First up was Wes Craven’s “25/8,” recently wrapped after a six month Connecticut shoot. It marks the first project Craven both wrote and directed in fourteen years, since “Wes Craven’s New Nightmaret,” and is scheduled for release early 2009. Craven was on hand to describe the film. “”25/8″ refers to a line in the move,” he said. “Basically, the Devil works 24 /7 to makes our lives hell, so if we want to beat it we have to work 25/8.” He described the film as a “story of a son of a man who is under treatment for schizophrenia… he has five other personalities that are benign, but there is a sixth personality that is hidden that has been killing people… when he discovers this and briefly dies all his souls go into seven babies being born.”
Following on this brief introduction, Craven presented exclusive footage for the Comic- Con audience that he had “just thrown together last week” as a rough cut. The clips portrayed, among other things, a young boy dreaming of murders he had committed, but as an adult. Memories of the murderer’s personality stir inside him, as he intones “this is the day I woke up.”
Craven described the hectic process of filming “25/8” while simultaneously working on a second unrelated film, a remake of “The Last House on the Left.” He wrapped “Last House” a month ago in South Africa, and “25/8” three weeks ago. Both films are going through the post-production process at the same time.
Of “The Last House on the Left,” Craven said it is “directed by a Greek director that we discovered. Like “The Hills” remakes that we recently did, they were done out of the country. This is the way to make them less expensively. I think he’s very gifted.”
|Wes Craven at Comic-Con International 2008|
On writing a new film after such an extended period of time, Craven said, “I like the idea of doing at least one more that I had written myself. It took a summer, it took three months. I got outside maybe once a day to go to the library and go down to the cellars of the library to work and come out when it was dark. I gave the summer to this movie. Writing is always tough.”
While Craven said that inspiration for his writing comes from many places, the spark to write “25/8” came from “a common place for ideas for me, which is the morning shower, usually with shampoo in my hair. This idea came to me and you have to go rush out and grab a piece of paper.”
The initial concept for the script involved an idea “for a character with seven personalities that agreed together to only speak about it in the company of his psychiatrist. He didn’t even tell his wife. In his workshop he discovers this bloody knife and the evidence that he gathers himself in a few hours proves to him that he is the killer and once the other personalities discover it they demand that he keep it secret.”
On developing the characters, Craven described their birth, saying “[The man’s] wife dies in childbirth but the child is saved, and that becomes our central character…and then these kids are all good friends because they were all born on the same night”.
Craven’s inspiration for the film was described as “much more personal. My father died when I was four and I didn’t know him. There was a gun in the house — not that my father was a mass murderer — but it was much more personal.”
Regarding the actors, Craven said that they are “mostly unknown and I think you will really love them I have a good eye [for new talent].” As for writing for the younger actors in the film, Craven said he “never writes kids to talk like kids, I write them to be like people. I never try to be hip. I just write characters that are believable as human beings”.
Asked about the violence in his films, and the suggestion that he is known for cruel rather than fun violence, Craven disagreed, saying, “I thought they were a lot of fun. Actually I don’t think of my films as having cruel violence. Early on I realized I don’t like laughing while someone is feeling pain. I kind of mix it all up. I think in life sometimes things that scare you one moment the next day you are laughing about it.”
Further describing the violence and nature of “25/8,” Craven said, “It’s not torture porn, it’s a very complex story about this kid’s discovery about his father. It’s funny, and scary as hell, and amazing, and it’s kind of a murder mystery, and you’re not really sure if this guy did survive the night of his death because his souls did pass on to others.” In comparison to his past films, Craven said, “This is some of my best work.”
Speaking of his prior work, Craven was asked if he will continue the “Nightmare on Elm Street” saga, and said that though that project is going forward, “I was not contacted, so whoever is going to do it is doing it on his own.”
|David Goyer and the cast of “The Unborn”|
The second film of the afternoon, “The Unborn,” was introduced by director David Goyer, along with cast members Odette Yustman, Meagan Good, and Cam Gigandet. Goyer also presented an exclusive Comic-Con preliminary preview of the film. The long clip described the tale of a woman who was supposed to be a twin, but whose sibling died in-utero. This sibling is now haunting her as an adult. The unborn evil child is trying to enter our living world through her, and all means of banishing her, including an attempted exorcism, go horribly wrong. The clip ended with the tag “How do you kill something that was never born”, along with quite a round of applause from the audience.
The preview, though not a final version, looked fairly clean in appearance. Goyer said that this is the first film he shot anamorphic, believing that “it just gives us a sort of pristine look — everything has to be photo-real.”
Goyer said the cost of the film cost about “Twenty million. I used much of the crew from ‘Dark Knight.’ We had like a super AA++ production team behind me, because I could just called everybody up [from “Dark Knight”] and say hey do you want to do this small film with me?”
The filmmaker briefly described his creative process, saying that he “thought it would be kind of cool to come up with sort of a new mythology for twins.”
