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Neill Blomkamp's Horror 'Demonic' Inspired by Volumetric Capture


Neill Blomkamp is a name synonymous with the groundbreaking District 9. It's hard to believe that it's been over a decade since his South African sci-fi thriller earned a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Since then, Blomkamp has directed Elysium, Chappie and a host of short films under his Oats Studios initiative. Being attached to the Alien and then RoboCop reboots, there have been some rather exciting possibilities, which has unfortunately created more news than credits for the visionary sci-fi director.

His latest move is into the realm of supernatural horror and science fiction with Demonic, which was filmed secretly in British Columbia over the course of the 2020 pandemic. Influenced by the pandemic, which put Blomkamp's other projects on hold, he wanted to do something he could control and "just go out and shoot". Blomkamp decided to delve into horror with a typically sci-fi idea involving around volumetric capture and demon possession. The story revolves around an unconventional reunion between a daughter and her estranged convict mother when they become part of a medical tech firm's experimental therapy treatment.

Starring Carly Pope and Nathalie Boltt, as Carly and her mass murderer mother Angela, Demonic follows an attempt to tap into a mother's still-active brain in order to communicate after she falls into a coma. Entering a disturbing simulation, where Carly is confronted by her comatose mother's mind - she soon discovers that the grisly acts of violence her mother carried out were the result of supernatural forces.

The concept behind this visually-inventive film recalls The Cell with Jennifer Lopez allowing Carly to walk inside Angela's mind through a virtual reality that creates some engaging dreamscapes. Blomkamp wasn't going for full-blown science fiction but running with his fascination between "the brain as a computational device" and the potential for it to be "connected to other sources". Using a new technology called volumetric capture or 3D video, where actors are turned into geometry, a over 200 cameras are arranged to form a grid so they capture actors from all points of view.

Working closely with his DOP, Byron Kopman, the two discussed the lighting... moving away from the propensity for horror films to make "dark environments feel overly lit and synthetic". Opting to go for scenes with the goal of getting a real feel with as little light as possible, the filmmakers tended toward illuminating scenes with only headlights and flashlights instead of the cliché of what he calls "giant moonlight with smoke going through the air".

Leaning into the technology space, Blomkamp turned to acclaimed composer, Ola Strandh, who's best known for his video game scores. Blomkamp finds music to be a "wealth of inspiration" and makes sure to take note of new artists he admires, which is how the two formed the collaboration.

While Demonic's praised for being bold and visually-inventive, Blomkamp's low budget supernatural horror thriller has been met with mostly negative reviews so far.

 
It All Begins Again with Ghostbusters: Afterlife


Ghostbusters is a supernatural comedy film series made famous in 1984 with a sequel, Ghostbusters II in 1989. Since then, the third film has been elusive in part due to Bill Murray's reluctance, made even more challenging by the passing of Harold Ramis in 2014. While the Ghostbusters films have stalled in terms of the original line-up like a bad rock band reunion, the concept behind the story still holds intrigue.

There was enough interest to spark an all-girls remake of the original starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. While the reboot drew staunch criticism, mostly for its gender reversal, it was middling and didn't impress at the box office. The fourth film in the series has gone on to have another stab in the dark. This time, Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, has returned to give the original series a third film that follows 30 years after the events of Ghostbusters II. Usually when a "son of" becomes involved, it spells disaster but maybe that was just The Son of the Mask?

This time around, the fourth Ghostbusters film centres on a single mother and her two kids who move to a "creepy old farm house in the middle of nowhere" also known as Summerville, Oklahoma where they discover their grandfather's secret legacy. Titled Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the film screened at CinemaCon in Las Vegas with a cinematic release that has been delayed four times. This film appeals to nostalgia, featuring original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts.

Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace and Paul Rudd. This is a big step up for Carrie Coon who's best known for her recurring role in The Leftovers with supporting roles in Gone Girl, Avengers: Infinity War and The Post. Finn Wolfhard is a child actor who has racked up considerable credits in the It reboot and Stranger Things opposite McKenna Grace, who is known for her strong performance in Gifted and spirited supporting role in Young Sheldon. Rounding off a promising cast, chock-full of throwbacks to the original, is Paul Rudd... who must be an avid fan and just seems perfect for the world of Ghostbusters.

