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Interview: Director Rob Jabbaz talks “The Sadness” Ahead of Fantasia Film Festival Premiere

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Having been selected for numerous festivals including Fantasia, Locarno and Fantastic Festival, The Sadness is the latest extremely violent Taiwanese horror film. The film sees a virus spontaneously mutate giving rise to a mind-altering plague causing the streets to erupt into violence as those infected are driven to enact the most cruel and ghastly things they can think of. The age of civility is no more. There is only “The Sadness”. We were lucky enough to talk to the film’s writer/director/editor Rob Jabbaz about his process making the film during the pandemic.


How does it feel to have your first feature film being selected for big festivals like Fantasia, Locarno and FrightFest?

At the risk of sounding pompous, it seemed pretty obvious to me. I’m very critical of my own work and I think the film is really good. When I made The Sadness, I was really uncompromising and just running on pure willpower. Anytime I ran into an obstacle of people trying to tone something down or make something less hard, I just had to bulldoze over them. And I really stressed myself out. I didn’t realise that I was getting so stressed until after it was all over. I was sleeping 16 hours a day for a couple weeks; I was just so tired. I was like, why am I so tired? And then it obviously dawned on me, like, oh, it’s because you’ve just been stressing yourself out for six weeks. Not necessarily physically, but just mentally and emotionally too.

When I was editing it, I thought, this is awesome, this is working exactly the way that I wanted. When I finished the first cut of the film, I felt really strongly about it like this is gonna make people shit their fucking pants. And then once I found Raven Banner as our distributor and seeing real horror people appreciate the film as opposed to just the casual horror audience like the Taiwanese horror audience and them realising what I had done, it was awesome. And then at that point, when they said that they wanted to do a festival run with it, what other movies got made during the pandemic? So I knew even just by default I would have at least one of the top 5 horror movies of 2021. So that’s part of what informs me to say it didn’t surprise me that we got into Fantasia and Fantastic Fest. Locarno did surprise me; it was really nice to see it get picked up by arthouse festival like that. That was the one that was really flattering.

 

How did the idea for the film come about?

I was working as a staff writer for this entertainment company, writing scripts that may or may not get made. This was before the pandemic when being able to work from home was cool and attractive at the time. But then when the pandemic happened, my boss was like, okay, Hollywood’s closed, we can make a movie right now and we won’t have any competition but we need to release it soon. And then he says it has to be a virus or zombie movie. I thought I don’t want to write a zombie movie, that’s boring, it’s all been done to death, what’s left to say with that? So I started thinking about ways to push the envelope without pushing the small budget. And I thought, what if we make them really cruel and really sadistic. They’re sadists, they take pleasure in harming other people. This made me think of a comic from years ago called Crossed. I took a look at those comics and I was like, this is cool, but this isn’t quite right because these characters are still being treated like zombies. They’re not talking enough, they’re not expressing themselves enough. So I tried to give myself memorable villains to work with and some ideas, but what you need is that one auxiliary idea connects it all together.

It really was just based around creating a lot of good gore gags and very painful effects and set pieces and stringing them all together. I’ve watched a lot of horror movies and I know where I can cut the fat. And I know where I could give a second helping. I really just thought let’s give the audience all the good stuff and keep the story enough there so that we know what needs to happen next. But I don’t want the story to trip over itself. Because there’s nothing worse than in a horror movie when you just you halt everything and then all of a sudden there’s an explanation and it’s about this and that. Show me someone getting their fucking lungs ripped out, show me something cool. Or show me something I’ve never seen before. Don’t just show me these stupid obvious emotional beats. If you want to show me an emotional beat, do it in a way that I’ve never seen before. And that’s what I tried to do with the very end of the film.

“I told them I want to always have at least 15 gallons of blood on hand every day so that we never run out”

Given your background in VFX and animation was there ever a tendency to rely on VFX or did you try and do things practically?

You use the right tool for the right task and The Sadness was all gore. I’ve yet to really see CG create realistic effects. It just doesn’t feel painful enough to me. What that boils down to is it needs to be messy, and you need to see the mess go all over the place and get stuck in hair. I knew right from the beginning that it needed to be practical effects. There are a couple of things where we use some VFX and there’s a bit of an amalgam of VFX and practical effects. You’re just trying to be practical and figuring out what works best and what is the cheapest, but at the same time not at the expense of it looking awesome.

