ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
By James Whittington, Wednesday 30th October 2019

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

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

CMD: 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.

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

CMD: 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.

HC: 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?

CMD: 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.

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

CMD: 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 hand-washer 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.

HC: 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?

CMD: 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.

HC: 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?

CMD: 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.

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

CMD: 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.

HC: Do you have an affinity to the genre?

CMD: 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 colours 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.

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

CMD: 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 Square. on Saturday 2 November, as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween all-dayer.


Related show tags: FRIGHTFEST
MORE ARTICLES
The Web Planet comes to vinyl for the first time
Posted in News, Monday 11th November 2019

In the vintage 6-part Doctor Who adventure, The Web Planet which was first shown on BBC TV in February and March 1965, a strange magnetic force pulls the TARDIS down to the craterous surface of Vortis. The Doctor and his friends learn that the planet has been invaded, and the parasitic Animus is slowly enveloping it in a web-like domain. The giant ant-like Zarbi are under its control, whilst the butterfly-like Menoptra are battling to reclaim their planet.

Presented across 3 x heavyweight 180g pieces of pink vinyl, this narrated TV soundtrack evokes a classic Doctor Who adventure in all its aural magnificence. The alien ambience of Vortis, the insistent chirruping of the ...

SHARE: READ MORE
All you need to know about Horror Channel's Classic Monsters Marathon!
Posted in Features, Monday 11th November 2019

On Sunday 24th of November, Horror Channel is celebrating the beginnings of cinema horror with Classic Monsters Marathon.

Kicking off at 1pm, it features some of the most iconic monster movies of all-time, including: Ted Browning and Karl Freund's Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi as the infamously seductive Count, James Whale's genre-defining Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, Karl Freund's mesmerising The Mummy, with Boris Karloff further establishing himself as one of the great horror stars in film history, The Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney, Jr. as the original werewolf and the pulp horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Dracula is first on the list starti...

SHARE: READ MORE
What you can't see can hurt you! Have you seen the trailer for The Invisible Man?
Posted in News, Monday 11th November 2019



"What you can't see can hurt you!"

Universal Pictures has released the official trailer for The Invisible Man.

Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss (Us, Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale) stars in this terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal's classic monster character.

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC's The InBetween), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO's Euphoria).

But when Cecilia's abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House) commits suic...

SHARE: READ MORE
Iconic German horror Der Golem comes to life with a new 4K Restoration
Posted in News, Monday 4th November 2019

Eureka Entertainment will release Der Golem; Paul Wegener and Carl Boese's classic silent horror, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, from a brand new 4K restoration on 18 November. It will be presented with a Limited Edition Slipcase [First Print Run of 2000 copies only].

An iconic early horror masterpiece, Der Golem was Paul Wegener's third attempt at adapting the Golem character for the big screen. Starring and co-directing with Carl Boese, Wegener crafted one of silent cinema's most enduring masterpieces.

In the Jewish ghetto in 16th century Prague, Rabbi Low (Albert Streinruck, Asphalt) creates a forbidding clay Golem (pl...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Friday 1st November 2019

FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?

CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...

SHARE: READ MORE
101 Films present haunted house horror Girl on the Third Floor
Posted in News, Wednesday 30th October 2019

WWE Legend Phil "CM Punk" Brooks gets his first starring role in Girl on the Third Floor, a bloody and demented haunted house tale from one of the strongest voices in modern indie-horror, Travis Stevens.

Bursting pipes, rotting walls, and unidentifiable slime were not what Don Koch (Phil 'CM Punk' Brooks) expected when he convinced his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) that he could rehab their new Victorian home himself. In over his head, under duress, and tempted by his old weaknesses, Don soon discovers that the house has its own dark, sordid history and won't be so easy to renovate after all...

Having produced some of the finest indie horror gems of recent years including Horror Channe...

SHARE: READ MORE
10 things you might not know about Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Posted in Features, Saturday 26th October 2019

It's the one where no one came home. It's the one without Michael Myers. It's the one that stalled at the box-office but gained a huge cult following over the last 37 years or so!

