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An Interview with R.J. Redl, Director of In the Pitch Black

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2021

Films directed by R.J. Redl on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie In the Pitch Black - in a few words, what is it about?

 

In the Pitch Black is a dark fantasy/cosmic horror about a supernatural event that impacts upon (and drastically changes) the lives of a dysfunctional family, bringing them closer together.

 

In a way, In the Pitch Black sounds like a ghost story of sorts to me - would you at all agree, and if so, is that a genre at all dear to you, and what will make your film stick out of the crowd?

 

Most definitely. I mean, there aren't ghosts in it. It's something else, something you don't get to see often. Something we all take for granted. But it definitely has a similar approach to the age old haunted house movies. In particular Poltergeist (1982).

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing In the Pitch Black?

 

Straight away I have to say Rod Serling. I grew up watching, and being totally enthralled by The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. Reruns, of course. But these were the shows my Nana loved so these were the shows we watched together. I also drew heavy inspiration from 90s “horror for kids”, shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark and Eerie Indiana. R.L. Stein's Goosebumps TV series (and his books) as well. John Carpenter and Guillermo del Toro movies, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. There's probably more but if I listed every single influence, the interview would go on forever.

 

What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror, and about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

The horror grows almost organically through the entire duration. There's no jump scares. At least, we didn't consciously set out to create any. And there's no gore. This is good, old-fashioned atmospheric storytelling. I put the family dynamic at the fore because (like most of the best suspense films) I want the audience to be immersed in the plight of these characters. The antagonists only feature in it as much as is absolutely necessary, the rest is camera trickery and build up. We wanted it to be directed at as large an audience as we could get so we used a similar approach to Robin Williams' original Jumanji. Mainly the start where the younger Alan Parrish ends up sucked into the board game. It's soft enough for older kids to watch but might be a little scary for younger ones.

 

Do talk about In the Pitch Black's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

We knew of each other and wanted to work together for a couple years, but this was the first time Bella Rose (who played Peta) fit in. Initially I was looking at casting another young actress, someone I'd just worked with on Crisis Point (my feature film), but she wasn't available. One day, Bella's name came up in conversation on the set of Without A Hitch (a project I was producing with my friend and fellow director Phillip Paton). And I decided to reach out and see if Bella liked the script. It wasn't long after that she signed on. When I look at what we achieved with In the Pitch Black, I know I made the right choice. She countered Pennyanne Lace (as Mia) perfectly.

 

Pennyanne was someone I did have the privilege to work with previously, albeit only for a brief moment. The experience was so pleasant that we discussed working together again right after. It wasn't till almost a year later that this project came up, and another 3 months till I started approaching cast. She was one of the first actors I approached with the script. But I wasn't sure if she'd accept the part because Aiyai: Wrathful Soul (2020) was doing remarkably well. I had no idea who I'd cast as Mia if I couldn't get Pennyanne.

 

Rounding out the on-screen family was Brent Dunner as Jim (the father), who people will mostly know from Australian TV commercials. I can't remember the last time I made something without him. We've been friends for years but he's also got a good presence. His rather stoic look and gruff mannerisms brought the character to life. 

 

I can't say much else. But I want to give a shout out to Connor Clarke and Charlotte Ridley, who were excellent to work with. They play the film's supernatural antagonists. And Wayne Bassett in a role I think he was born to play.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

I run my sets like a summer camp. There are rules and they are adhered to, but for the most part it's fun. There's a lot of laughs. And when we get to the last day, it feels like we're saying farewell to family. I've only made one film where there was any animosity between cast or crew, and that was Crisis Point. Pushing through it changed the way I make films now. That was the darkest I've ever gone with content, and it took a toll. When it came to In the Pitch Black, despite being a “monster movie”, I aimed for a much lighter tone, and everyone really enjoyed working together. Some of my crew have even worked together since because they enjoyed the experience so much. It's an incredible feeling when you're responsible for creating both films and friendships.

 

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The $64-question of course, where can In the Pitch Black be seen?

 

Well, unfortunately, it won't be available to the general public till 2022. But once its VFX are completed (we're nearly there now), and post-production is done, my producer and I have discussed Toronto After Dark and Berlin International Film Festival among other possible places to unveil it.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I'm hanging up my horror directing hat for a bit and focusing on a sort of love letter to Jim Henson, creating a puppet fantasy pilot episode for a possible TV series.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD