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 INTERVIEWS Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.
HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?
JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019
The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.
HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?
SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019 On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.
HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?
TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.
HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019
Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.
HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?
JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019
Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.
HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?
GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...SHARE: READ MORE 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 Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019 It was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.
HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?
LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.
HC: W...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chris Bavota, co-director of Dead Dicks
Posted on Sunday 6th October 2019
Horror is the perfect genre for getting across very serious issues. Dead Dicks, which is showing at Grimmfest today does exactly that by looking at the sensitive subject of mental health. Here co-director Chris Bavota talks about this intriguing movie.
HC: How did you and co-writer and co-director Lee Paula Springer first meet?
CB: In case people don't know, Lee and I have been married for almost 10 years and we have 2 young daughters. Making movies somehow came as a natural evolution of that but wasn't really a part of our lives until about three or four years ago. We originally met back around 2004 through a mutual friend and honestly, we didn't really ge...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Robi Michael, writer and director of Every Time I Die
Posted on Saturday 5th October 2019
Grimmfest 2019 is well underway and one of the stand out movies so far has been Every Time I Die from director Robi Michael. Here he chats about this gripping movie.
HC: Was there one person or movie that you saw that made you want to be a director?
RM: Hard to think of one person or movie, because as long as I remember, it was clear to me that all I want to do is make movies - I was in love with films and decided to pursue it from a very early age. I was too young to realized what it takes to make movies or what is the job of a director. I can say that an early big influence in story telling is the legendary graphic novel writer, Alan Moore. Books like "Watchmen" and "V for...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tom Botchii, director of Artik
Posted on Wednesday 2nd October 2019
Grimmfest 2019 begins tomorrow and Horror will be there bringing you news of all that happens as well as three Facebook Live events on the 4th, 5th and 6th of October.
One of the movies showing is Artik from director Tom Botchii so we chatted to him about this superb, brutal shocker.
HC: Where did the idea for Artik come from?
TB: The idea of Artik came from two things - 1) Getting my car broken into and seeing the initials A-T-K tagged on the wall behind it. When discussing with police they said that stands for a local gang member named ARTIK and when he spray paints ATK it means that you're marked and he or one of the other gang members is coming back to brea...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Rob Grant, director of Harpoon
Posted on Monday 30th September 2019
Grimmfest 2019 is only days away and Horror Channel will be there delivering all the info you'd want from this fear-filled festival as well as bringing to you three Facebook Live events on 4th, 5th and 6th October.
Here we chat to Grimmfest regular Rob Grant about his superior psychological shocker Harpoon which is showing at the festival this year.
HC: It's been a couple of years since we last chatted when Fake Blood played at Grimmfest, what have you been up to since then?
RG: Been very busy... was a director for hire on Alive. that I unfortunately had to miss at last year's Grimmfest due to an illness in the family, made Harpoon and been travelling around ...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuesday 4th February
Sunday 2nd February
Wednesday 29th January