Submitted by Filip Halo
We want to celebrate all things horror, but sometimes we just stay on the surface. That is something I needed to change with The Darkest Nothing: Paraphrenia, I wanted to create something more than just a couple of random references or a small tribute to other horror movies that meant something to their audience. I wanted to create a dialogue between the content and message of those movies and The Darkest Nothing, in some cases to explain the basics behind the original inspiration, especially for ideas that were based on psychological studies, like the case of The Thing and the original The Thing From Another World. In other cases, I wanted to re-capture a magical moment, without copying it, as seen or remembered by the lead character in the Darkest Nothing, Judy, the subject of the study of the whole psychotherapy. In some other cases, especially with music videos and song lyrics, mostly from famous pop songs, I wanted to find the missing link behind the industry’s manipulation on us and if it is intended or not, with some harsh critique for some of them that contained images and meanings that should have been censored or restricted to younger audience, but were too profitable and big, compared to more underground music genres that were indeed censored, like hip hop, punk and heavy metal.
A detailed view on all the references will be available when the movie will be released, but for now I want to intrigue and motivate the audience and other filmmakers with some examples, simply because HORROR has significantly been dropped out of competition during the last decade, with a few exceptions like the Oscars surprise this year, mostly due to repeated themes, cliche boring scripts, standard supernatural easy-to-create stories, as if the genre needed more silliness. For me, horror is closely related to the majestic and elite word “macabre” and to the original first approach in the ancient Greek tragedies, in which the word that was used instead of horror was AWE (deos)! The unimaginable, most of the times, is real life itself, especially at this day and age, now that internet took over and the real darkness of the human mind has finally found new ways of expression, more sophisticated and complicated and so precise and specific. Compared to the average Creepy Pasta story, 99% of the horror movies that come out are children’s boring fairy tales. One of the biggest reasons that I am putting all this extra almost mathematically precise effort in my movie, is simply that most new horror movies make me fall asleep very easily, they lose me at a certain point and they cannot manage to punch me as hard as they should. Sure, we also need comedies and parodies, but let’s face it, TV series offer far better options lately than movies do, but there is still something missing, that weird disturbing feeling we all got at least once by watching a horror movie that felt almost alive or haunted, that crawled under our skin and destroyed parts of our brain, only to open the door for other parts not previously in use.
The two picture sheets are a small example of references The Darkest Nothing integrates inside the story, without affecting the main plot or the viewer’ experience. You can focus on the dialogue and the action, but if you want to make a little research on what those movie moments, music videos, or even real life crimes and events were all about, you will get a different meaning out of each sequence, almost like a magic hidden 3D image. The first, is the case of Remy Couture, a Canadian fx artist that went to court to defend two of his short movies, in a country that has produced the first David Cronenberg’s movies in the 70’s with state funding and other weird horror gems like Ilsa She Wolf of the SS and the Canadian slasher thriller wave. His photographs and screenshots of his movies appear for some reason on Google under Deep Web, Dark Web and similar searches. The second case is John Carpenter’s The Thing and the one scene that almost nobody really mentions, which for me is the most important part of the entire movie: how the whole crew easily decided to burn the first shapeshifter alive, without any information about the alien organism, right after the dog sequence. The whole idea is based on the studies of the so-called Capgras and Fregoli Syndromes, but was probably too complicated for audiences back then, when the original story came out, so the author used the alien life form as an almost cheap excuse for explaining human behavior. We have to analyze some important horror milestones from that perspective and for their deeper meanings, even if the author or director created them by pure instinct. I wish that some reporters would finally ask such scientific questions to movie directors and that they would focus more on meanings than on the basic marketing of a movie.
There is a complicated reference that combines two movies that came around the same time, one being a huge mainstream hit that has built careers since, because it cleverly excluded the graphic details, but managed to include hints of them, Se7en, and the other still being one of the most obscure and rare movies, that has only been released on VHS in The Netherlands and nowhere else, Necrophobia. Both approach sex and death, with Se7en hiding the murder weapon in a glimpse on a Polaroid picture that can been seen for one little moment, inspired probably by a song by Cannibal Corpse, a band that was banned for their similar-in-content lyrics and album covers in several countries, and the other movie depicting the act of necrophilia in glorious art direction, but also trying to explain the reasons for the whole perversion. Is it just hypocritical that nobody knows this little Dutch movie, while everybody praises Fincher’s work? Do some people simply use horror elements for their own commercial benefit, simply because they look cool and sell well? In a big research I did before re-creating the prop that is depicted on that Polaroid, only 1 person out of 100 recognized the screenshot and the movie. We can easily assume that this one counts as a subliminal message and probably misogyny and hardcore sexual violence, and that the movie needed to be available only to adults, while in most countries was available for teenagers, while a movie like Necrophobia never got the chance to face any censorship, because it was doomed by distributors and industry people back then, who were too afraid to even touch it or try to release it.
