Interview – Carlo Mirabella, director of ‘Swallow’.

Ahead of the UK premiere of SWALLOW at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his debut feature, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the horror genre.

SWALLOW is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?

Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say “script is coin of the realm”. The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out.

The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I asked my colleague who the best independent producers in the business were, and she said, “Mollye Asher and Mynette Louie, but you’ll never get them”.

I watched their films and was floored by how incredible they all were. As luck would have it, both Mollye and Mynette decided to work on the film. Amazing, inspiring, driven producers like Mollye and Mynette will support your vision, collaborate with you, and fight passionately to bring that vision to the world. Once we had the finished script and our team, we brought on an amazing casting director, Allison Twardziak, and we cast the lead roles of the film. We were incredibly lucky to have the brilliant Haley Bennett come on board as Hunter, and once she joined the production, along with the marvellous Austin Stowell, I knew we had a powerful film on our hands.

Raising the money was a bit of a challenge in the United States because independent film studios often don’t want to take a chance on a first-time director. Through Sundance Catalyst, we raised some money in the United States, but the bulk of the financing came from France, from our incredible investors Charades and Logical who took a chance on an unusual script, and I’m so glad they did, because they were absolutely wonderful to work with.

Haley Bennett is outstanding in the film as Hunter. How did you cast her?

We were so incredibly fortunate Haley Bennett accepted our offer to play the role of Hunter. She’s a profoundly brilliant actor, collaborator, and artist who delivers a tour-de-force performance in the movie. I’d seen Haley in Girl on a Train and was deeply impressed, so we made an offer and thankfully she accepted. Haley has a remarkable ability to evoke different layers of emotion simultaneously. She wears many masks throughout the film, layered on top of each other and she can convey all those layers of emotion, all those masks, simultaneously in just the twitch of her eye or the way Hunter fixes her hair. Haley was also an executive producer on the film and very devoted to the project. I got so incredibly fortunate that someone as committed, empathic, and imaginative as her brought Hunter to life with such specificity, authenticity, and heart.

Hayley Bennett in SWALLOW

Haley’s character suffers from a condition called Pica, an eating disorder that involves swallowing progressively dangerous non-food objects. What drew your attention to that particular illness?

I remember seeing a photo of all the contents removed from the stomach of a patient with pica, all these objects spread out like an archaeological dig. I wanted to know what drew the patient to those artifacts. It seemed like something mystical, almost like a holy communion, and I wanted to know more. I got in touch with the world‘s leading expert on pica, Doctor Rachel Bryant-Waugh, and she was kind enough to read the script and be a consultant on our film. Although pica is a relatively obscure condition, I felt it could be representative of any rituals of control, any reaction to a difficult situation, any obsessive behavior, and therefore, universal.

The film revolves around issues of control, repression and identity. How autobiographical is the story?

The film was inspired by my grandmother, Edith Mirabella, a homemaker in the 1950s in an unhappy marriage who developed various rituals of control. She was an obsessive handwasher who would go through four bars of soap a day and twelve bottles of sanitizing alcohol a week. I think she was looking for order in a life she felt increasingly powerless in. My grandfather at the behest of the doctors, put her into a mental institution where she received electroshock therapy, insulin shock therapy, and a non-consensual lobotomy which resulted in the loss of her sense of taste and smell. I always felt there was something punitive about how my grandmother was treated, that she was being punished for not living up to society’s expectations of what they felt a wife and a mother should be. I wanted to make the movie to show my grandmother, wherever she is, that her suffering did not go unnoticed. So much suffering goes unnoticed in our world today, and I think through the power of cinema we can increase empathy, fight prejudice, and heal psychological wounds.

SWALLOW is beautifully shot, creating a sharp, clinical edge that makes the luxurious world Hunter inhabits somehow fraught with danger. Tell us how you approached the design and look of the film?

