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Chords in Conversation: Marvin Kren Talks Blood Glacier

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His career might have started by making short films but Austrian filmmaker Marvin Kren successfully managed to impress horror fans across the globe with his 2010 zombie movie Rammbock. Staying with the genre, Kren’s follow up Blood Glacier received its debut as part of the Midnight Madness programme at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was then brought to our shores when it was shown as part of the 2013 Frightfest Halloween allnighter which took place at Vue Cinemas Leicester Square London.

Ahead of the UK release of Blood Glacier (aka The Station), we caught up with Marvin to discuss his film and his thoughts about the release being compared to the ultimate creature film, John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Hi Marvin, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

So Blood Glacier will soon be unleashed on the UK. Where did the journey start?

My first feature was Rambock. It was a zombie film set in Berlin and I felt comfortable in the genre as I like it so much. I grew up with creature feature films and I loved films like Tremors. I also like films where you can laugh and be fearful at the same time through the actions of the protagonist, it’s like a roller coaster. There was a producer who asked us what we were planning next so we pitched him this old school creature feature idea that tried to update on the creature feature classics like The Thing and he loved it so we went for it.

Great stuff. Marvin, in your own words how would you describe Blood Glacier?

Blood Glacier is an old school creature feature monster film where a group of scientists working on a station in the mountains discovers something wrong with a glacier which starts to bleed. At the same time, a minister for the environment is planning to tour the area and it appears that the liquid from the glacier makes mutants of the animals living in the mountain, putting everyone in danger.

So what was the inspiration behind the story?

The inspiration comes from old school creature features. It’s about a group of people in a cabin who have to fight against creatures but I wanted to tell a story where the group of people were actually worse than the creatures that were trying to attack them from outside.

I understand that the film was shot entirely on location. That must have been tough for everyone involved. What was it like?

The film was shot in the Italian Alps in south Creole which used to be Austrian but is now Italian. It was a tough shoot as I didn’t want to shoot it in a studio. I wanted to shoot it in an original place where you can feel the exhaustion in the actors’ faces. We shot it at 3,000 metres which is very high and really assaulting as the air is really thin there. My mother (Bridget Kren) plays the minister in the film and she is much older so she found it especially hard. But it was also a picture which involved a number of animatronics to create the creatures in the mountain so at the end of the day it was lots of fun. The shooting took 30 days and I loved it.

GletscherblutSo tell us more about your creature designs…

For the creatures I was speaking to a very famous artist in Austria called Tomak. You should Google him out. He’s a great drawer and he is always focusing his drawings on the perversion of the human body or animals. I told him about my mutants in the hope that I would find a good partner to realise my vision. We tried to find some creature feature art for puppet artists who would be good, most of which were based in London but proved too expensive. There was someone in Hungary but then there was someone in Germany who fit nicely.

Why are you so focused on using animatronics?

What is very important for me is that when I see a creature it’s so much better. If I can’t see it, touch it, or smell them, the realism is lost. Therefore it was important that our mutants were creatures which were a cross-breed between insects and mammals and had a certain smell and appearance so we could get a reaction using the same tricks that old school films used such as extensions to make them more realistic.

Tell me your thoughts about the comparisons between Blood Glacier and The Thing?

The film was premiered in Toronto as part of Midnight Madness and Variety or The Hollywood Reporter wrote “Austria’s answer to The Thing“. A lot of people see similarities between the two films and I have to admit that it is obvious that there are some references but it was never my intention to do a remake of The Thing. I simply got ideas and elements of it along with my love for creature feature films like Tremors to bow and pay respect to the classics which inspired me to become a filmmaker.

So what’s next?

I’m doing two thrillers for German TV and I am planning a new horror film which is more of a technology horror film a bit like Catcher in the Rye meets The Devil. There is also ABCS of Death 2. I have the letter “R for Roulette” and I think you can pretty much imagine what I am referencing with that.

Cinema Chords would like to thank Marvin Kren for taking time out to speak with us. Blood Glacier is available on DVD from 27th January and we’re sure the trailer below will more than tempt you into grabbing this one while you can.


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FeaturesKiller Chords

Found Footage: Cheap filmmaking or immersive entertainment?

