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The Method Behind the Madness: Directors Statements for IFL’s Halloween Horror Showcase

Until Monday 2nd November 2020, Indy Film Library is streaming some of the best short horror films we have received over the last year. The Halloween Horror Showcase can be viewed for free here, with films selected on the basis of both their storytelling and the technical calibre, in a celebration of the often under-appreciated world of independent horror. As part of the event, we asked the directors of all seven films to outline the elaborate methods behind the madness, and what their work ultimately means to them.

The Abyss (2020) – 3 stars
Director: Will Priddis

The Abyss is a call back to my earlier days of filmmaking, in that it was completely self-shot in the coronavirus lockdown, but more than that, it’s a case for absurdism – the idea that life is completely meaningless. It’s often easy to divide people up into good and evil, but it’s never really that clear cut, and often much messier. Learning to embrace chaos isn’t easy, but liberating when you get there, and exactly the problem the protagonist in The Abyss is faced with.

Giving a modern dark comedy twist to Edgar Allan Poe-esque themes, The Abyss is a look at two very different types of humans and their nature, and how quickly they show their true colours.”

Validity (2019) – 3.5 stars
Director: Meena Ayittey

“I have always been fascinated with the somewhat frightening notion that the way we see our individual reality is very different from how others see it. As both a woman and a person of colour, I have experienced first-hand what it’s like to have my reality questioned. I wanted to create a scenario where one’s reality is questioned so much; we are forced to question its authenticity. Jess, the protagonist in the film feels she is constantly being watched and questioned by people who reappear in multiple scenarios. I feel that this is something many Black people will relate to on some level. This is particularly true in regards to the way we are treated by both health professionals and authority figures in society. Again and again our experiences of actual events are called into question. This creates a state of mind where you are always second guessing yourself, your thoughts and your interactions- all of which I tried to convey in Validity.”

Sempre Piu (2020) – 3 stars
Director: Dia Taylor

“I have long since been fascinated by people’s passions and obsessions. What it is about some sort of art form that drives them on to create and create, and I wanted to showcase this in Sempre Piu. Having delved into the classical music world briefly myself, I couldn’t help but notice the absolute dedication some musicians put into their craft; practising for hours on end every day for years in order to achieve ‘the perfect sound’. The term ‘Sempre Piu’ is a music and Italian term meaning ‘always more’, where musicians are encouraged to go more and more and more. Adding this to the musician’s drive to achieve the perfect sound we get Theron’s obsession for audio excellence and Daniella’s drive for more and more fame.”

The Odd (2020) – 4.5 stars
Director: Roberto Vivancos

“In my directorial debut, The Odd envisions a psychological thriller which explores the themes of anxiety disorder and depression in an attempt to create awareness through a bold cinematic narrative.”

The Mind Festers First (2020) – 3.5 stars
Director: Cameron Bonham

“The idea of The Mind Festers First started after seeing a movement in horror films over the past decade. That is the movement to free the genre from the confines of the haunted suburban house. Too often the portrait of the horror genre is a blissful and enjoyable life that gets yanked out of the status quo and into pure terror.

What if the protagonist already lives a life in terror? What if the horrific change that takes place rips them into a life of serenity? These are questions I wanted to explore when two soldiers, use to the constant sound of artillery shells and gunfire, awake to the sound of chirping birds and childlike laughter.

Being my directorial debut, every step in this process presented a lesson for me in filmmaking. But, I owe extreme gratitude to my art department for crafting the look and feel of World War I-era France with a micro-budget—if even considered that. Production designer Sebastián Sandoval and art director Phoebe Post took a little and made a period piece out of it.”

Saturation (2019) – 4 stars
Director: Perrine Liévois

Saturation is a film that observes its lead character as she observes herself. The eye of the camera is used to search and enlarge the reality lived and perceived by Emma. It evokes in an impressionistic and fragmented way the inner tingling of a being paralysed in inaction.

During the creative process, I first pay more attention to intuitions than to the reasoned construction of the staging. Both during filming and editing, I let myself be guided by the visual and sound elements that the camera allows me to grasp. My job is first and foremost to leave, in a precise setting, the place to chance, and to seek, recognise and sort within that chance the elements that correspond to the desired impression.

Before filming, there is an intuition, a theme, a desire. I wrote a script that was not an end in itself but a starting point. At the time of the shooting there is a frame, a set, characters and tracks of dialogues from which I improvise. Improvisation is as much for the actors as it is for the camera. I film a lot, because I seek, I let myself be surprised, I explore possibilities.

Once the filming is done, I watch my rushes and start selecting at the same time that I understand what is really the subject of the film. The editing begins and defines the subject more and more. I make multiple versions, each new one lighter and more precise, the same way a sculpture appears gradually from a block of granite.

Improvisation allows me to gather a set of plans related to my subject. This set constitutes a more or less complete and imperfect database from which I draw to construct the film which narration is gradually emerging.

I pay special attention to the acting, just as a painter who would pay attention to his colours. The blue must seem right to me, it must touch me by its beauty, even if later I distort it. For this reason, I need the raw material to seem to be from reality – or a certain version of reality in any case. If it is right, whatever distortion I use next, it will remain beautiful.

I use this method of work because what stimulates me is the pleasure of looking for a cinematographic form different from what I know. The research principle implies that I do not know the destination. It is therefore necessary that the paths are not traced in advance, that the staging is not defined before the shooting; rather it is the result of my past researches, my present intuition and the concrete materials provided by the shooting.”

The Dandelion Cortex (2020) – 4.5 stars
Director: Nico Fulton Lavachek

“I have always been fascinated with human nature and the hidden mental layers human beings have that are never shared with anyone. I wanted to write a film that does not necessarily expose these suppressed negative thoughts we all inherently have, but to remind us that we are all naturally guilty of them.

The Dandelion Cortex means a lot to me because I wrote the original version in 2015 and kept writing and rewriting it many times before I finally reached the final version in 2019. It’s a story that I was born to tell! It could not have been realized without the help of my amazing team who believed in my writing and exerted an incredible amount of energy to make this story a reality.

Thank you to the cast, Susanna, Tara, James, and Ryan for teaming up to create the ultimate antagonistic team and for adding their own artistic flares to each role. Thank you to Sarah Doerner for the focus, dedication, talent, and enthusiasm she brought to the lead role of Quinn!

Thank you to Eden for editing the film for almost 10 months, to Elwood for sticking with me throughout production, and to Bennett for physically capturing the world I had been dreaming about for years!”

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