Black Mountain Side

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Black Mountain Side DVD Release and Interview with Michael Dickson

Published January 25, 2016 by rmpixie

BMSnew

Black Mountain Side (2014)

One of my favourite film events in Toronto is the Blood in the Snow Film Festival, where you’ll get to see some of the most unique, intriguing and exclusively Canadian horror films around.  One such film, Black Mountain Side, has resonated with me since I first laid eyes on it at the 2014 BITS Fest.  The tale centers around a team of field researchers who find a mysterious artifact on a remote mountain.  They are soon affected by an unknown force and slowly succumb to an insidious madness.  Directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj, this psychological horror is an homage to The Thing and The Shining.  Although it definitely conjures up memories of the horror classics, the film approaches mistrust and madness as an unexpected creature feature with fantastic production value and camera work.

I’ve been wanting to add this film to my collection as soon as I saw it, and my horror prayers have been answered.  This festival favourite is coming out on DVD January 26, a most fitting release date for a horror shot in the dead of winter amidst all this snowbound craziness, don’t you think?  I got the happy news from my Twitter friend, Michael Dickson, who played Piers Olsen, the professor sent to verify the artifact and ends up in a snowy Hell on Earth in the film.

Originally from Manitoba and now based in Vancouver, Michael has been going strong on the Canadian acting scene from a young age with a long list of theatre, TV and films on his resume, like TV series Northwood and Neon Rider.  Along with acting, he is a singer/songwriter with 2 albums under his belt, and has also begun producing for both film and music.  I got a chance to ask the busy actor a few questions about his experience on the set of this Canadian indie gem.

MichaelDickson

Michael Dickson

I’m excited that more people will experience this film now that it’s available on DVD.  Despite the obvious influences, what do you think makes the story unique?

When people see the film there are always, understandably, comparisons made to the original The Thing and The Shining but I think that there are plenty of differences that set the film apart and make it more of an homage than anything.

I think the introduction of “the creature” combined with the archaeological and mythological aspects, make it quite unique. A lot of work went into keeping the story fact based and I know they were consulting with an archaeologist on a regular basis through the writing process for just that reason.

Another thing that I think sets it apart is the style. There is no soundtrack, the takes are all quite long and the cinematography is widely framed and beautiful-shout out to Cameron Tremblay, the D.O.P. [director of photography] on that one. Nick [Szostakiwskyj] and Cameron had a very specific vision for how they wanted the film to look and feel, and I think they pulled it off wonderfully.

I also like that the special effects are all practical, not CGI. When I first read the script I assumed that there would be a lot of CGI involved [because] it has just become so common these days. When I learned that there would be none I was nervous initially, but dealing with the practical effects added certain challenges that I quite enjoyed.

 

I felt your character, Professor Piers Olsen, was the sole anchor as everyone around him descended into madness.  How did you prepare for the role?

Initially, it was some research into archaeology and Mesoamerican history and mythology. Before we began filming, I met with Nick a couple of times to discuss the character and kind of, flesh him out.

Except for 5 days of filming in studio. the entire film was shot on location and everyone lived and worked on site. That allowed ample opportunity to prepare for scenes and rehearse them with the other actors. Before shooting certain scenes Nick would often pull the actor aside, talk through the scene with them and help them get in the right head-space. As an actor, it’s great having that opportunity and a director who spends that kind of time with you. I’m still amazed when I think that Nick was only 21 when he directed Black Mountain Side.

Dickson as Olsen in Black Mountain Side

Dickson as Olsen in Black Mountain Side

We learned at the BITS fest that this film came from a nightmare director Nick Szostakiwskyj had.  How was it for the cast to bring this to life for him?  Were there any scary moments that were too close to home for him, or yourself?

I got the feeling that by the time it went to film, Nick had spent so much time with the writing, rewriting and pre-production that he had a good perspective on it all so I’m not sure he had any of those moments.

The actors put a lot of faith in Nick and his vision for the film and he, in turn, put a lot of trust in the actors. Bringing the story to life was really rewarding and A LOT of fun.