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When people mention found footage people immediately think of films like The Blair Witch Project complete with its extreme close-ups and vomit inducing camera techniques. But used right, found footage can become just as effective as 3D in providing an immersive environment, creating an opportunity for audiences to grow closer to a film. So with the recent release of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil’s Due it would seem that found footage films are still popular with modern audiences. As such, we have taken this opportunity to delve into the history of the genre to investigate if it’s any good as a style of filmmaking.

The genre began years before with the 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust, but the genre did not come into its own until The Blair Witch Project’s effective viral marketing had the world fooled making audiences around the globe believe it was real. Fast forward to recent times and with the advancement of technology and the Internet, this kind of storytelling has become part of our culture with the introduction of Social Media and YouTube.

Considering the profitability of found footage it was only a matter of time before writers began to experiment with different ways to use it. Since the release of The Blair Witch Project (1999), studios were quick to jump on the bandwagon and released their own found footage films which also performed well at the box office with such films like Paranormal Activity (2007) and Cloverfield (2008). But despite their success, audiences have continued to struggle in embracing this style of filmmaking and aren’t quite on the shaky-cam bandwagon.

But why do the studios continue to release found footage films knowing very well that it divides audiences? This answer to this is simple. Not only do these kind of films require a much smaller budget to make but they also come with a stronger potential for high return on their investments. So what about indie filmmakers? What does the found footage genre offer to them? We already know that employing this style can be a cheap but found footage provides a cheap way of making a film as practically any story can be turned into a found footage movie.

So in today’s sea of found footage titles it is worth remembering that for every Paranormal Activity there are several lesser impressive imitations that are just plain awful. In an effort to save you time we have put together a list of five films which we believe are solid examples of found footage movies that use this style of filmmaking to its advantage.

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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Dir. Scott Glosserman

Set in a world where Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers are real,  BTM: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is told through the lens of a camera man and a journalism intern as they shadow an up and coming serial killer. Through the film we see interviews with Leslie and he shows us into the world of being a serial killer. Doing for found footage films what Scream did for the slasher genre, I strongly urge you to check this out.

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[REC]
Dir. Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Rec is a terrifying film shot from the perspective of a camera man working with a reporter who are spending the night with a group of firemen to observe what they get up to when night falls. The night starts off slow until a routine call comes in and she is invited along. At the location, an old women is found badly hurt, soon things begin to spiral out of control. The film has a very claustrophobic feel to it and the horrors found inside the apartment building are superbly done and actually scary.

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Cloverfield
Dir. Matt Reeves

Some may say that Cloverfield is a film which divides audiences but I think it provides a breath of fresh air for monster movies. The film follows a group of party-goers trying desperately to survive the chaos in New York when a huge alien monster is laying waste to the city.

Despite a relatively short running time the film is packed with plenty of action, jump scares and some outstanding special effects.

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Chronicle
Dir. Josh Trank

Chronicle is a clear example of found footage that does not belong to the horror genre. The story follows three high school students who gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground. As they learn to master their new found powers their bond is tested when one of them embraces their dark side. Featuring impressive visuals and a solid soundtrack the movie effortlessly begins as a found footage film but quickly grows into a fast-paced action movie.

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V/H/S
Dir. Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard

The Creepshow of found footage, the film’s wrap-around follows a team of unlikable criminals breaking into what appears to be an uninhabited residence hoping to recover a specific tape. Upon searching the house, the guys are confronted with a dead body, a hub of old televisions and an endless supply of cryptic footage, each video stranger than the last. Featuring hauntings, serial killers, paranormal activity and other unexplained phenomenon V/H/S will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Is found footage cheap filmmaking or immersive entertainment? The answer is both but filmmakers and studio bosses need to remember that using creative camera techniques as a substitute for lousy characters, a bad idea, or bad story telling. However, there are films like the ones above which prove that when done right, found footage can become immersive entertainment.

What is your verdict on found footage? Share your opinions in the comments below.

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The Quiet Ones Trailer – Proof you shouldn’t play with ghosts!

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Hammer Films is a UK based production company and is most famous for dominating the horror film market enjoying considerable financial success. Over the years it has churned out some of the best horror films ever to grace our screens and its most recent titles include Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011) and the massively successful The Woman In Black (2012).

