mental illness

All posts tagged mental illness

Prevenge-A Shudder Canada Exclusive Coming March 24th!

Published March 20, 2017 by rmpixie

Prevenge (2016, 1 hr 28 mins)

Alice Lowe as Ruth wreaking havoc maternity style.

When a woman carries a child, one can only imagine the range of emotions that she feels, from joy to fear to a sense of wonder at the life growing inside her. Only she knows how she feels, and only she has that special connection with her unborn child. But what if that connection is a sinister one; one of murderous intentions and revenge? This is the story that director and writer Alice Lowe brings to us in the dark horror comedy Prevenge. Making its way through the film fest circuit including TIFF 2016 and SXSW this year, you can now see it as a Shudder Canada Exclusive set to launch on March 24th.

Ruth (Alice Lowe) is a pregnant woman grieving the death of her partner. She is shell-shocked, alone, and on the surface, void of emotion. Inside, however, she listens to the nagging voice her unborn child, who forces her to become a serial killer out for vengeance. Ruth keeps a baby scrapbook, but instead of baby’s first ultrasound, there are notes and crudely drawn pictures of her targets. Her vengeance goes into overdrive as the twisted little life inside provokes her to kill these unsuspecting people who, to her, held great significance with the fate of her lost husband.

Absurd conversations and laugh out loud moments comprises this darkly clever film. With plenty of double meanings in the script, is also a thing of reflection as motives and a gross contradiction come into play. The notion that a pregnant woman about to bring a life into the world is also taking lives in most unpleasant ways toys with our sensibilities, conventions and taboos about a mother-to-be.

The nature of this pregnancy is truly parasitic. I have never been pregnant, and never will be, but the idea of being at the mercy of an organism living inside you is an awe-inspiring and scary prospect. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be ruled by something growing inside you: what to drink, what to eat and how you feel dictated every moment by a little interloper in your belly, and Ruth plays host to a rather nasty baby, or so it seems. Her telling appointment with midwife Nurse Jenny (Jo Hartley) is hilarious and chilling at the same time as she tells Ruth that her unborn daughter has all the control and “baby will tell you what to do.” Does this statement push her over the edge, or is the baby really using her as a puppet of mass destruction? We’re not quite sure what to believe about Ruth’s mental state, but it’s a truly interesting ride to say the least.

Alice Lowe is best known for her extensive comedy work, writing and acting in several British television and film projects, especially the 2012 black comedy Sightseers which she also co-wrote. She’s well versed in finding humour in the horrific, and Prevenge is that and much more. It’s a study of what someone who is grieving from loss may feel in an extreme situation, and for all the laughs the film provides, it’s also deeply emotional. Ruth has lost her partner and she is alone with a baby on the way exhibiting some not-so-normal tendencies.

According to an interview from this past February in The Guardian, Lowe reportedly wrote the script in 2 weeks and shot the film in 11 days while she was actually pregnant. For a first time director who has also written and starred in her own film, that’s no small feat, and her cast was just as effective as Lowe herself. With familiar faces like Hartley of David Brent: Life on the Road, and Kate Dickie of The Witch, you’ll enjoy seeing them take part in this darkly humorous fiasco. Pay attention to the throbbing synth scoring by Toydrum and some great cinematic moments, one of which had very distant echoes of the insane subway scene in Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981).

For her directorial debut, Alice Lowe went with what she knew (well, sort of anyway). Prevenge is a study of the fears of being a new mother and the grieving process in a most surprising way. Be sure to see it when it launches exclusively on Shudder Canada this Friday!

 

Crazyhead’s Raquel: Susan Wokoma, Women in Horror and the Next Generation of Slayers

Published February 20, 2017 by rmpixie

crazyhead

Crazyhead (Netflix, 2016)

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) was a phenomenon that continues to live on. A TV series spawned from the 1992 cult film, the fandom for a spunky high school student and her crew of friends as they battled vampires, demons and other supernatural fare while dealing with real issues knew no bounds, and new fans of her quest to save the world from creepy crawlies spring up even to this day.

Enter a new generation of shows that have found a home on Netflix. Here, writers and directors have the free reign to offer more than your local cable provider with shows like smash hits Stranger Things (2016), Luke Cage (2016), and Daredevil (2015). There’s also room and the desire for many international contributions as well, including the 2016 comedy horror from E4, Crazyhead.