For me, the scary moments were in the actual filming of some of the scenes. As I mentioned, the special effects were not CGI and there was not much room for error in some areas [like] the ARM [sic] scene in the doctor’s office, for example. In these situations it was more just being afraid you would screw up. In the end it just added to the adventure. [The arm scene in question involved only one shot for the use of a prosthetic arm and an axe.  Luckily, they got it!]

 

Since you were so isolated, and things get really intense in the film, I imagine you formed a brotherhood with your co-stars.  How did that affect your performances and were there any cabin fever hi-jinks that occurred?

There are some very intense scenes and there were times when the actors had to go to a rather “dark” place. For those scenes we would prepare and then just… give each other space. Afterward, yeah, we would definitely need to decompress. We spent many hours in the evenings drinking beer, playing cards and having a lot of laughs.

It was nice that everyone got along really well; cast and crew both. Many of us still keep in touch now. That whole atmosphere sort of carried over onto the festival circuit.

Of course, two weeks in a cabin with the same people, there was a certain amount of cabin fever but we just…channeled that into our scenes ;).

The cast one snowflake away from a real bad scene.

The cast, one snowflake away from a real bad scene.

Were the conditions as bad as they looked?

Well…truth be known, it was not as cold as we made it out to be. The temperatures were actually unseasonably warm. We were fortunate that the temperature would drop at night and we would usually have a fresh snowfall by morning.

Of course, dealing with the snow and being in such a remote location did have some challenges. The location was near a town called Lumby [in British Columbia, Canada]. It was up a very remote valley and you would have to drive half an hour out just to get cell reception. Navigating the terrain was an ongoing challenge for everyone but definitely made more work for the crew. They would have to get the equipment up and down the hills through some pretty deep snow. Everyone pitched in where they could but the crew were great.

 

What struck me the most about the film was the quiet of the landscape and lack of a soundtrack.  It made things so much more frightening because it felt like you were there in the action instead of an observer.  What was your first impression when you watched the film?

Well, I know when I heard that there was not going to be any music my reaction was…”Huh?” I know how much the soundtrack can set the mood of a scene and work to build tension, so I thought the choice to not have ANY was…well…bold, to say the least.

Having now seen the film, I can say that it works really, really well.  Adam Pisani, who did sound, managed to capture the sounds of the elements [like] the wind in the trees, footsteps through the snow etc. really well and I think that does engage the viewer more. That, combined with the beautiful, wide framed shots and the long takes, works to draw the viewer in and hold them within the scene.

 

What have you been up to since Black Mountain Side?

This summer I worked on a film called “The Surveyor” directed by Kristian Messere. It’s a gritty film about a guy trying to do the right thing and seeing it all go wrong. I play Walter, a bar owner who becomes something of a mentor on the main character’s path to revenge. That film is just going into post production and I will let you know more when I have more info.

Another film I am involved with is called Surftopia (working title). It might be more in line with your readers’ tastes. It is the story of an isolated surfing commune and has elements of immortality, cannibalism and psychological horror. A cool concept and should be a lot of fun to shoot. It’s currently in pre-production and I expect it will start filming early spring.

 

Do you have a favourite horror movie?

In recent years I’d kind of gotten away from horror movies. Truth be known I’m just kind of a pussy and the really spooky ones keep me up at night and the slasher ones make me queasy. That being said, the whole experience with Black Mountain Side has really brought me around. Doing the film festival circuit and meeting both the film makers and the fans has given me a whole new appreciation for the genre. I actually want to do more horrors/thrillers because of it. I’ve started watching them more, too…averting me eyes as necessary.

As for a favourite, I’d probably go back to the classics like Psycho or the Godzillas [sic films]. I know The Omen scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Oh and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark [the original 1973 made for TV movie].  My sister and I watched it as kids and we talk about it now and it still gives us the creeps.

 

A big thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer some questions.  I’m looking forward to checking out his upcoming projects, and you can find Black Mountain Side on Amazon here, or buy the movie on ITunes here!