So thrilled you feel that way! I was extremely fortunate to have an incredible, imaginative, devoted design team. Our visionary cinematographer, Kate Arizmendi, our inspired production designer, Erin Magill, and our amazing costume designer, Liene Dobraja, evoked Hunter’s world with such detail and subtext. In order to Illustrate Hunter’s psychological movement, Kate and I developed a rigid visual vernacular, a strict set of camera direction rules that we broke at key emotional moments. Kate had the idea to shoot the film with Master Prime lenses because, as she put it, “Pica is all about textures”, and the Master Primes allowed her to illustrate the textures of Hunter’s world in mystical detail. In a film that’s all about little objects and the tyranny of environments, Erin Magill brought such specificity of space and vibrant color to Hunter’s world. And Liene, who is so good with expressing the characters’ inner cosmology through what they wear, created a wonderful wardrobe journey for Hunter. We wanted Swallow to take place in a stylized world that became more and more realistic as the film progressed in order to reflect Hunter’s growing psychological clarity. Like a perfect pane of glass with a crack slowly forming in it.

Research has shown that more children are swallowing objects than ever before and that adult cases are on the rise too. Why do you think that is?

Interesting question. We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and because of that, I think rituals of control are on the rise.

While I’m not a mental health professional, I believe OCD, eating disorders, cutting, all these rituals of control can often be related to past trauma or situations that people feel powerless in. We very much consider Swallow to be a feminist film, and in America, there’s no denying that a certain kind of old-world patriarchy has become newly emboldened.

With the Trump presidency, we’ve seen a reinforcing of patriarchal paradigms, a silencing of dissenting voices, and a rollback of reproductive rights.

We are also fortunate to be living in a time where there are many powerful new voices and activists fighting back; more films directed by female filmmakers, and more films with female main characters that explore these issues. I hope Swallow is one of those voices of change, and I hope it raises awareness and makes people feel seen and less alone.

Do you think horror films can help us deal with and understand troubling and mentally-challenging issues?

I do. Fear is the oldest emotion, the first emotion. To paraphrase Rainer Werner Fassbinder, “Fear eats the soul”. I think horror movies are a powerful tool which allows viewers to manifest their fears in a safe environment, a communal environment. Once those fears are manifested on the crucible of the screen, they can be experienced and processed in a way that facilitates catharsis for the viewer, providing a greater understanding of what they’re frightened of and why. Once we understand our fears and what drives them, we can emancipate ourselves from a cycle of terror and anxiety. We are fortunate to be in a new renaissance of horror with incredible, personal, socially relevant films like Get Out, Babadook, and Hereditary. Because horror is a genre that is inherently extreme and uncomfortable, I do agree that horror has the hardwired capacity to take on challenging topics. As a lifelong horror fan, I truly believe that powerful, thoughtful horror movies can change the world for the better.

Do you have an affinity to the genre?

Yes! I’ve been horror fan my entire life. When I was six years old, I begged my parents to rent a horror movie for my birthday, and they obliged with a delightful screening of The Blob. Swallow has many little horror film references within it. For example, when Hunter puts the red gels on the window, another Erin Magill innovation, it’s a direct homage to the glorious colors in Argento’s 1977 Suspiria. My fantastic, passionate, inspiring editor, Joe Murphy, and I, bonded over our mutual love of unusual, obscure, art horror films.

Finally, we hear your next film is going to be a supernatural horror. Can you reveal a few details?

I’m working on a feminist supernatural horror movie, among other scripts, but I can’t reveal the contents at this time.

SWALLOW is screening at 6.15pm at Cineworld, Leicester Sq. on Sat 2 Nov, as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween all-dayer.

www.frightfest.co.uk

Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Directed by Chris Waugh, ‘Bad Day for the Cut’ sees a mild mannered farmer called Donal (Nigel O’Neill) catapulted on a mission of vengeance after his mother is murdered. On his journey of revenge he discovers shocking revelations about his mother, who harbored dark secrets of her own.

With the help of a would be hitman Bartosz (Jozéf Pawlowski), Donal seeks to find those responsible and make them pay.

Also co starring Susan Lynch as psychotic gangland boss Frankie Pearce, ‘Bad Day for the Cut’ is a movie that marries brutal violence with pathos and raw emotion, evoking similarities to the classic thrillers of the mid 70’s. The script feels real and things happen as you expect they would, not as you want them to. Donal is an ordinary man looking for revenge, and makes mistakes that an ordinary man would make.

At certain times heartfelt, and at others brutal and unforgiving, ‘Bad Day for the Cut’ is a revenge thriller that will be remembered for years to come, making Chris Waugh a director I shall be following very closely in the future.