Crazyhead is the story of Amy (Cara Theobold) and Raquel (Susan Wokoma), two young women who suffer from what doctors think is a mental illness. They see things – people with demonic faces – and are continually told that it’s all in their heads. When they meet one night after a frightening attack and realize they both see the same thing, they join forces to destroy these demons on earth. Raquel also has a special lineage that makes her of interest to the devilish clan, and along with Amy’s perverse puppy-dog of a friend Jake (Lewis Reeves), they go through some crazy hijinks to find answers and not get killed.

With this being Women in Horror and Black History Month, I must focus on British-Nigerian Susan Wokoma, the woman behind the off-the-hook Raquel. I first noticed her in hysterically funny and outrageous Chewing Gum (2015-2017) as the main character’s religious and fearful sister Cynthia. Her performance kept me laughing and cringing, and I was thrilled when I saw her in Crazyhead. Here, she once again kills with one liners and holds her own as the sharp-tongued and zero-filtered but vulnerable Raquel, who just wants to kick some demon ass and figure out life as a young woman with this unbelievable vocation. Wokoma breathes a vibrancy into the character that allows her to take up space and be present, even declaring at one point that she deserves better from Amy since she is a “strong, powerful black woman.” Even though Raquel has issues connecting with people and making friends, she has a great relationship with her patient brother Tyler (Arinzé Kene), full of playful jabs, sibling rivalry and lots of love. I also applaud the writer Howard Overman for making her confident in the way she looks and her space as an attractive black woman. Raquel gets “hers”, she is sexual, she is attractive and doesn’t look to others for validation, even though she may be looking for love. It is refreshing to see a black female character in a leading role own her sexuality in a healthy, non-stereotypical way like it was meant to be treated; like it always had a place at the table. North America should take note of this representation of female sexuality in general.

 

Her counterpart Amy is the perfect foil for her zany observations and plans with Amy’s voice of reason as a helpful, if ignored, counter argument for Raquel’s actions. Together they are a believable representation of young women in today’s world trying to carve out a space for themselves while dealing with the trials of being “normal”. This brings to light a couple of things: it shows how as a woman, your mental health is sometimes glossed over with medications and misunderstanding, and how once they found each other, Amy and Raquel’s bond strengthened their courage and belief in themselves. Although they have some rocky moments in their relationship, it is a real sisterhood.  In terms of mental illness, the title is a touch misleading as they are not actually mentally ill but battling supernatural forces.  They are however, at the mercy of either indifferent mental health professionals or ones that have an agenda.  Either way, this brings out how those living with mental illness may go mismanaged or pushed out of the medical system without much thought to their situation.

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Crazyhead is a comparable British counterpart to Buffy. It holds it’s own as a show, but it wouldn’t be here if Buffy hadn’t blazed a trail, and that’s ok. Joss Whedon paved the way for shows to push the envelope and have fun doing it.  Like Whedon, Crazyhead’s  writer and producer Howard Overman ensures that the dialogue is sharp and funny with a good amount of raunch, and thanks to the cast members, the delivery is on point.  He’s worn the same hats and worked his magic for The Adventures of Merlin (2008-2012), as well as being the creator for The Misfits (2009-2013), Atlantis (2013-2015), and the UK Dirk Gently (2010-2012). Each of these series has come in with a bang, created a huge following and left before they overstayed their welcome. I have complete confidence that Crazyhead will do the same and make a lasting memory in the world of #BlackGirlMagic as well as in the minds of horror comedy fans for years to come.

Crazyhead is streaming on Netflix now, so do yourself a favour and watch!

Pixie Dust: A Journey Into The Fantastic With Director Damon Colquhoun

Published December 23, 2014 by rmpixie

PillJarPosterPortrait

There is a lot of great talent within the indie film scene, and social media is making that more than evident.  All it takes is a follow here, a tweet there, and you are exposed to writers and directors who have a unique vision.  One such person is Damon Colquhoun.  Based in Harlem, New York, this photographer, writer and filmmaker used his multi-faceted talents to create a short film which was a 2013 finalist in Ron Howard’s Project Imagint10n, based on his winning photo “Manhattan’s Many Moons”.  The film, entitled Transporter, is about a young man Darien, whose family is involve in shady, criminal activity.  Darien has a unique ability that is doomed to be exploited by them, unless he can escape.  This 10 minute film is a dark, grim tale of a young man trying to leave his harsh reality behind.  I was really intrigued by this short, which will now be a feature film, and I loved the style and tone of it, so of course when Colquhoun let me know about his next project, Pixie Dust, he got my pixie attention.