You can follow Michael on twitter @1MichaelDickson and check out his IMDb page.

Follow Black Mountain Side on Twitter @BMSFilm ;

and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BlackMountainSideTheMovie

Black Mountain Side on IMDb

 

Pixie’s Cabin Fever!

Published March 2, 2015 by rmpixie

So once again I find myself unemployed and isolated.  This horribly cold winter and my job search has kept me indoors, inactive and a little insane, truth be told.  Case in point:  a knock on my apartment door last week prompted me to tip-toe barefoot, Mission Impossible style, to the peep-hole of my front door.  Who was this intruder, this interloper who dared to knock at my door, bypassing our lame security buzz code system?!! I saw a small being, hobbit-like, hover by my door, and I heard what sounded like a photo being taken.  That was beyond weird.  Was it a serial killer taking a trophy photo of their victim’s front door? Was it the Tall Man’s minion, come to take me to another dimension? I wasn’t about to find out and crept slowly away from the door.  When my sister came home, she announced that there was a jumbo box of cat litter left at our door.  My interloper was the delivery hobbit from Walmart, and the photo was probably them scanning their delivery.

Lack of human contact and a schedule, believing your cats can read your mind, plus the ridiculous amounts of snow and cold weather alerts have contributed to this pixie’s descent into Cuckoo Land.  After that delivery incident, I started to think about all the isolation horror films where characters-mostly employed-start to lose it out in space or the elements; battling aliens, themselves and unseen threats.  I thought I would do a Cabin Fever post about my brothers and sisters in arms sacrificing themselves, mostly at work, as they fight various terrors or their own mental states (I will however, make a note of  putting these jobs in my “circular file” as I look for gainful employment, for obvious reasons).

My top film for this sort of mayhem is of course, John Carpenter’s The Thing.  A research team minding their own business out in the Antarctic, is infiltrated by a voracious alien life form that hitches a ride in a cute dog on the run.  Imagine being out there in the cold, maybe more than a touch bored,  only to have your solitude disrupted by an alien threat.  That kind of excitement I can do without!

 

 

Alien is the next film on this list.  A crew on their way back to Earth after their space mission makes a stop due to a potential distress signal where they find a heap of alien trouble awaiting them.  So basically, this lot was on their way home from work only to have another assignment thrown at them and end up being violated by an alien.  Talk about your contractual obligations.  Sheesh!

 

 

Black Mountain Side, inspired by The Thing, is about another set of researchers on the brink of discovering a ground breaking archeological find on an isolated snowy mountain range.  When they start to have psychological problems, things become deadly.  Once again, researchers doing boring researchy things in the middle of nowhere are at the mercy of an unknown threat.

 

 

Mr. Jones is my next pick.  A filmmaker and his girlfriend move to the woods so he can work on a nature documentary and they end up becoming obsessed with a reclusive artist who creates disturbing sculptures. This film got mixed reviews, but I liked it.  A case of recluse vs. recluse, it’s basically a story of one artist seeking the solace of nature interrupting another artist’s solitude and paying the supernatural consequences.  Note to self:  artists who live in the backwoods do so for a reason.

 

 

The Corridor deals with a boy’s weekend deep in a winter wonderland.  Some high school friends try to reconnect years after one of them has had a mental breakdown.  They enjoy a laddish night of drinking and re-establish their footing with one another until an anomaly in the forest sends them into a spiral of violent psychosis.  This time no one is working, merely trying to relax with their friends and they end up getting scalped, among other nasty things.

 

 

To round it all up, I’ll give Mother Nature the final word, because she going to have it whether we like it or not.  The Day After Tomorrow, which sounds like my West Indian uncle’s promise to return a drill, kicks our butts with some hard-core, extreme and devastating weather.  When a paleoclimatologist warns against a catastrophic event caused by global warming, he is at first ignored, but when the snow hits the fan, he races to save his son and other survivors as North America hightails it to Mexico.  While we are not near this type of disaster (yet), it sure as heck feels like Spring has tapped out this year.