I was pushed against trying to do like a lot of this stuff practically. One of the people who was working for me had a lot of experience and he was said you shouldn’t do practical effects, because maybe the blood isn’t going to work the way that you want it to and if one of those things doesn’t work properly, it’s going to take a long time to reset. Every day when we make a film like this you’re just shovelling money into a furnace essentially so you have to be efficient with time. I was just like, what the fuck are you talking about? Have you ever heard of editing? We just shoot everything. We do every gore gag as an insert so the audience can see it. It’s not like I want these things happening in the background. I want the camera in there so you can see it. I’m not trying to do some bullshit like The Revenant where the cameras are doing everything in one take. It’s distracting, I don’t like that shit. Ironically, I think that a long take for an action scene is less cinematic then if it’s edited because editing is part of cinema. I don’t want to do any of this all in one take. I want to do this like a movie. I told them one thing you need to remember, I don’t want to run out of blood. I want to always have at least 15 gallons of blood on hand every day so that we never run out.

How did you end up directing The Sadness? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I wrote the script, and I gave it to the guy. He said he liked it and then he went to go look for a director and no one wanted to do it for the price that we had. And then he came to me and said, ‘Hey, Rob, do you want to try doing it?’ And I said, ‘Oh, God, I don’t know.’ We hear all the horror stories of directing a film and then getting fucked with the whole time, people telling you not to do this, or people telling you that you’ve got to do it this way. You end up stressing yourself out every single day and then in the 11th hour, they give it to some fucking shithead to do the edit and you don’t get final cut. I said I can do this film but there’s only two ways I can do it. The first way is I can phone the whole thing in, and I’ll show up to the job, I’ll facilitate the production and I won’t give a fuck about it but I’ll get it done. Or I can make it my life and I can take it to heart as much as one can take something to heart. But in order to do this, you need to let me do it exactly the way that I want and you need to give me final cut. He said I don’t want you to phone it in, I want to give you number two.

Once I had that, I felt happy about it. I’ve done shorts and I like telling stories and I can create worlds so I I’ve always wanted to do a feature. I liked this script and I like the energy of the film and how it works as it is, but if you were to read the screenplay of The Sadness, it’s not the best screenplay to be honest. It’s decent, but it’s not showcasing my ability as a writer as much. I knew that if anyone was going to do it properly, it was going to be me. And I’m looking forward to The Sadness heralding the beginning of my feature filmmaking career. I look at some of my favourite filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson and I just think ‘how does he do that?’. That’s what I aspire to be like. I don’t know if that’s really possible for me but it’s about having an aspiration and working towards that.

 

When you were making The Sadness did you ever have any second thoughts about how extreme and violent you were making it?

For me that kind of just seemed like fair play. There’s a particular tone to it, maybe my film feels more violent because it’s happening to innocent people, and it’s presented in a more realistic way. Whenever you’re making a horror movie you’re trying to tap into people’s fears at the time. And at the time, the spread of the virus actually wasn’t really a big concern in Taiwan. People weren’t wearing masks, people were out at bars dancing with no masks and the rest of the world was fucked. You guys were all inside, depressed, and meanwhile Taiwan is having outdoor music festivals and stuff. The virus aspect of the film was not really that much of a big deal.

For me, what was kind of a big deal was tapping into a fear that is very specifically Taiwanese and East Asian, this fear of unprovoked violence. There’s this idea that you just mind your own business and you do your job, work hard, and don’t get involved in someone else’s affairs if you don’t have to. It’s like a fundamental foundation for morality in East Asian culture from my perspective at least. The idea of just a random act of violence, like somebody on the train, just pulling out a knife and starting to stab people. And then you’re like, holy shit, and next thing you know, a guy is stabbing a pregnant woman with a set of keys and then another guy is biting off a guy’s Achilles tendon and some guy’s stabbing a girl in the face with an umbrella. It’s just completely senseless. There’s no political motivation, there’s no reason or logic to any of it. It’s just mindless, senseless violence. I was trying to tap into that fear of unprovoked violence. And I think that a lot of people here in Taiwan might have thought that crossed the line. But you know, that’s the price we pay for the freedom of artistic expression.