Pixie Dust is an urban fantasy about a powerful 13-year-old girl named Faye and her mentally ill mother. Faye’s mother suffers from a mental illness which sends her into violent spells. She refuses to take her medication, forcing Faye to find a way to get her back on track. Through Faye’s journey, she discovers a magical family secret which could help her save her mother, but it could also kill Faye.”   (Excerpt from http://www.damoncolquhoun.com and the Indiegogo campaign currently underway to fund the project, but more on that later…)

I wanted to find out about the mind behind these dark and fantastical stories, so I got a chance to ask him a few questions about his life as an artist, the project and his process.

 

1.  You started out with an art degree, and through your artistic journey, made a stop in the film world.  What got you interested in film?
 
I actually started as an actor. I studied at a pretty serious acting conservatory, and was in few indie films. During my training I kept getting into trouble because I had this urge to control staging, and other actors’ performances. I would get really frustrated if one of my classmates didn’t deliver what I thought they were capable of. Finally, one of my instructors told me I might want to consider directing.
 
I directed a couple of things, got fed up with the no budget process and went back to school. I studied art because I wanted a career in VFX [visual effects]. I figured, learning VFX would allow me to make films on my own, but once I got a job in the industry, the 9-5 hustle took over. Plus I really didn’t care for the tediousness of the work.
 
I went back to directing because all-in-all it’s the right place for someone like me: a jack-of-all trades who’s a control freak with stories to tell and a clear vision through which to present them. Plus, new technology allowed me to make movies the way I wanted to.
 
2.  Tell us a little about the melding of fairy and fay lore with the story of Pixie Dust.
 
I wanted to paint a picture of a modern urban fairy. Some fairy traits are incorporated in an anecdotal way to tease those who know fairy lore. At the start of the film, it’s not obvious that Faye is a fairy, but, for those in the know, there are hints. The most obvious hint is her name, then there’s the fact that Faye doesn’t care for salt. Their landlord is going to wear her sweater inside out as a way to protect herself when delivering the bad news to Faye.
 
Fairies are nature spirits, so Faye is there to restore balance within nature’s black sheep, humans, hence her ability to see people’s inner beast (a metaphor for [their] psychological issues).
 
I also wanted to subvert the popular image of pixie dust. Faye ends up finding her own kind of pixie dust in the form of her mother’s medication, but medication is a double-edged sword: they have side effects. A fairy can be both “good” and “bad,” the viewers have to ask themselves, are Faye’s actions ultimately good or bad?
 
3.  Your cast for Pixie Dust looks amazing! (Mia Guzman as Faye; Rocio Mendez as her mother; and Mary Looram from Orange Is The New Black as the Landlord) How influenced are you by diversity, and in light of the recent Chris Rock essay, how difficult is it to stay true to your community and how it is represented within the independent film world?
 
Thank you! Getting your hands on a great cast is tough. So, yeah, I got lucky.
 
In terms of diversity, it comes organically for me. Growing up in NYC’s Upper West Side means that my world was full of diversity, therefore, diversity is essential to an honest retelling of my experiences. It’s the story that dictates the specific variety of diversity. In a film like Transporter, diversity meant a cast that was African-American, Haitian, Nigerian, and Israeli.
 
Filmmakers have to be true to their stories. Color is not the important thing, ethnicity is. Americans are products of their ethnic backgrounds, which are steeped in history and culture, which create a distinct POV. But look, if you’re a filmmaker who grew up around nothing but middle-American White people, then please don’t add a token Black person to your film. Instead, make certain that you look deep enough into your world to reflect in your film the cultural isolation you were raised in and what effect that had on you and therefore your story.
 