 

The moral of this post?  Well, I’m still not answering my door if you haven’t been invited over, but I will take heed when heading out to an isolated cabin in the winter or deep space, maybe just get some fresh air to clear my head and go for a walk in a highly populated area with a decent coffee shop instead, and perhaps apply for a more, um, “people person” job…

 

 

 

Pixie’s Best of 2014 and 2015 Picks

Published December 30, 2014 by rmpixie
Theatre13

Theatre 13…where all horror films should be seen…Wooooo!!

 

2014 in review made me a little nervous to be honest.  I feel like I didn’t see nearly enough films, or maybe it was because I feel like I didn’t review a lot this year?  Who knows, but I did come up with a few.  A lot of them are indie films, and a lot I saw on the festival circuit.  Some have been released and some you may have to search for on demand, but I recommend seeing them!  Click on each film title for my reviews or links to trailers, and if you have any to add, please comment!  I’d love to know what your favourites were!

Godzilla:  I don’t like remakes, but I really enjoyed this one.  Big ol’ monsters smashing things made up for a so-so storyline, and it was a fun blockbuster event for me.

Maleficent:  Another blockbuster movie with one of the best makeup looks.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of Angelina Jolie’s beautifully altered face, and the effects were great.

Guardians of the Galaxy:  So much fun. Just so much fun.

Lyle:  This 65 minute film is pretty incredible.  Shown free of charge for a brief time to raise funds for his next project, writer and director Stewart Thorndike serves up a modern version of a Rosemary’s Baby-like suspense horror that is deeply moving.  A lesbian couple move into a brownstone with their baby Lyle, and mysterious neighbours coupled with a family tragedy gets the paranoia going full speed ahead.  Gaby Hoffmann, the current indie film darling of the moment, shows why she is in such demand.  Her portrayal of a mother on the brink is memorable, and I loved the haunting score.  You will have to follow the film’s Facebook page to find out when and where you can see it, as it is currently not available online.

Wyrmwood:  The zombie movie for action movie fans.  It is going to be released by IFC on February 13, 2015, so keep your eye out for it!

Predestination:  A wonderful spiralling tale of time travel and love.  This has a limited release date of January 9th, 2015.  Find it!

Housebound:  I’m not a comedy horror movie gal, but this one is superb!  Great pacing and a great cast.  Seems like it was released on DVD this past November, so again, find it!

Oculus:  a slow burner with a cool story, and one I will be adding to my collection.  Done by Mike Flanagan, the man behind Absentia, which I also loved for its unique story.

Two Canadian films I recently saw were Black Mountain Side and Berkshire County.  Both take on classic horror fare and make it their own.  Berkshire County seems to have an April 2015 limited release date, and Black Mountain Side will hopefully come out in 2015 as well.

Another Canadian gem was Hellmouth.  Starring Stephen McHattie, one of my favourite Canadian actors (whom I finally met this year! Yay!), this surreal quest for redemption will take you away with its visuals and retro feel.

The Babadook:  One of the most talked about films that actually lived up to the hype.  Tense, scary and dark, this is a must see for all horror fans out there.

Only Lovers Left Alive:  Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, this beautiful love story about lonely vampires will make you ponder your existence and purpose.

 

What will 2015 bring us?  Apparently a ton of sequels and remakes (big surprise!), but I’ve sifted through the fluff to find a few that seem to have a bite that is just as good as the bark!

First up is It Follows.  This film has made the festival rounds and is getting quite the buzz as being a refreshingly terrifying addition to the tormented teen horror roster.  After a steamy date, a girl is now being followed by a creepy unknown.  Love the Carpenter-esque score.  I will definitely see this one in March when it comes out in wide release!

Z for Zachariah has my interest because I still have my dog-eared copy of the book I loved as a teen.  Chiwetel Ejiofor stars and I hope they do the story of post-apocalyptic survival justice.

Chappie is about a robot with heart, intelligence and innocence.  Directed by District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp and starring Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sharlto Copley, it is sure to be one of the bigger films with the great special effects that Blomkamp is known for.