Based on the trailer, the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife recalls Steven Spielberg's depiction of the '80s. Gathering a Super 8 feel, much like JJ Abrams' homage to Spielberg, the film taps into the nostalgia of the cinematic era with an E.T. meets Goonies feel. A slow immersion not unlike Transformers, it seems as though this clever concept is the first of a full reprisal of the iconic film series. Expect eye-popping visual effects and sharp performances in a film laden with a spirit of discovery and mystery.

 
10 Tragic Film Set Disasters


Alec Baldwin was recently involved in a fatal movie set accident when a prop gun misfired, killing the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring the director, Joel Souza. Busy filming the New Mexico western, Rust, with co-producer Baldwin also playing the lead... no charges have been laid yet with a full scale investigation currently underway. The incident recalls the tragic death of 24-year-old Brandon Lee during the filming of action thriller, The Crow (1994), who died after a slug was dislodged and fired into his abdomen by a prop .44 Magnum revolver loaded with blanks.

The shock news story and Hutchins' tragic death serves as yet another reminder of the dangers of working in an industry concerned with the art of illusion. Flirting dangerously close with death in order to get the perfect shot, it's imperative that experienced stunts and munitions professionals are hired to perform and co-ordinate stunts. Tragically, accidents can and do happen on set with Rust joining the long list of deadly movie sets. While these tragedies do lead to films becoming notorious, they should also serve as a healthy reminder of just how much stunt people put their bodies on the line for the sake of the silver screen.

These equally devastating incidents just highlight their contribution and makes you wonder why stunt performers don't get more acknowledgement or recognition beyond in memoriam film dedications. Their efforts are designed to become invisible and while they understand the risks of the job, it just seems as though there isn't enough award recognition for their efforts, respect for their contributions or compensation when accidents happen.

10 Tragic Film Set Disasters

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Steven Spielberg's Twilight Zone: The Movie is steeped in notoriety after a tragic incident led to the death of actor Vic Morrow and two children, who were hired illegally. The production used multiple directors to film three short films, which played as a feature film. During the shooting of an aerial stunt sequence directed by John Landis, tragedy struck when high winds, pyrotechnics and an overly complicated stunt forced a low-flying helicopter to crash into the path of Morrow and the two children.

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story (2014)

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story is an unfinished biographical drama, which was set to star William Hurt but led to an investigation due to criminal negligence. Tragedy struck on the first day of filming on an active railroad trestle bridge over the Altamaha River in Georgia. When a train approached, the cast and crew got off the tracks leaving their props behind. Hitting a gurney the train inadvertently threw second assistant camerawoman, Sarah Jones, into the path of the locomotive killing her instantly and injuring several others. This incident has led to the creation of the Safety for Sarah movement.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

The finale to the successful and long-running Resident Evil franchise, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich, left the zombie action series on a tragic note after a serious injury and death rocked the production. Jovovich's experienced stunt double, Olivia Jackson (Mad Max: Fury Road), lost her left arm after injuries sustained during a motorbike stunt forced her to have it amputated. After this horrific ordeal, the set suffered yet another disaster after crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was killed during a botched car stunt involving a Humvee after it slid off a platform and pinned him to a wall, resulting in injuries that led to his death hours later.

Dead Pool 2

Ryan Reynolds is the star of Dead Pool, an irreverent action comedy that sees the actor play the titular near-invincible and masked superhero. The much-anticipated sequel was marred by the death of stunt performer, Joi 'SJ' Harris, who died after hitting a curb, losing control of her motorcycle and crashing into a plate glass window during an action sequence near Shaw Tower in Vancouver, Canada. An experienced rider, it was her first job and she wasn't wearing a helmet because her stunt double character, Domino, didn't wear one in the scene.

xXx (2002)

xXx was a stunt-orientated actioner for Vin Diesel in his prime, which saw the actor take on an action adrenaline hero. Sadly, Diesel's stunt double, Conway Wickliffe, who died on set after suffering a severe head trauma during a botched stunt rehearsal. Preparing for a scene involving the Batmobile, Wickliffe was leaning out of a Nissan 4x4 travelling parallel to an old American police car when the driver failed to make a 90 degree turn at the end of the run only to hit a tree.

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Being a tribute to action men of the '80s, it's no surprise that Sly Stallone's Expendables series is jam-packed with wild stunt work and pyrotechnics. The Expendables 2 upped their game, going for bigger and better and hiring Con Air director Simon West to replace Stallone. Tragically, a sequence shot by the second unit saw the death of 26-year-old Kun Liu and injury to Nuo Sun after the stuntmen got too close to an explosion near a rubber boat on the Ognyanovo dam in Bulgaria.