 
4.  With your short film Transporter, your main character Darien is an introvert and lives in his head.  I wondered at times how mentally fit he was.  In Pixie Dust, the film focuses Faye and her mother’s mental illness.  I can see a thread with both films that deal with mental illness using a fantasy backdrop, making it easy to open the subject up to discussion.  Was that your intention in order to address this seemingly still taboo subject in the African-American community?
 
Believe it or not, I had no intention of focusing on the theme of mental illness in the way I have, but it’s a personal topic to me, so it happened organically.
 
I was shot when I was 8 years old. The bullet fell out of the sky, hit my leg, just missing my head, ripping a chunk out of my thigh. I didn’t tell my parents about it, just my sister, so the only treatment I got was a gauze pad and some ointment. From that point on, it felt like death could just descend upon me, seemingly out of nowhere. Many years later I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and OCD. Through therapy, I’ve learned to manage it all pretty well.
 
Once I came to understand the symptoms of anxiety-based mental illnesses, I began to see it everywhere in my Harlem neighborhood: it’s a look people have in their eyes; it’s in their breathing pattern; it’s in the way they communicate or fail to communicate. It’s wild. So yeah, I guess as a filmmaker, mental illness is my raison d’être.
 
5.  Tell us a bit about Faye’s character and where she draws her strength.
 
She’s actually modeled after my wife who is 5’, 100 lbs, but grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The schoolyard chant [in those days] went something like this:
 
Come from the Ville
Know I’m chill
Picture me runnin
Must be buggin
Walk up in your face
Beat you down and walk away
 
So yeah, Faye is a fighter. She’s uncomfortable showing emotion, but is full of love. Unfortunately, her mother’s constant need for care absorbs most of it. Faye [is also] a naturally attractive girl – the type who attracts boys without trying to, or wanting to. The boy-girl dynamic is still foreign to her – she’s got a lot on her plate. The fact that the boys like her means that a lot of girls don’t like her. Faye has to prove her toughness once every couple of school years.           
 
Faye draws her strength from her grandmother. Her grandmother was a fairy as well. There’s a confidence that comes from knowing that you have one more weapon than everybody else. For some people, it’s brains, for some it’s brawn. For Faye’s grandmother, it was brains and magical brawn – likewise for Faye.
 
6.  Do you find you have more freedom for storytelling in the fantasy genre?
I would say so. Reality is a bitch! It’s often hard to digest. So trying to get an audience to explore a difficult subject head on is often asking too much of people. The things you explore and say in a fantasy film can certainly be more overt. At the same time, it’s easier to lose the subtleties – the humanity – when you make an all out fantasy film. That’s why I prefer something closer to a hybrid, like Urban Fantasies.
 
 
7.  You mention films like Take Shelter (which I loved), and Melancholia having a similar vibe to Pixie Dust.  What are some your favorite sci-fi, fantasy or horror films?
As I mention earlier, I like hybrids. There’s nothing like watching human beings interacting without reservation. At the same time, there’s nothing like watching a human being fly!
Here is his list (which is pretty darn great!):
Sci-Fi:
La Jetée – Delicatessen – Children of Men – Battle Royal – Stalker – 12 Monkeys – Alien – Empire Strikes Back
 
Fantasy:
Tin Drum – Blade – Beasts of the Southern Wild – Pan’s Labyrinth – Brotherhood of the Wolf – TLOTR Trilogy (epic) – The Dark Knight – The Wiz
 
Horror:
Let The Right One In – The Birds – Rosemary’s Baby – The Shining – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Suicide Club – Halloween
 
  

Now that we know a little about the film and the mind behind it, I hope the insider info makes you want to see it as much as I do!  This project is in pre-production, with an Indiegogo campaign that will close on January 2, 2015.  $15,000 is needed to create Pixie Dust, with majority of the money going to actually paying cast and crew.

Let the holiday spirit inspire you!  If you can make a contribution, please do, and if you’re not sure, go to the link below where you get a chance to read his great script to help make your decision.  How unique is that?!

I think it is important that we support independent filmmakers who make genre films that defy cookie cutter cinema these days.

Make your contributions here:

http://igg.me/at/pixiedustfilm/x/3950522

and check out all the in-depth info about the production!

Thanks to Damon for taking the time to answer a few questions so candidly, and I can’t wait to see the finished film.

Good luck!

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