‘Bad Day for the Cut’ is out now and available to order digitally from iTunes or on DVD from all good stockists.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B076W9ZC5P/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515596115&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=bad+day+for+the+cut&dpPl=1&dpID=51zEB1nqIqL&ref=plSrch
Highly recommended.

4/5

JM

Bruce Lee – LEGEND

Bruce Lee will always be a legend. His skill is unmatched, even today. There have been many collections of his movies, but this has got to be one of the most stunning sets ever. 

House in faux leather, and containing four of his movies, plus a documentary, this set is a rare find. Made by Spectrum DVD, a Korean company, this is a set that very rarely ever shows up for sale anywhere. Now you have a chance, as it’s up for sale on eBay. Click the link below to view:

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.co.uk%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F322938303685

A seriously rare set that any serious Bruce Lee fan owes it to themselves to have. 

JM

Black Sails Season 1-4 Steelbook Unboxing

Wow. What a stunning steelbook set this is. Coming in two separate steelbooks, each one containing two seasons, this is a magnificent set that would be a treasure in anyone’s collection.

Housed in a lovely plastic slip cover, the steelbooks are glorious to look at, the artwork alone has been lovingly applied and advertises that there are over 100 minutes worth of extras to indulge in after you have binged all four seasons.

Out of the slip case, the steelbooks come together to form an amazing piece of art, detailing several characters, ships and of course pirate skulls. The likeness of Toby Stephens is really well captured, I would love to have something like this on my wall.

The rear of the steelbooks also form a piece when joined together. Okay, not as impressive as the art on the front, but nice to look at all the same.

The interior artwork of the first steelbook is mightily impressive however. Showing the characters relaxing and looking suitably moody, it is striking stuff. Black and gold being the only two colours used to bring it to life.

The art inside the second steelbook is just as good. This one is a bit lighter in tone, utilising a grey and gold look, it resembles a photo from the 19th century and looks amazing. All of the art would make great posters to be framed.

Black Sails Season 1-4 is available now to buy from Amazon, just click the link below:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01N6X8UX0/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504381127&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=Black+sails+steelbook&dpPl=1&dpID=41wEcco6aRL&ref=plSrch
JM

A deal you don’t wanna miss. 

Just a heads up that Sideshow is running a limited time only promotion between the 1st and the 4th of September offering GLOBAL FREE SHIPPING on select items.

This includes a great selection of Star Wars, Marvel, and DC Comics sixth scale figures, Premium Format™ Figures, Polystone Statues, Busts, Books and more!

This is a stellar deal as shipping can add a fair amount onto the price normally. So get shopping. 

https://www.sideshowtoy.com/event/free-global-shipping

JM

The Audi and the Alien

The Moonrover Audi Lunar Quattro celebrates its film debut in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi blockbuster “Alien: Covenant” this week, ahead of its impending mission to the Moon next year.

The Audi lunar Quattro has been developed in cooperation with Berlin-based start-up Part-Time Scientists. Over the past two years, the automobile manufacturer has worked with a team led by Robert Böhme – founder and CEO of Part-Time Scientists – in developing the rover, by supplying all-wheel drive technology, expertise in lightweight construction, experience in developing vehicles with electric and plug-in hybrid motors (e-tron), and with design optimization.

Director Ridley Scott has integrated the Audi lunar quattro into “Alien: Covenant,“ the latest instalment of his ground-breaking “Alien” franchise. In its film debut, the rover is an integral part of the Covenant mission; deployed to help navigate and assess the challenging, unknown terrain of a new planet.

Incorporating the Audi lunar quattro into the film is part of a collaboration between Twentieth Century Fox and Audi – allowing filmmakers to incorporate authentic, leading-edge technology into their futuristic worlds. As part of the collaboration, a short film was also created by Twentieth Century Fox, 3AM and Audi. Captured on one of the movie’s biggest sets, it depicts the rover patrolling the Terraforming Bay when it detects an unidentified lifeform and goes to investigate what lurks in the dark. 

