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 FRIGHTFEST
Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on 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
Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

SHARE: READ MORE
Arrow Video FrightFest announces line-up for Halloween 2019 event
Posted on Thursday 3rd October 2019
FF19-Halloween logoArrow Video FrightFest continues on its highly acclaimed and hugely successful Twenty Bloody Year rampage with a fear-packed journey through Halloween traditions, religious deviance, unstoppable maniacs, warped fairy tales, terrifying board games and the very rules of horror themselves.

The popular Halloween all-day event returns to the Cineworld Leicester Square on Saturday 3 November and the 12-hour monstrous marathon embraces four UK premieres, one European and one International premiere.

The day kicks off with the European Premiere of Josh Hasty's Candy Corn. With an impressive all-star genre cast (including Tony Todd, who exec-produces), an innovative iconic killer...

SHARE: READ MORE
FrightFest favourite A Good Woman is Hard to Find coming to cinemas and HD
Posted on Thursday 26th September 2019
Sarah Bolger in A Good Woman is Hard to Find (Signature Entertainment, 25th Oct) (3)

Directed by Abner Pastoll and starring Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson and Jane Brennan the superb thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find will be released in Cinemas and Digital HD on 25th October.

Written by Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner Ronan Blaney, the movie closed FrightFest 2019 to much acclaim this crowd-pleasing and violent kitchen-sink revenge thriller is a dark and daring journey through Northern Ireland's criminal underbelly.

Recently widowed mother of two Sarah (a tour-de-force Sarah Bolger) is desperate to know who m...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Evan Daves star of Porno
Posted on Friday 30th August 2019

In the bizarre and gruesome comedy/horror Porno, Abe, played by Evan Daves is a burgeoning pervert with a guilty conscience who works in a cinema and ends up battling a demon! Here, Evan tells all about this gory story. (Headshot - Matthew Murphy)

HC: How did the role of Abe in Porno come about?

ED: I had the audition come in through my agent. Adrienne Stern, the casting director, is great; she actually cast me in my first movie when I was 13, a comedy called "Harold" starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Since then she's always been kind enough to bring me in for projects that I'm right for. When I saw her name in the breakdown I knew it would be a wacky, cool project - she has a great eye for that stuff...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Sara Garcia, star of True Fiction
Posted on Friday 30th August 2019

FrightFest 2019 was contained some of the best psychological thrillers we've seen in a long time. One of the finest was Braden Croft's True Fiction which boasts incredible performances from John Cassini and Sara Garcia. We chatted to Sara about her role of lonely librarian, Avery Malone.

HC: Did you always want to be an actress when you were growing up?

SG: I've always been a performer. As a child my parents encouraged my artistic side through dance classes, singing lessons and after school performing arts programs. When I was very young, I dreamed of being a singer and as a grew older I gravitated more towards the dramatic arts. I didn't seek acting out as a profession until later in life. I fel...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Fernando Alle, writer and director of Mutant Blast
Posted on Thursday 29th August 2019

One of the wildest and most bizarre movies of FrightFest 2019 was Fernando Alle's gore-splattered sci-fi inspired feature, Mutant Blast. Here, he tells us the story about making this crazy piece of celluloid.

HC: Regular FrightFest goers will know you from your pieces Banana Motherf**ker and Papa Wrestling, why has it been so long for Mutant Blast to come along?

FA: I started making this film in 2012, and it has indeed been far too long. I figured that making a feature film would be 10 times harder than making a short film, but in fact it is at least 100 times harder. I am glad I was naive, because otherwise I would have cut a lot of stuff from the script and the film would not have turned out ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chad Archibald director of I'll Take Your Dead
Posted on Wednesday 28th August 2019
Chad Archibald

Chad Archibald has been behind a number of FrightFest favourites in the past including Bite which is showing on Horror in September. With is latest movie, I'll Take Your Dead wowing audiences at FrightFest we chatted to Chad.

HC: We last spoke a few years back about your fabulous movie, Bite, I loved it, and would you consider a Bite 2?

CA: I would love to do a Bite 2 if there was enough demand for it. Bite was the most fun I've had making a movie and I think if we made a second, we would just amp it all up. More goo, more gore, more laughs. I've got tons of ideas already so it's never off the table.

HC: Where did the story of I'll Take Your Dead come from?

...

SHARE: READ MORE
Fear: The Autobiography of Dario Argento is coming soon from FAB Press
Posted on Tuesday 27th August 2019

To his legion of admirers Dario Argento is a horror legend of the greatest magnitude. And to his genre filmmaking contemporaries he's an inspiration and an icon. Now, thanks to FAB Press we can get the whole story on this cinematic legend in the book, Fear: The Autobiography of Dario Argento.

For many years Argento's ground-breaking shockers like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebrae and Opera meant box-office gold. Now the maverick auteur, lauded as the Italian Hitchcock and the Horror Fellini, has written his autobiography, revealing all about his fascinating life, his dark obsessions, his talented family, his perverse dreams, and his star-crossed ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Abner Pastoll director of A Good Woman is Hard to Find
Posted on Tuesday 27th August 2019

A few years back we met director Abner Pastoll at the world premiere of his thriller, Road Games. 2019 and he's back with his new movie, A Good Woman is Hard to Find so we caught up with him just before its premiere at FrightFest 2019.

HC: We first met when you unleashed the "killer of a thriller" Road Games, what have you been up to since then?

AP: Making this new film! And trying to stay alive.

HC: How did you become connected to A Good Woman is Hard to Find?

AP: I was looking for a writing partner to collaborate with. My producer knew a great agent so reached out to him, asking for writing samples from some of his clients. One of those 'samples' happened to be a...

SHARE: READ MORE
Not with a whimper but with a bang! FrightFest 2019 comes to a close
Posted on Tuesday 27th August 2019

The final two movies of FrightFest 2019 gave the crowd exactly what they wanted from the festival; invention, fun and truly shocking cinematic moments.

The much talked abut Rabid remake from Jen and Sylvia Soska didn't disappoint and delivered a smart updating of the David Cronenberg classic. Rose wants to become a famous designer in the fashion world, but a terrible accident leaves her scarred beyond recognition. Undergoing a radical untested stem cell treatment, wallflower Rose turns into the belle of the ball and starts to realize her ambitions. But everything in life comes at a price and Rose's newfound perfection is no exception as she unwittingly sets off a bloody spiral of contagion. Well-paced wi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Charlie Steeds director of The Barge People
Posted on Monday 26th August 2019
Ever wanted a horror movie set on a canal boat? Well your dream has come true with Charlie Steeds' new movie The Barge People.

HC: Looking at your CV you seem to be a big fan of the horror genre, can you recall which film inspired your career?

CS: Absolutely, I'm a horror fanatic, that's why I'm making horror films! I got hooked on this genre by watching Stephen King adaptations. I looked for anything with King's name on and knew I'd love it, this one guy's imagination produced a whole world of unique horror stories, the Stephen King brand, it still amazes me.

HC: Has any one director or other creative influenced your work?

CS: I'm a huge fan of Lucio...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Star Trek: Voyager
STAR TREK: VOYAGER
Thursday 28th November
7.00 PM
The Unborn
THE UNBORN
Monday 25th November
9.00 PM
Frankenstein
FRANKENSTEIN
Monday 18th November
10.55 PM