a small flat watching video nasties) had and was very excited about seeing it again, albeit with the caveat that it was horribly exploitative and wrong.

And, yup, it was.

It was still interesting and well made and worth a watch, and did actually have a 'message' about exploitation. It's just that the film itself is so nasty that it's hard to fully get behind it. Chief among the nasty elements were mutiple brutal rape scenes (which were at least acted) and some real animal slaughter. I counted a muskrat, a snake, a spider and a pig, all slaughtered for real on camera (Cooke tells me that the First AD walked off the film the first time he saw this happen. Which I think would have been my reaction too) - with the most gruesome by far being the beheading and evisceration of a giant turtle which was one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.

I know the intention was to try and show how savage the so-called civilized Americans are (it's them who do all the animal-killing - as well as burning children to death and raping village girls) - and it works in putting you on the side of the 'savages', but in terms of horror, it takes you out of the film and makes you more aware that the effects when humans get killed, though really well done, are just effects. All in all, though, it was really well made - certainly influential for the likes of The Blair Witch Project - and had a clever structure and interesing 'film-within-a-film' techniques. It was just horrible to watch. Which I guess is the idea.

Still, it had a nice theme tune, an easy-listening-style instrumental which you could almost sing along to - 'We're going....on a Cannibal Holocaust...we're be eaten by cannibals...". I can still hear it now.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mayhem III: Chucky, ghosts and pig-man freaks

Last night was our third annual Mayhem Horror Film Festival at Broadway in Nottingham. We screened a 100 minute programme of local, national and international shorts, featuring killer clowns, zombies, pig-man freaks and a shot of a small child repeatedly punching an equally tiny Satan in the face. I think we (me, Chris Cooke and Gareth Howell, the co-directors of the festival) put together a really strong programme this year and the audience response seemed to bear that out. We had great numbers for the night as well - nearly sold out (in fact if Arcade Fire hadn't been playing just round the corner on the same night, I'm sure we would have done (selfish bloody French-Canadian alt-rockers and their cinematic, folk-influenced chamber pop)). After a brief intermission, we came back with a special preview screening of 'All The Boys Love Mandy Lane', a new American slasher film. I hadn't seen the film before last night (having been cruising with Goths for a couple of weeks) so I was keen (and slightly apprehensive) to see what it was like. Luckily for us it was great - really well shot with a great soundtrack and a real black heart. It's got twists, but ones that you kind of have an inkling of by the time they come, so there's no moment (unlike in, say, Switchblade Romance) where the film is in danger of alienating its audience by totally pulling some revelation out of left-field. In fact, the actual key moment of turnabout in the film is so brilliantly shot and staged, and the subsequent fall-out so black, bloody and pessimistic, that it doesn't really matter if you've seen it coming. While not exactly a gore-fest, there are a couple of really horrible moments, including one that made me suck air in through my teeth (a reaction I think I last had watching Takashi Miike's 'Imprint') and although it featured a typical bunch of selfish, sex-obsessed American teens, for some reason it didn't have me willing them to die quickly (like in 'Cabin Fever'). All in all, I think it went down well, although I know some people found it too generic and didn't think it pulled off what it was attempting. I think it came close enough.

After the screenings, Broadway bar were having a Halloween party (which we'd organised to have some kind of synchronicity with Mayhem) which featured a lot of fancy dress. Winners of the first prize were Sam Hawker (runner on 'Deliver Me' and "Mum and Dad', and local filmmaker) and his girlfriend Claire who came as Chucky and a very bloody Red Riding Hood. Second prize went to a man in a neck brace and blood all over his head (I think he was in fancy dress, it could have been that a taxi driver was taking the piss and had dropped him off telling him it was A and E) and third prize went to an actual ghost:I don't know if you can make it out, but if you squint you can just about see its outline hovering in the background between me and Cooke...