Yes, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the movie which split the Halloween fanbase right down the middle but was supposed to be the relaunch of the brand name.

Here's 10 fear-filled facts you might not know about this classic horror and catch the movie on Horror October 31st at 10.55pm.

10) The film was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace who also provides the voice on those classic Silver Shamrock commercials.

9) Speaking of which, the infamous Silver Shamrock jingle is actually the old nursery rhyme...
SHARE: READ MORE
Brand new trailer unleashed for Bloodshot starring Vin Diesel
Posted in News, Thursday 24th October 2019

Sony Pictures UK has made available the blood-splattered trailer for Bloodshot starring Vin Diesel.

Based on the bestselling comic book, Vin Diesel stars as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he's an unstoppable force -stronger than ever and able to heal instantly. But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn't know what's real and what's not - but he's on a mission to find out.

Bloodshot will open in the UK in 2020.

SHARE: READ MORE
Sinister, Terrifier and Tower Block amongst Horror Channel premieres in November
Posted in Features, Tuesday 22nd October 2019

Psycho clowns, demented dolls and deadly snipers... Horror Channel is big on scares in November with eleven Channel premieres including murderous supernatural chiller Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke, Damien Leone's screamingly shocking Terrifier and the riveting urban thriller Tower Block, starring Sheridan Smith and Jack O'Connell.

There are also Channel premieres for two popular installments of the Chucky franchise, Child's Play 2 and Child's Play 3. John Carpenter's dazzling fantasy Starman, starring Jeff Bridges, two spooky black comedy classics - Peter Jackson's The Frighteners and Joe Dante's The Burbs, and the even more eerie John Carpenter remake of Village of the Damn...

SHARE: READ MORE
The League of Gentlemen to release Precious Things in December
Posted in News, Monday 21st October 2019

Following on from the success of Demon Records' sold out 'Special Stuff' box set, we present the final installment of the characters from the fictional town of Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen's Precious Things.

Pulling together the original Christmas Special for the first time on vinyl ("Yule Never Leave", first aired on the 27th December 2000), and the three anniversary episodes from 2017 ("Return To Royston Vasey", "Save Royston Vasey" and "Royston Vasey Mon Amour")

"Yule Never Leave" is presented on 180g "Snow Slash" vinyl, telling the story of Vicar Bernice three unwelcome guests, and is detained from watching the boxing by stories of voodoo spells, German vampires, anci...

SHARE: READ MORE
Ghostland - Music from the Motion Picture
Posted in Reviews, Friday 18th October 2019
Ghostland - Music from the Motion Picture
Georges Boukoff, Anthony d'Amario and Ed Rig
The Omega Productions Records

Pascal Laugier's Ghostland (known in the UK as Incident in a Ghostland) was one of the highlights of FrightFest 2018 and proved once and for all that this director was a master of the sinister and murky.

Produced ten years after Martyrs, the movie was more considered in its tension building and was in its strange way a contained a classic fairy tale structure.

The movie concerns the aftermath of a brutal home invasion experienced by Beth along with mother and sister Vera. Forward a few years and Beth is now a horror novelist and has found solace in her w...

SHARE: READ MORE
Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Expanded Edition)
Posted in Reviews, Thursday 17th October 2019

Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Expanded Edition)
Sacred Bones
Double Vinyl

Halloween 2018 was a box-office hit and gave the franchise a much-needed tension injection. It saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and that of original director John Carpenter though he wasn't in the driving seat for this one. Instead he, alongside his son and godson, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies created the score and delivered an atmospheric piece which retained whispers to the past without drowning in them.

The soundtrack album was a hit as much as the movie was debuting at #12 on the Billboard Albums chart and #2 on the vinyl chart, o...

SHARE: READ MORE
Articles Archive: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Lake Placid
LAKE PLACID
Tuesday 19th November
9.00 PM
Village Of The Damned
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Friday 22nd November
10.50 PM
Frankenstein
FRANKENSTEIN
Monday 18th November
10.55 PM