I included Pasolini’s Porcile, for the simple reason that the screenshot was a marketing little trick. There is a weird connection between the character “Butcher” and Pasolini’s work. The Ring on the other hand is that one moment in time, that every viewer can probably still remember, the chills in the spine, when the girl comes out of the television set. It is purely metaphorical and is also something almost nobody talks about, the deeper meaning that the original Ringu story had inside and how stupid the producers who tried to copy the formula after Ring’s success were, cause they never understood the meaning behind it. Box office success is one thing, but all those other movies are already forgotten. The Ring is not a ghost story, and for its message about how media affect us is very close to The Darkest Nothing.
I wanted to focus on a violent cinematic dinner scene, by combining elements of 3 different movies, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hannibal and Would You Rather, and the invincible connection between them, even if most people don’t bother to mention the importance of the scene in the TCM and how much it has influenced a number of movies that followed. The main focus here is the editing and psychological tricks on how to create tension and suspense, and this time is a tribute to Tobe Hooper’s masterful work, compared to a more graphic mainstream Hannibal, with a scene so bad, that you can find cases of audience laughing at the premiere, because of a hidden joke that fits appropriately on Ray Liotta’s character, depending on the language you speak. Again, the one movie outraged people, although it was one of the first real blockbusters, together with JAWS, but no real box office numbers appear anywhere, simply because of the nature of the producers and what they and Hooper did with the money and the rights and with the participants, actors and crew, who saw nothing out of the pie, but still a big hit, compared to a forced sequel blockbuster, with some good moments and an awful supposedly shocking scene in the end, that wasn’t butchered by censors. The Would You Rather part of the reference is the cherry on top, as an appreciation for a movie that could have become a classic, but didn’t go all the way to achieve it.
Following the same nostalgic horror fan path, a very weird scene out of Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker (Night Warning), for the simple reason that out of the whole video nasties list, this one stood out easily and was ahead of its time in terms of psychology and tension, although it looks simple and cheap. The scene is also a wonderful acting moment, but there is another hidden connection to it, that will be made clear for some viewers, when The Darkest Nothing will be released. I also had to include something from Mario Bava, his masterpiece that came closer to Bunuel and Louis Malle’s cinema, but also included some very iconic images, scenes and thoughts and a unique movie plot, that somehow feels so familiar to us like a folk tale. The particular reference is one that I have to point out, because it is very hard to spot, although it contains a clever twist on the original dialogue as well.
A small example of the countless music video references inside the movie is something out of Prince’s library, and visuals from the not so well known but pretty significant music video for Violet The Organ Grinder, where Prince introduced his most famous outfit and style. The script was written before his death and I have struggled with the idea of including the 5 references or not. It is not relevant for younger audiences anymore, but it is still a part of our childhood or younger years and he was one of those great artists, that simply got way too far at a certain point and intruded our lives with images and symbols that we could not understand as children. BDSM, sexual in-jokes and an almost prophetic prediction about males and their more feminine side in his lyrics and attitude, that is apparent nowadays more than ever. Those mixed emotions about him and his music, forced me to keep the references and to make people think about the butterfly effect of one little piece of information, our thoughts afterwards and how such artists influenced the modern society in good and bad ways, but also how it was absolutely OK, because they were represented by huge music labels, that could put them anywhere on the planet, in every house and in every store. Horror always avoided to comment on popular culture, and I want to point out that after studying the lives of countless serial killers, that most of them had one thing in common: they loved POP music. American Psycho was right, and the pop references in the Darkest Nothing serve one single purpose, to make us judge, to make us think again what the lyrics were all about.
The final example for now, is the one movie that influenced me the most so far in my life, Zulawski’s Possession, which is also the ultimate test for actors to understand deeper dark acting. Instead of referencing the movie, I wanted to play with the whole idea of the two sisters, Fate and Chance, and one of the most bizarre and complicated scenes in the movie, after Sam Neil’s character receives and plays back the film reel of his wife, that was filmed by her boyfriend. If you haven’t paid close attention to that whole scene already, try to watch it separately. During a normal screening of the movie, the viewer gets easily lost in that scene, and stops following the plot or the editing techniques, but this one is probably the most psychotic moment in the history of cinema, and the turning point of the movie, that led to the whole second immoral anti-human part, that made the movie so notorious and forced censors to ban it, without really knowing why. The whole ballet scene and the movie Possession in general needs a very detailed article, and that is why I gave so much thought and time on how to incorporate the meaning of Possession in the Darkest Nothing and why I tried to find the secret recipe, that even Zulawski created by chance during a dark time of his life. Possession is a haunted movie that jumps out of the screen and attacks the brain of the viewer like a mind worm, it stays there and slowly eats a part of your brain. Throughout the entire Darkest Nothing: Paraphrenia plot, there are a lot of hidden references and details that go back to Possession, even names, and especially the two main characters of the movie, as compared to the two main characters in Possession. If you watch Possession right after you watch The Darkest Nothing, you will be able to find out and locate a number of hidden messages and meanings. An extra layer of The Darkest Nothing is my attempt to create a dialogue between the two movies and to extend the ideas of that movie and its importance. I will post an entire article on this subject on the movie’s website, when the movie will be released.