Do We Have to Explain Everything? Director Patricio Valladares on 'Nightworld'
"...with my previous movie Downhill, that screened at FrightFest in 2016, a lot of people were bothered by the fact that I left things in the plot without explaining them."
NightworldDirector: Patricio Valladares
Cast: Jason London, Robert Englund, Gianni Capaldi
UK Release date: 2017-08-25
US Release date: 2017-10-20
Horror Channel Fright Fest 2017City: London
Venue: The Prince Charles Cinema
“I believe that all people fear what awaits us after death,” says Chilean filmmaker Patricio Valadares. “I would like to live a life after death -- reincarnation in the future.” The genre filmmaker who has built a reputation with 2014’s Hidden in the Woods (2014) and last year’s Downhill, delves into the afterlife with Nightworld (2017), whose tagline reads: “The afterlife is darker than you think.”
The film follows Brett Anderson (Jason London), a former LAPD officer and grieving widower who, haunted by encounters with death and loss, takes a job as head of security at an old apartment building. At first what seems a mundane assignment becomes more perilous as Anderson discovers a malevolent force trapped in the bowels of the building that wants its freedom.
Ahead of the European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest, Valadares discusses with PopMatters the inevitable learning process that confronts the filmmaker, one weighed down by mystery and uncertainty. He also talks about the relationship between the filmmaker and genre, frustrations of the demand for explanation, and the transformative nature of the filmmaking process.
Why filmmaking as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?
Well, it has a long history. During my childhood I was a fan of comic books, the colour, the narrative and the violence was so much fun, and after that came movies. When I was 18 years old, I picked up a hi8 video camera and one weekend with a good friend shot a horror short film. I found that I really enjoyed shooting movies and afterward felt that this could be my profession. At this current time, I may love filmmaking more than I love comic books, although maybe it is possible to work with both forms of expression, but I just want to tell stories with a history.
Filmmakers have remarked to me that filmmaking is a constant learning curve. Is it similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle?
Well in my opinion, it is a different process for each filmmaker, but it’s true that you are constantly learning. It's very strange when I now see my old movies because I see only all of the bad things. I’ll ask: “What was wrong with me? It looks so bad… It looks so stupid.” But that's normal and I never stop learning when shooting a movie. For example, my first movies didn’t have a full script, only 30 pages, and I’d rewrite the movie in the editing room. And we are a long way from making a good movie.
Filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon told me: “The medium and the mystery of the process is that I could wake up one day and not know where to put the camera. Not that I know where to put the camera now, but you walk in with a certain sense.” Could we describe the filmmaking or creative process as a void of apprehension and uncertainty?
Yeah, this is very true and I feel these same vibes. I try to work with a storyboard and talk with my cinematographer about the ideas I have of where to put the camera, but shooting there are always different problems with the aesthetics etc. because you need to work continuously to adapt the space. Maybe it's different on big budget movies like in Hollywood, but I don't know, and so for me it’s a mystery too.
I like to place the camera at different angles because I love Todd McFarlane’s comics. He is a master of narrative and storytelling in comic book form, and he’s an important reference for me, and so I will always try to shoot my movies with a lot angles. The space and location is also important in movies like Nightworld, and the location to me is another character in the story -- more like a principal star in the flick. When you are creating a paranormal movie, you have a lot of elements in your hand, but location is the big one.
Speaking with director Martin Zandvliet for Land of Mine (2016), he said: "What’s most important as a director is you should be present. It’s not just a script that you need to film. You need to always be ready to change things..." Would you agree, and does instinct play a part in this readiness? Could we describe the process of filmmaking as learning to hone one's instincts, so that you can eventually function on instinct?
I agree with Zandvliet. A director will be involved in all areas of the production of a movie, from script to marketing. Making a movie for me is like having children. They need work every day before they are ready and an audience can watch them. I started making movies in Chile with no budget, then with some money from the Chilean government and so I know every area of work that goes into shooting a flick -- I was the cinematographer, cameraman, editor, producer, writer and director of my movies. It's tiring, but fun, and this school helped me learn the process of filmmaking. After all of this I can now make real movies.
What was the genesis of the idea for Nightworld?
Loris Curci, the producer, whose story this is first told me about his idea maybe three years ago when he asked me if I could make a teaser poster for the project. We were working together on Hidden in the Woods, but he was still looking for investment from a production company at that time.
When I’d finished shooting Downhill in Chile, he invited me to work on The Ghosts of Garip (Vlad’s Legacy, 2016) in Turkey, and after this he told me that he’d got the budget for shooting Nightworld. Our idea was to shoot the movie in a very contemplative and in an academy style, like an old Italian horror movie. Loris and Barry Keating, who is very talented, all worked on the writing of the final script, which I loved. So I feel that it’s Sinister (2012) meets The Ninth Gate (1999) with the style of an old Italian horror movie.
Photo of Patricio Valladeres and Robert Englund courtesy of GlobalGroup-BG
Is it genre that influences the filmmaker or the filmmaker that shapes genre? Or is it a collaboration between the two?
It’s a difficult question for me. I think that for many years filmmakers and artists established the genre, and then a lot of filmmakers have made movies because the genre has influenced their lives. Influences in my childhood were music, such as metal, thrash and death metal with all their cover and poster art and lyrics. And of course, there are a lot of genre movies that I picked up on and which inspired and influenced me to try to make genre films.
Speaking with British genre filmmaker Christopher Smith, he remarked: "I think horror has become utterly boring. That’s not to say that the horror genre is tiring to me, but everybody has got to pull their socks up a bit and start to dig a bit deeper. The stuff that is being churned out and that people are turning into blockbusters is mostly utter shit and it’s just about finding a way to move on from that." What are your own feelings towards the horror genre?
Firstly, I'm a fan of Christopher Smith’s work. This question about horror and if it's difficult to create something original today -- yes, I feel that's true. There are a lot of talented people working in the movies, comics, and music, in this ‘media world’, and filmmakers need to take time with an idea. I like to shoot, edit and market my movies in a way that is different and original.
By the way, the big problem for me is that the audience likes to see these movies with very fast and simple stories. For example, with my previous movie Downhill, that screened at FrightFest in 2016, a lot of people were bothered by the fact that I left things in the plot without explaining them. But why do we have to explain everything? I love to watch experimental movies and imagine for myself those things that are not in the story.
German filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me, “You are evolving, and after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the creative process?
Of course, and I’ve made movies and I can say to you that I’m not the same person that I was before. You’re learning about the creative process, and taking away an experience that will help you to shoot a better movie, and you could be learning about a new culture. I’m a Chilean director who shoots movies in the US, Turkey, and Bulgaria, and that informs you.
Nightworld has its European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest, 6:15PM, Friday 25 August 2017 at The Prince Charles Cinema, London.