Odette Yustman, who plays the lead of Casey Beldon, described how her character discovers that she was supposed to be a twin, by “having dreams” of that twin. Yustman discussed the process of experiencing her character, saying that “For me because this character has so many layers… just being able to arc your character and go through this with your character and be sort of terrified.”
Meagan Good, playing the role of Casey’s best friend Romy, cryptically described her role as “trying to convince Casey that she’s not crazy, only to find maybe she is and maybe she isn’t.”
Cam Gigandet, in the role of boyfriend Mark Hardigan, said that his character does “whatever it takes…and things end up places.” He said he’s “played a lot of bad guys in my career and this gave me an opportunity to play a different kind of character and he’s a genuine good guy and that interested me right off the bat.”
On how “The Unborn” differs from possession films of the past, Goyer said, “For me the horror films that are really classy and scary are ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen,’ ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ ‘The Mothman Prophecy’… those are the movies that get under your skin and are kind of realistic and that’s what I like and what we are trying to get back to.”
Good said the movies that scared her were “‘Halloween 4’ and ‘Halloween 5.’ I was obsessed with Jamie. I want to be her. It’s really just the thrill of finding a really great horror movie… to find something that’s actually like great material and that’s a fun character.”
Gigandet, speaking on the physicality of their roles, said that he “didn’t realize just how physically demanding it was going to be and once you’re in it and there and everything … it’s physically exhausting….even the locations, you’re just so in it…these were the nastiest locations ever.”
Good immediately agreed, saying much of the shoot took place in “A real mental hospital.” Goyer further described that location as a “real condemned mental hospital with — not kidding — two inches of raccoon crap/ We had to wear masks. Raccoon crap cough is what we called it.”
During the shoot, Goyer said they experienced “an earthquake, shooting the exorcism at 3 in the morning.” Yustman said the earthquake caused “the lights to spark and it helped us get in character.” Additional creepy occurrences happened during the shoot, including someone snapping a picture in which a ghostly face could be clearly seen in the background.
Even the scouting of the location was fraught with some danger, as Goyer described. “We were scouting this hospital and this portion is abandoned but the other half is still active, and this guy said there are these steam tunnels… anyway long story short we got locked down there for like an hour and a half. We were wandering around these tunnels and it was like the horror version of ‘Spinal Tap,’ saying ‘how do we get out of here?!'”
If natural occurrences like real earthquakes and disturbing abandoned mental hospitals isn’t enough to get his actors into character, Goyer will sometimes employ other means. As Yustman described of Goyer, “He’ll throw bugs on you!” Goyer chuckled, “It was like a potato bug we found.” Yustman retorted. “And you said they were safe, but really they weren’t. The bug wrangler said ‘these bugs bite so you need to be careful.’ There is one scene where literally there were like 20 bugs on me and we took them off… only to find later there was one left hanging from my arm biting me.”
Gigandent agreed with Yustman on the realistic inspiration, saying, “Everything was so real. There was no stretching to find some fear we had. It wasn’t difficult it was all real… real bugs, real eye stuff…real.”
Even some of the stunts felt real to the actors, as Goyer said of one of Gigandent’s scenes “We really pulled him through a wall.” “And it hurt,” said Gigadent.
Goyer discussed some of the other actors in the film. “We have a child actor in the movie and he broke his leg, though not on the set, and he has a really big scene with Meagan and he couldn’t do it and he had to go into surgery. So we filmed with a midget, Deep Roy, from ‘Charlie in the Chocolate Factory’ and then we did digital face replacement.”
On working with Roy, Good said, “He’s such a sweetheart.” Goyer said Roy was willing to do many of his own stunts, “Cam picks him up and throws him like five or six feet. It was fun.”
|Gary Oldman and Odette Yustman in “The Unborn”|
Goyer also talked about two other actors on the film, Idris Elba and Gary Oldman. Of Elba, Goyer said he “plays an Episcopal priest, and Idris is British and has a thick British accent and it just so happens he coaches a basketball thing [in the film]. So Idris is like, ‘Mate, I’ve never played basketball’ and so we were trying to teach him how to play.”
On Gary Oldman, Goyer said he “plays a spiritual advisors. It’s sort of old testament, pre-Christian. The text for the exorcism is a book called the book of Mirrors it’s like pre-old-testament in archaic Hebrew.”
Yustman described working with Oldman. “He is so amazing, such a great actor to work with. He would give me advice, crack jokes off set and then when he is on just right into his character. He’s brilliant.”
Goyer spoke about how he got Oldman to participate in this film. “I knew him a bit from ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Dark Knight’ — not pals or anything. I called up Chris Nolan and asked any pointers and he said Gary’s tough he’s a super professional and he doesn’t kid around.”
As it turns out, perhaps Oldman does kid around a bit. Goyer described one of those moments. “We were shooting in this mental hospital and the joke became how many [camera] clips can you get on [someone’s] clothing without them knowing. So then it was like, is anyone going to dare to do that to Gary Oldman? And Odette [stepped up] and sure enough were shooting and he’s got like these huge clips on his clothing and everybody pauses and he says, ‘Will someone get this F’ing clip off my back’ and it was l cool, ‘he’s been punked!'”
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