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
Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted in Interviews, Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

SHARE: READ MORE
James Herbert's The Shrine is now a movie and known as The Unholy
Posted in News, Monday 14th June 2021
The Unholy Cover

Thrilling and unsettling, horror movie The Unholy is available to Download & Keep, Rent on Digital, on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 2 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, from the producer of Evil Dead and Don't Breathe, Sam Raimi, The Unholy stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("The Walking Dead"), Katie Aselton (The Gift), William Sadler (Bill & Ted Face the Music) and newcomer Cricket Brown, with Diogo Morgado (Son of God) and Cary Elwes (Saw) and is based on the book Shrine by James Herbert.

The movie follows a young hearing-impaired girl who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. As people from near...

SHARE: READ MORE
Acclaimed Spanish psychological thriller The Offering gets UK release date
Posted in News, Saturday 12th June 2021
The Offering Image 1

Sovereign has announced the UK release of acclaimed Spanish psychological thriller The Offering on 30th July, in cinemas and on Virtual Cinemas and VOD.

Jan, mysterious and marked by a profound sense of guilt, tries to win back the love of his ex Violeta, who is now a psychiatrist, with a family of her own. Jan's complex and perverse plan to reunite him with Violeta, 20 years after the events that led to their separation, will have severe consequences.

An erotic, intense and revealing adult thriller, with powerful central performances from Alex Brendemühl (Transit), Anna Alarcón (A Thief’s Daughter) and Verónica Echegui (Fortitude), winner of Best Support...

SHARE: READ MORE
From the creators of What We Do In The Shadows comes Wellington Paranormal!
Posted in News, Saturday 12th June 2021
Wellington Paranormal S1 Pack Shot

Wellington Paranormal follows hilariously hapless officers Mark Minogue and Karen O'Leary as they are assigned to the new Paranormal Unit of Wellington's police force, tasked with tackling the increasing number of local crimes and misdemeanours of a supernatural nature.

From Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the visionary creators behind What We Do In The Shadows, comes the smash hit New Zealand comedy series which has taken the UK by storm.

Dazzler Media presents Wellington Paranormal: Season One on Blu-ray, DVD and Download-to-Own from 5th July.

...
SHARE: READ MORE
The Quanderhorn Collexion almost ready for download!
Posted in News, Friday 11th June 2021
The Quanderhorn Collextion

The Quanderhorn Collexion, the acclaimed cult BBC Radio 4 sci-fi comedy by Rob Grant & Andrew Marshall is to be available for download on 16th June from BBC Digital Audio.

It is London, England, 1952 and we meet the mercurial genius Professor Quanderhorn (James Fleet) - a maverick scientist with absolutely no moral compass. Join him and his rag-tag crew on their frontal-lobe-knotting escapades as they:
Battle insane hybrid creatures: the Gorrirrel and the Squirrilla, to the death!
Become Gods to a Stone Age tribe
Are engulfed in a Martian invasion of Earth
Escape shipwreck on the Moon in a spacecraft powered by anger
Evade multiple fien...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel adds First Wave to its weekday evening Sci-Fi Zone
Posted in Features, Thursday 10th June 2021

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with suspenseful, action-driven drama First Wave, which stars Sebastian Spence as Cade Foster, a former security specialist, accused of murdering his wife and now on the run, determined to expose a vast alien infiltration on Earth.

Helping him in his quest is "Crazy" Eddie, a computer hacker who works on a web tabloid, Paranoid Times. Out to stop them is Joshua (Roger R Cross), an alien hit-man, whose mission is to eliminate them before they can expose 'The Gua' (who live among humans in the form of hybridised genetic clones), a...

SHARE: READ MORE
Super 8 - 4K review
Posted in Reviews, Monday 7th June 2021
Super 8 4K coverSuper 8
Paramount Home Entertainment
Certificate 12

The popularity of Stranger Things sparked an interest in all things retro sci-fi/horror 80s style but for many the true resurrection in interest came from a corker from J.J. Abrams, Super 8.

It tells the story of six friends who witness a train wreck while making a Super 8 movie, only to discover that something unimaginable escaped during the crash. They soon discover that the only thing more mysterious than what it is, is what it wants.

Bathed in retro chills and period detail, Super 8 manages to capture the innocence of youth with a punchy script and a very talented teenage cast. The smart part though i...

SHARE: READ MORE
They killed his wife. Framed him for murder. Now he hunts them! First Wave coming to Horror
Posted in Features, Monday 7th June 2021

If its action packed, sci-fi infused drama you are after then First Wave is the series for you. With Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola on board as one of the Executive Producers the series ran for 66 action-packed episodes which managed to combine high-quality drama with a cool conspiracy theory strand.

The series concentrates on former thief now Security Specialist Cade Foster (Sebastian Spence), as he struggles to uncover an alien conspiracy by deciphering prophecies from Nostradamus as well as being on the run for a murder he did not commit. Along the way he meets The Gua, an alien race of hybridised genetic clones who are focused on enslaving the human race.

Now, the problem with informi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Coming soon from Arrow Video, The Sergio Martino Collection
Posted in News, Saturday 5th June 2021
SERGIO MARTINA Collection

One of Italian cinema's most celebrated and prolific filmmakers, Sergio Martino worked across a range of genres, but is arguably best known for his giallo thrillers. This collection from Arrow Video (due 2nd August) brings together three of his finest with a solid collection of extras for each movie.

In The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, recently widowed Lisa Baumer is summoned to Athens to collect her husband's generous life insurance policy, but soon discovers others are willing to kill to get their hands on it. In the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, abrasive drunk Oliviero amuses himself by holding d...

SHARE: READ MORE
Dario Argento classic to get a 4K release
Posted in News, Saturday 5th June 2021
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Cover

In 1970, young first-time director Dario Argento made his indelible mark on Italian cinema with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage - a film which redefined the 'giallo' genre of murder-mystery thrillers and catapulted him to international stardom. Thanks to Arrow Video the film will get a special 4K release on 26th July.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante, We Own the Night), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi, Funeral in Berlin) in a modern art gallery. Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifyi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted in Interviews, Tuesday 1st June 2021
Soska sisiters-WEB-1

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

SHARE: READ MORE
The Soska Sisters and Alexis Kendra bring female fear factor to Horror Channel in June.
Posted in Features, Tuesday 25th May 2021
Horror Channel - June PR banner

This month, Horror Channel highlights the work of female genre talent with the Channel premieres of Rabid, the Soska Sisters visceral remake of David Cronenberg's body horror classic and The Cleaning Lady, written by and starring Alexis Kendra (Goddess of Love), who also produced the much-acclaimed twisted psychological chiller.

Rabid (on the 12th) is the hugely welcomed remake of David Cronenberg's body horror classic from directors, The Soska Sisters. It received its World Premiere at FrightFest 2019 before being released worldwide. They are the first filmmakers to re-imagine one of Cronenberg's films and the fellow Canadian was very impressed with the ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Articles Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Shut In
SHUT IN
Saturday 26th June
9.00 PM
Honeymoon
HONEYMOON
Monday 21st June
10.45 PM
Lava Storm
LAVA STORM
Saturday 26th June
6.45 PM