Directed by Hostel and Hemlock Grove‘s Eli Roth, Knock Knock is a “horror/thriller” about a man terrorized by two gorgeous girls.  Not really sure about this one, but Keanu Reeves is in it.  All I can say is:  Don’t. Hurt. My. Man.

Insidious 3 and Sinister 2 are on their way.  I feel like I need to see them because I was there from the start.  Also from the producers of  the Insidious, Paranormal Activity and Sinister series comes another Amityville movie, which I also have to see because, again, I was there from the start.  In this case, Jennifer Jason Leigh stars in Amityville The Awakening, so there will be guaranteed intensity with her performance.

The aforementioned Mike Flanagan is coming out with a new one called Somnia, about a kid whose nightmares become real.  He is known for creepy atmosphere, so I expect something great.

I need to see Jupiter Ascending just for Channing Tatum in those ears, and Mad Max Fury Road because it looks like totally insane and brutal fun.

I would really, really love to see Pixie Dust realized in 2015!  Check out my interview with writer and director Damon Colquhoun and donate to get it made!

Lastly, Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic horror Crimson Peak about tragedy and a haunted house will probably be a good bet.  Also, Charlie Hunnam and Tom Hiddleston are in this.  Yup.  That will get my bum in a seat.

So there you have it.  A 2014 wrap-up and my 2015 picks all in one long-winded package!  Wishing you all a wonderful new year that brings us all good, great, no-FANTASTIC luck in life, love and health!

 

wpid-20141230_1657142.jpg.jpeg

Carolyn

 

 

 

Black Mountain Side BITS 2014

Published December 4, 2014 by rmpixie

black mountain side

Black Mountain Side (1 hr 39 mins)

The unknown and isolation takes center stage in Black Mountain Side, the closing film for The Blood In The Snow Festival.  A team of field researchers are on the site of a breakthrough and mysterious archeological find that has the potential to turn history on its ear.  When a professor joins them to figure out the where and why of the ancient structure they are excavating, the mystery gets even more confusing as the men start to become increasingly ill and mentally unstable.  In the ensuing days, the team unravels and their isolation feeds an unknown terrifying menace that blurs the lines of reality.

I have to say this was my favourite film of the festival.  While it was a definite nod to horror films centered around isolated locations like The Thing, The Shining and even perhaps Alien, it had its own unique feel, most notably the lack of a soundtrack or scoring.  The opening scene of breathtaking beauty in the snow-covered wilderness was ominous enough, without any musical interpretation.  Cutting from interior, dialogued scenes to the silent, frozen exteriors subtly built tension as we watched the countdown to the characters’ descent into madness and murder.  The story also had a bizarre twist that defies any creature feature out there and will definitely stay with you long after the movie ends.

The cast really blew me away with their realistic portrayal of men losing touch with reality.  They were rough around the edges which added to their growing paranoia as nips grew to throat-crushing bites within their almost feral pack.  Most notable were Carl Toftfelt as Francis who gave me goose bumps as he struggled to keep sane, Michael Dickson as Professor Peter Olsen who was the only tether to reason and logic, and Marc Anthony Williams’ wild west demeanour that would culminate in one incredible continuously shot sequence.

In attendance at the screening was executive producer Samantha McDonald, and Michael Dickson.  McDonald told the audience that the inspiration for the film came from a nightmare writer and director Nick Szostakiwskyj had, and he was also influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and John Carpenter’s The Thing.  They filmed in Lumby, British Columbia and the 35 cast and crew members actually lived in the cabins seen in the film.  She also revealed that the lack of music in the film was deliberate since they wanted the audience to be in the action with the characters.  Szostakiwskyj also wrote with real research in mind.  He wanted the science to be accurate and the mythology behind the film believable.  Dickson recounted tense moments with one time use prosthetics and a real axe (eek!), but it all came together in the end.

Black Mountain Side, winner of a Best Cinematography Bloodies Award at the festival, offers a clean and beautiful low-budget thriller/horror that takes you to weird world of myth and madness you won’t soon forget.

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