The latest offering from Hammer Films is The Quiet Ones. Directed by John Pogue (Quarantine 2) and co-written by Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman and Tom de Ville. The film is set in 1974 and the story of an british university professor who leads a team of his best students in a dangerous experiment to perform a series of tests on a young patient with ghastly results.

From the look of the trailer it appears that the films is not only based on real events but it would seem that there are plenty of chills and scares ahead. So why not take the time to check out the trailer below and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

The Quiet Ones stars Jared Harris, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards and Sam Clafflin in his first post catching fire role. Will you brave the chance to see the movie when it is released in cinemas across the UK on 11th April 2014.


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InterviewsKiller Chords

Drew Cullingham Talks The Devils Bargain

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It’s 1974, Earth as we know it is about to be obliterated by an asteroid. What would be a better way to spend your last remaining moments than in the sweet embrace of your lover? Until things start to get a bit creepy that is. Director Drew Cullingham follows up Black Smoke Rising with The Devils Bargain and Cinema Chords was lucky enough to catch up with the man behind this savage, psychological love story.

The first question that springs to mind, and I must ask – Are you a religious man? And do you like apples? From what your film poses, it could go either way…

It could indeed go either way, but no – I’m not at all, though I am spiritual. I also find the mythology of religious writings fascinating, and that’s really all they are to me. Whatever deity you end up praying to or not, every culture has (in this case) a creation myth, and usually a word or two predicting the ‘end’ as well. To me the bigger questions are not in the written laws and edicts of a religion, but in how we approach ‘spirit’ and what lies beyond our corporeal life – whether the world is ending or not! As for apples, sure – ‘who doesn’t like apples?’.

Can you tell us what prompted the idea for the film for you?

DrewCullingham-11-520x779The ‘genesis’ for the story came from lengthy conversations between myself and the co-producer, Ian Manson. He had ideas floating about his head based on a story he’d read about two women facing the end of the world, and what they would do in such a situation. Throw into that the notion of the big bang reversing and the universe being like a massive diaphragm and then translate that into the already mentioned creation mythology and the cycle of death and rebirth and you end up with Adam and Eve effectively returning to Eden and life being gradually snuffed out. I mean there is quite a profound message in The Devil’s Bargain. What were you trying to get across (without spoiling too much!):

On one level, the narrative of the film is almost banal; it’s about a couple being driven apart by another party. But there’s a bigger story; an archetypal vision of the death of a relationship, seen through the eyes of a decaying mind and set against the backdrop of a world about to be destroyed forever. I suppose that’s it in essence – setting the collapse of internal, personal (in terms of a relationship), and external (Armageddon!) against each other to hopefully create something quite unsettling, to explore the notion of an end being a new beginning, and therein to offer hope in destruction and rebirth in death.

You said that whilst shooting Black Smoke Rising you placed a pinhole adapter on the camera to achieve a ‘ghost’s view’ of the world. The Devil’s Bargain follows suit. Is this going to be a signature technique we should expect from you in the future?

Much as I love the way it looks, and am very happy with the ‘retro’ feel the film has, I think it may be a while before I employ this technique again! It is arguably insane, in terms of needing so much light and being limited in terms of field of vision etc – and really, like any ‘technique’ it should only be used when it means something. That said, I do love the fact that it is so organic, and not an effect added in post. I’m a big fan of getting what you want going into the camera, not coming out. So who knows, if a story calls for that certain look…

I can see from Black Smoke Rising that you have already worked with Chloe (Farnworth) and Jonnie (Hurn). What was their reaction when you told them they would be spending a lot of time on screen naked?

There’s kind of a running joke with Jonnie that he almost expects to be naked at some point when he appears in films. I’m not sure why, since it’s a first for me, and he’s appeared in all of my films so far and not been naked (though he did offer!). In any event, it was no great feat to persuade him to strip off!

Chloe was equally game! She’s a remarkable actress, with no real ego and an absolutely ‘can do’ attitude if she believes in a project. It helped of course that we already had a working relationship and therefore trust was already in place. Dan Burman, who I hadn’t worked with, had just come from being stitched naked somewhere in the middle of The Human Centipede 2, so in some ways this was probably far more ordinary!