Top Gun (1986)

The iconic '80s film is celebrated in pop culture but a tragic aerial stunt sequence still haunts the film's crew and cast. Well-known and experienced stunt pilot, Art Scholl, was flying a Pitts S-2 camera plane and wasn't able to maintain altitude after an uncontrollable spin forced him to plunge into the Pacific Ocean off the Californian coastline never to be recovered. A chilling and fateful moment, observers watched the incident unfurl in which his last words were "I have a real problem".

Red Heat (1988)

Red Heat is a buddy cop movie from the '80s co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi, who play police officers on either side of the Iron Curtain. Sadly, stunt coordinator Bennie E. Dobbins known for TRON, The Running Man and Commando suffered a heart attack, brought on by a bad case of pneumonia.

Jumper (2008)

Jumper is a sci-fi thriller directed by Doug Liman, starring Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell. Tragically, 56-year-old set dresser, David Ritchie (X-Men), was killed when frozen debris from an exterior set struck him and workers below whilst dismantling an outdoor set in wintry conditions, seriously injuring another man.

Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

Wes Craven's horror comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn, sees the charming Eddie Murphy playing opposite Angela Bassett in a story about a vampire trying to ensure the legacy of his blood line. While quite forgettable as a film, it is remembered for Timecop and Strange Days stunt double, Sonja Davis, who fell 42 feet to her death.
 
How Many Times Can You Scream?


Just like a classic slasher villain, The Scream franchise refuses to die. Wes Craven's meta serial killer horror mystery thriller set the ghostface killer in motion in 1996 and now 25 years later, we're staring down a reboot in 2022. Slashers typically have some good replay value and whether you kill the masked villain off or not, it seems inconsequential as long as one can rise up in their place.

The original film starred Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox and let's not forget Drew Barrymore and Matthew Lillard. The headline trio of Campbell, Arquette and Cox have returned for the reboot also named Scream. You'd think that 'Ghostface' would be a good title for the franchise resurrection but the producers are looking to capture the brand's audience rather than trying to create something shiny and new.

At least Scream 4 tried something by reworking the title into SCRE4M a decade ago, delivering a fairly lacklustre return in spite of reassembling the original team. Featuring the same actors as this reboot, which actually hinges on the original's lore, it's almost as if the fourth installment never happened.

Neve Campbell is a mascot for the Scream series, who's inextricable link to playing Sidney Prescott has probably been as much of a help as a hinderance over the years. Luckily for Campbell, the constant attempts at reviving the series and character keep her in business. However, one wonders just how long this revival stunt will keep happening. Will she be in her 80s still dodging a masked killer at a retirement home?

Hello Sidney - Scream

Based on the Scream 4's box office profitability, it seems as though no end is in sight. Whether they find a new Sidney... or Tara if you've watched the trailer, it seems as though like Titanic the heart of Scream will go on. Brandishing a modest budget of $40 million, the fourth installment managed to rake in almost $100 million in takings after a $173 million, $161 million and $172 million streak for its trilogy. This fifth Scream film and "reboot" will be the decider. Based on the sluggish post-pandemic return to cinemas numbers... it's make or break. Just like the Fast and Furious managed to overcome Tokyo Drift and an iffy non-Diesel sequel, it's rare but at least possible for a series to reach new loftier heights. Brandishing the meta angle, this series manages to stay fresh by virtue of its self-reference and comedic undertones. Right now, this kind of ironic edge is most welcome... so Scream has everything to lose.

Based on the trailer, it seems as though the new Scream (or Scream 5) is just going for a rinse and repeat trying to capitalise on the 25 year anniversary as a story and marketing concept. Updating the story to latch onto our over-reliance on technology and social media, it could bring something fresh to the butcher's block. Roping in a next generation of fresh meat, the slasher is going for a precarious handover of sorts with enough old "furniture" to revive the nostalgia and spirit of the original. Sprouting lines like "I'm Sidney Prescott, of course I've got a gun.", perhaps this will be Campbell or Prescott's final Scream? Right now, it's becoming a will they or won't they on discontinuing the core character who's becoming more and more likely to don the ghostface mask and come full circle to play the slasher. Let's just hope the Ghostface Killer mask is more a scream than a yawn.

 
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