Watch “Alien: Covenant x Audi lunar quattro” here: http://youtu.be/5fEmCnSt gac

Check out the Audi Rover in some new footage from ‘Alien: Covenant’ via the link below:


 Additional information:

The Audi lunar quattro is 85% aluminium
The majority of its components have been produced using a 3D printing method at Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt

High-strength lightweight construction has resulted in developers reducing the weight of the exploration vehicle by 23% to just 30kgs

A 60-degree pivoting 100W solar panel supplies the rover with energy and powers its efficient e-tron motor

For more on the story of the Audi lunar quattro’s origins visit http://www.audi.com/mission

Jonathan McEvoy 

Beck: Vol. 2 (2016) (TV Series) 

The Scandinavians really do know how to make thrilling drama. With the likes of Trapped, The Killing, Borgen and many others, they have thrilled UK audiences. Beck is another jewel in that crown. 

Peter Haber plays the brilliant Martin Beck, a Swedish detective who hunts down all sorts of criminals. He is called back into action when a journalist is found beaten to death in his home. Various fingerprints are found which may allude to the killer’s identity, but the further Beck and his team dig, the more they realise that things may not be as straightforward as they seem. 

However that is only the first case in this series. This wonderful procedural weaves through different grisly cases, whilst simultaneously delving into each of the characters lives. It does a great job in really investing in the characters and making you care for them. The acting really is first class.

The stories are thoroughly gripping too. The writing is intelligent and there are various twists and turns keeping you on the edge of your seat. The supporting cast are fabulous, and you never get the feeling like any one character feels redundant in their role. 

If the Scandinavians can continue to produce awesome television such as this, then I think we will always have something decent to watch. Even more than once. BECK – THE SERIES VOLUME TWO is released on DVD on Monday 10th October by Nordic Noir & Beyond.

5/5

JM

Follow The Money (TV Series) (2016)

  
Alexander Sødergren (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is a ruthless business man who works for a Danish company called Energreen. He has plans to corner the energy market, and believes wind farms are the future. When a dead body is pulled from the sea in which a wind farm is situated, a detective called Mads Justesen (Thomas Bo Larsen) believes that the shady Energreen had something to do with it. 

  
One thing I’ve noticed about these Scandinavian crime dramas is that it nearly always starts with dead body being pulled from the water. Maybe they should take up swimming perhaps? 

Also playing into proceedings is a young mechanic and ex convict called Nicky (Esben Smed Jensen), who finds himself tangled up with Energreen when he tries to resort to blackmail. There’s also a young lawyer called Claudia (Natalie Madueño) who receives a promotion which helps her in her investigation into the dodgy goings on inside Energreen. 

  
The plot moves along very slowly, and is nowhere near as gripping as previous Scandinavian dramas like The Killing or Trapped. This is more the political side of things like Borgen, which is no surprise really as it was created by the same guy. The dialogue is very wooden in places, though one would guess that maybe something has been lost in translation. Nikolaj Lie Kaas is very good as the ruthless Alexander or ‘Sander’ as he’s also called. He is very convincing in his role and thankfully the poor script doesn’t seem to hamper his acting quality whatsoever. 

Thomas Bo Larsen is also good as the dogged detective Mads Justesen, who’s home life also weighs him down as his wife suffers with multiple sclerosis. I felt that the aspect of his wife suffering with such a debilitating disease was kind of shoehorned in, just to make us feel more sympathetic towards him. I felt it was unnecessary as his character was already adequately defined for us to relate to as an audience. 

  
The camerawork is great in my opinion however, as it moves around the office like a shark, perfectly capturing the claustrophobic atmosphere of an office where so much is going on. 

Scandinavian dramas have always been worth watching, and ‘Follow the Money’ is no different. However I would love to see a series which delves even more into the dark hearts of man, maybe something involving the occult. 

FOLLOW THE MONEY is released on DVD & Blu-Ray Monday 25th April by Nordic Noir & Beyond and is available for pre order now. 

3/5

JM

  

Stan Lee 1/6 scale figure from Hot Toys

  
Wow. Just look at the sculpt on this awesome 1/6 scale figure of comic book legend Stan Lee. Available to pre order now on the link below via Sideshow Collectibles:
Stan Lee Stan Lee Stan Lee Sixth Scale Figure

 
Hot Toys and Sideshow have always been at the top of the table when it comes to scale figures and busts. This really is an uncanny likeness of Stan Lee and it is available at a great price. 

JM