So this is your fourth film directing. Any tips for independent film makers out there?

First and foremost, just go and do it. Find a way. There’s always good people ready to embrace the necessary collaborative nature of true independent films, and it’s about having a great team around you. I am very fortunate to have a great team of absolute heroes who, I am extremely humbled to say, go way beyond the call of duty in terms of what they bring to my projects. Aside from that – start with as good a script as you can. Try and tell a narrative that doesn’t require big bucks – ask yourself how much better your film would really be if you had millions to play with. And give vent to your own creative voice – don’t try to be anyone else. Most of all, don’t give up! I can’t really say that last one has paid off yet, but part of getting things done is a downright stubborn refusal and inability to give up.

And finally, what does the future hold for Monk3ys Ink Films?

We’re aiming to start shooting a raunchy comedy in the very near future, called Skinny Buddha – it’s gathering a wonderful cast already, and I’m really excited to get on with that. There’s a fair slate of other projects awaiting some form of finance or green light, including a WW2 psychological thriller and a geekfest zomb-edy – both of which (for very different reasons!) I would love to get my teeth into as soon as possible!

We’d like to thank Drew for taking his time and answering our questions, and what great answers they were too! The Devil’s Bargain is to be released early this year. If you need an apocalyptic dose you know where to get it, that’s for sure.

The Devil’s Business releases on Jan 17, 2014, via both www.distrify.com and the offcial Facebook page for a mere £3.99. In the short meantime we’ll leave you with a trailer to twist your arm just that bit more.

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ABCs of Death 1.5 Line-up Revealed

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abcs_1.5Last month we announced that Robert Boocheck won the Magnet Releasing‘s 26th Director competition. Not only did he win $5,000 but his short, M for Masticate, will feature as part of the upcoming ABCs of Death 2 alongside other established horror directors including Larry Fessenden, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales and the Soska sisters.

So, whilst we wait for the movie to be released, the production team behind the movie have announced the line up for another feature-length anthology called ABCs of Death 1.5. which will feature 26 of the best entries for last years 26th Director competition.

“The production team had a real blast selecting the 26 shorts that make up ABCs OF DEATH 1.5,” said producer and series creator Ant Timpson. “The hard part was only selecting 26, as the competition provided so many outstanding entries. We couldn’t be happier with the final lineup. There’s enough horror, humor, weirdness, and frankly – truly fucked up material to give even the most jaded fan a wakeup call from Hell.”

The films selected by producers for ABCs OF DEATH 1.5 are Maria Ivanova’s “M is for Mactation”, Tim Rutherford and Cody Kennedy’s “M is for Magnetic Tape”, Christopher Younes’ “M is for Maieusiophobia”, Dante Vescio and Rodrigo Gasparini’s “M is for Mailbox”, Summer Johnson’s “M is for Make Believe”, Peter Czikrai’s “M is for Malnutrition”, Michael Schwartz’s “M is for Manure”, Steve Daniels’ “M is for Marauder”, Zac Blair’s “M is for Marble”, Eric Pennycoff’s “M is for Mariachi”, Jeff Stewart’s “M is for Martyr”, Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “M is for Matador”, Wolfgang Matzl’s “M is for Meat”, Ama Lea’s “M is for Mermaid”, Joe and Lloyd Staszkiewicz’s “M is for Merry Christmas”, Carlos Faria’s “M is for Mess”, Nicholas Humphries’ “M is for Messiah”, Brett Glassberg’s “M is for Mind Meld”, Álvaro Núñez’s “M is for Miracle”, Barış Erdoğan’s “M is for Mobile”, Carles Torrens’ “M is for Mom”, Travis Betz’s “M is for Moonstruck”, Peter Podgursky’s “M is for Mormon Missionaries”, Mia’Kate Russell’s “M is for Muff”, and Jason Koch and Clint Kelly’s “M is for Munging.”

What is most exciting is that our favourite entry, Todd E Freeman’s “M is for Marriage” which we covered previously, has also been chosen to feature as part of the line-up. We would like to congratulate Todd as well as the other 25 directors whose fan-made films were chosen to feature in the upcoming spin-off.

ABCs of Death 1.5 will be released digitally in the next few months.

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