HorrorFest International Winner ‘Red Light’: An Interview with Filmmakers Ted Raimi and Alex Kahuam


By: Amanda Guarragi

Since 2001 HorrorFest International has brought the Horror community together to celebrate the genre and emerging filmmakers. The festival showcases features, short films and scripts, to live in-person audiences. This year, the film Red Light won for Best Midnight Movie at the festival. Director Alex Kahuam is absolutely delighted that his film got the midnight spot during the festival and was overwhelmed by the reception. The film stars the legendary Ted Raimi, as Ian, a man who teaches millennials a thing or two about karma.

The film begins with this quote,

“As a child I never imagined that all of the real monsters in the world would be human”

-Mobeen Hakeem

It sets the tone for the rest of the film because everyone has their own perception of monsters. It is a reflection on humanity and the treatment of others. It also highlights the persona of social media influencers, on and off their screen. Kahuam wrote a great screenplay exploring these ideas and he definitely presents them in a unique way,

“It reflects all people. It’s just a reflection on humanity and how we are monsters in a way and that’s what I wanted. So the audience would get a taste of what the whole picture was going to be. Everyone’s a monster in their own way. 

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(left) Chloe Ortega, Jade Janet, Esteban de la Isla, Alex Sands and Layne Herrin

Red Light captures the human condition and how everyone fears something different. The most unique aspect about this film is the long takes that Kahuam decided to do. Everything was perfectly orchestrated and the tension was really prominent throughout. These long takes also brought out great performances from his actors, allowing their fear to feel real. Kahuam also used lighting and shadowing to enhance the atmosphere,

“The colour is super loud, violent and visceral and I wanted the audience to feel that at the beginning and at the end.”

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment

The placement for these colours for the opening and closing shots, definitely packed a punch and made it memorable.

Not only was this film visually pleasing and so incredibly fun to watch, Ian (Ted Raimi) as a character was intriguing and he left you wanting to know more. The writing for the character was really strong and watching his story unfold was great. Raimi spoke about his character and praised Kahuam for writing him so well. Raimi said that his character and the story reflected something that everyone is currently dealing with,

“We happen to be in the middle of a generational crisis right now, it usually takes place every 50 years. I think Alex has tapped into that quite well and so it was easy to step into.”

– Ted Raimi, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(Ted Raimi as Ian)

This is what is interesting about Ian’s character, he genuinely believes that he is paying it forward and restoring order in the universe. Ian kidnaps these teenagers and ties them up in his basement to set them straight, all while answering to a higher power, his own parents. We see three generations in a very different light and how they respond to each other.

The last act in this film has stayed with me because of how powerful the visuals were. The Horror elements were perfect and it is a short film that would work even better as a feature because of how strong the writing is. From the lighting, to the song choices, to the sound design, the film is beautifully crafted and I am looking forward to seeing more from Alex Kahuam.

Saint Frances Review|How Honesty Impacts Audiences: An Interview With Filmmakers Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson


By: Amanda Guarragi

Saint Frances is a film that highlights the full female experience in the most honest way possible. It wants to show its audience that women at any age can experience hardships, shame and a certain vulnerability that comes with certain subjects. It dives into the stigma around conversations about abortion, postpartum depression, menstruation and breastfeeding. We see a woman in her early 30s, named Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) navigate her new job as a nanny. When looking after little Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), Bridget faces hardships of her own and has to juggle her new life.

What is so wonderful about Saint Frances is that it doesn’t shy away from topics that would be considered “taboo”, it is right in your face and it felt like an open conversation among women. All films have this sense of community but this film felt like having a conversation with your best friends. O’Sullivan definitely made an impact with the story she wanted to tell,

I felt like I could add something to the landscape of movies that have an abortion in them and sort of treat it with a light touch, a humorous touch, rather than make it really dramatic or traumatic and sort of normalize it.”

Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances
Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

The women in the film had an interesting dynamic, which brought comfort when listening to their conversations. Films that have these tough conversations in a lighthearted way for a new generation is important,

“I do think it’s becoming more and more accepted and young women, teenagers are way more open and accepting, than people my age or older than me. So it’s really exciting to see that there is a bigger conversation starting to happen around those issues.”

-Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances

O’Sullivan was inspired by the female voices around her and wanted to make a film that would help the conversation. This new surge of young female voices, expressing their personal thoughts and feelings, allows teenagers to grow up with films that have a positive outlook instead of feeling shame.

The dynamic between Bridget and Frances was so interesting because of how they would speak to each other. Frances was speaking at an adult level, even though she was just starting elementary school. She was incredibly smart, perceptive and open to having conversations about womanhood at such a young age. Newcomer Ramona Edith-Williams was a firecracker and commanded each scene she was in,

“We just met her and she brought so much of herself to the room and so directing her was sort of a big mix of just creating an environment where she felt like she could be herself.”

-Alex Thompson, Director of Saint Frances

Thompson loved working with Ramona Edith-Williams and wanted to develop an increased sort of awareness and closeness with O’Sullivan.

Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

Even though Bridget was in her 30s, the honesty shared between the two of them, made her reevaluate everything. The bond between Frances and Bridget reminded me of the bond I share with my seven-year-old goddaughter. I speak to her like an adult and I’m probably the only one who actually listens to her. The scene where Frances runs out of her classroom calling after Bridget, during her first day of Grade One completely broke me. Frances hoping to be friends with Bridget forever is something that was so pure, that it brought me to tears. What this scene taught me was that even if you feel like you’re a complete mess, you’re somehow doing something right and there is always someone who believes in you.

Saint Frances is a beautiful film because of the honesty in front of and behind the camera. The dialogue surrounding the stigma of abortion, postpartum depression and other female issues was refreshing. Kelly O’Sullivan wrote such a wonderful screenplay, filled with tender, lighthearted and comforting moments. It is a wonderful addition to female stories that can start healthy conversations about these topics.

‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

IMG_2311

The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.

 

How The 2021 Oscars Will Look, If It Doesn’t Get Postponed


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Every year there are films lined up for Oscar season and some films that are sprinkled across the year, hoping to be standouts in order to be in the running. In 2020, the world has faced a global pandemic which has changed the way we live. It has also changed the way most industries operate. The Entertainment Industry has definitely felt this shift, due to the fact that movie theatres are now closed and it is unclear as to when they will reopen. Everything is up in the air and only a handful of films will be released this year, so the big question is… how are the Oscars going to work?

In a recent Variety article, Marc Malkin says that the Oscars may be postponed. The sources, who chose to remain anonymous, stated that “Definitive plans are far from being concrete at this juncture. The telecast is currently set for Feb. 28, 2021, on ABC.” The sources, who have been close to the subject, said that it will most likely be postponed. There could be potential new dates but they haven’t been fully discussed yet or properly mapped out. There were new (temporary) rule changes for Oscar eligibility released in April because of COVID -19.

“The board of governors approved a temporary hold on the requirement that a film needs a seven-day theatrical run in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County to qualify for the Oscars.” says Marc Malkin from Variety. As long as the film had a planned theatrical release, it is still eligible for an Oscar nomination. It doesn’t mean that any film premiering on a streaming service is eligible. With this shift in the moviegoing experience, it seems fitting to change the guidelines temporarily, so films that had a planned theatrical release and are currently going straight to VOD, can have the same chance in getting nominated.

If the Academy already changed the guidelines, because they sympathized with the filmmakers, who worked so hard in getting their film out there and making the conscious choice to STILL release it on VOD, why are they planning on postponing it? What was the point in changing the guidelines, if you’re about to change the game entirely? How does postponing the Oscars benefit any of the films/filmmakers?

These are the questions that I’m curious to know the answers to. There are films that have been (and will be) released this year that are eligible and “worthy” enough of an Oscar run, so why not give them an even chance? If they choose to postpone the Oscars, won’t there be double the films to choose from, in order to hand out that golden statue? Are the categories going to include 10 nominees, instead of 5, because there are more films to cover? It doesn’t seem like the best move.

These are the films that could possibly be nominated for Oscars for the 2021 season:

  • Emma 
    Best Actress: Anya Taylor Joy
    Best Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
    Best Director: Autumn de Wilde
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Eleanor Catton
    Best Original Score: Isobel Waller-Bridge & David Schweitzer


  • The Way Back 
    Best Actor: Ben Affleck
    Best Director: Gavin O’Connor
    Best Original Screenplay: Brad Ingelsby


  • The Invisible Man 
    Best Picture: Jason Blum & Kylie du Fresne
    Best Actress: Elisabeth Moss
    Best Director: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Screenplay: Leigh Whannell
    Best Original Score: Benjamin Wallfisch
    Best Editing: Andy Canny


    Best Visual Effects:
    The Invisible Man 
    Wonder Woman 1984
    Tenet
    Dune
    Sonic the Hedgehog


  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always 
    Best Actress: Sidney Flanigan
    Best Original Screenplay: Eliza Hittman
    Best Cinematography: Hélène Louvart
    Best Director: Eliza Hittman


    Best Animated Feature: 
    Sonic The Hedgehog
    Onward
    Scoob!
    Trolls World Tour
    Soul



  • Tenet 
    Best Picture: Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas
    Best Director: Christopher Nolan
    Best Actor: John David Washington
    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Pattinson
    Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan
    Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson
    Best Editing: Jennifer Lame


  • The French Dispatch 
    Best Picture: Wes Anderson, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson
    Best Director: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson
    Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
    Best Cinematography: Robert Yeoman


  • Capone 
    Best Director: Josh Trank
    Best Original Screenplay: Josh Trank
    Best Actor: Tom Hardy
    Best Supporting Actress: Linda Cardellini
    Best Cinematography: Peter Deming


  • Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
    Best Picture: Jon Kilik, Spike Lee, Beatriz Levin & Lloyd Levin
    Best Director: Spike Lee
    Best Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
    Best Original Score: Terence Blanchard
    Best Editing: Adam Gough
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott


  • Mank (Netflix) 
    Best Picture: David Fincher, Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski
    Best Director: David Fincher
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jack Fincher
    Best Actor: Gary Oldman
    Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried
    Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt
    Best Editing: Kirk Baxter


  • Dune
    Best Picture: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joe Caracciolo Jr. and Denis Villeneuve
    Best Director: Denis Villeneuve
    Best Adapted Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth & Denis Villeneuve
    Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet
    Best Supporting Actress: Rebecca Ferguson
    Best Supporting Actor: Oscar Isaac
    Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer
    Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser
    Best Editing: Joe Walker


This list that I have compiled is solely based on what I believe to be possible Oscar contenders. Majority of these films are highly anticipated and have been adamant in not moving their release date, due to COVID 19. This is all hypothetical and if the restrictions are still in place from September onwards, they need to make the decision to send it straight to VOD or postpone their film entirely. I personally think it’s not the right decision to postpone the Oscars because all of the films listed above should be given the fair chance to be nominated, based on the slate of their year. If the Academy combines the 2020 & 2021 slates, it will be too much for anyone to handle.

“It is still unclear if postponing the Oscars will also mean that the Academy will allow films released after the year-end deadline to qualify for the 2021 Oscars.” says Marc Malkin for Variety. It is a very difficult decision to make, but it is also very premature to even consider postponing, if we are only half way through the year. At the end of the day, you don’t make pictures for Oscars, as the wise director Martin Scorsese has said, but it’s sure great to get recognized for your work.