I’ve been spoiled. I wrote it, directed it, edited and had final cut, I’m spoiled. I’m like when the Coen brothers did Blood Simple and they didn’t have to listen to anybody. It’s kind of like a precedent was set, I don’t go backwards, I go forwards. I’m going to try to maintain that kind of control over the work that I do. And my argument for that would be in order for you to get me to create something like The Sadness, you’re going to have to try to recreate the similar circumstances. I can’t work feeling like the shit’s gonna get pulled out from under me. I have to feel in control of the work. I have to be in love with the work.

The Sadness had its European premiere at the Locarno Film Festival and will have its North American premiere at Fantasia later this month.

Read our review of The Sadness HERE

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‘Return To Monkey Island’ – the beloved franchise is back!

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Devolver Digital / Lucasfilm Games

It’s been 13 years since the last Monkey Island instalment was released in 2009. Going back even further, it’s 32 years since the original game ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’ was released on the Amiga in 1990. Created by game designers Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, it helped launch the point and click genre of adventure games onto a global scale, and introduced young and old gamers to a fun, family-friendly interactive adventure to capture the imagination.

You take control of a young wannabe pirate, Guybrush Threepwood, who arrives on a small island in the Caribbean with aspirations of becoming a – well – a real pirate! A whole host of colourful characters await him on his journey, including the Ghost Pirate LeChuck and Governor Elaine Marley. When the Governor is kidnapped by LeChuck who terrorises the entire Caribbean with his un-dead crew, it falls to you to help Guybrush assemble a crew, get a ship, set sail for the fabled Monkey Island, save Elaine and defeat LeChuck!

‘The Secret Of Monkey Island’ (1990)

This was followed by a hugely successful sequel in 1991; ‘The Secret Of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’ that expanded and improved on everything we had seen before. Years later in 1997 and under new management after Gilbert and his team parted ways, the third entry – ‘The Curse Of Monkey Island’ – helped introduce new blood to the franchise. New styles of graphics, interactive heads-up display and a full voice cast brought the series to life like never before.

In 2000, the fourth entry – ‘Escape From Monkey Island’ – was released that divided fans and critics. The heart was there, but the inclusion of 3D graphics and removal of the familiar mouse controls for PC was a big shift that didn’t win everyone over. It would be in 2009 when Telltale Games developed an episodic entry called ‘Tales Of Monkey Island’, returning some familiar point and click elements, the full voice cast and a very imaginative fantastical story.

2009 also signalled the revival of both original games with new special editions being released for PC and console. This breathed new life into the classics, bringing the established voice cast to record dialogue, new composition of the score and improved graphics and HUD. It also allowed players to switch between classic and special editions whilst playing for a truly immersive experience of old and new.

‘The Secret Of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’ Special Edition (2009)

 And then…all was quiet.

Fans cried out for more Monkey Island, but when Disney acquired LucasFilm Games in 2012 and the entire back catalogue of George Lucas, it seemed the adventures were well and truly over. However, in 2021 when Disney brought Lucasfilm Games back, a glimmer of hope was sparked. And then on April 1st 2022, Ron Gilbert announced the development of a brand new Monkey Island game. Being this was April Fool’s Day and Gilbert was known for his tongue-in-cheek jokes, there was a huge pinch of salt taken with the announcement. But just three days later, Devolver Development released the teaser trailer for ‘Return To Monkey Island’

 After two years of secret conversations with Disney and the old team including Gilbert, Grossman, original composer Clint Bajakian and voice actor Dominic Armato, a new story had been written for the 5th entry into the series. Described as both a direct continuation from LeChuck’s Revenge but with new elements that honour the previous games not under Gilbert’s design, it seems this is the game fans have been waiting years for.

A striking difference noted by many was the art style. While hardcore fans longed for a return to the classic pixel design of the original games, something of a nostalgic comfort blanket, artist Rex Crowle (of ‘Tearaway’ fame) brought the look into 2022 and then some. Taking a 2D style but with a cartoonish, almost paperfolded style, this entry looks nothing but unique and unlike anything that has come before. In order to keep the game fresh and appealing to new gamers and old, Gilbert couldn’t simply harken back to a game design that kept the series in the 90s. He had to take new, bold risks to be innovative and fresh. This looks just that.

‘Return To Monkey Island’ (2022)

With Gilbert and the team releasing mini teasers each Monday in a self-proclaimed Monkey Island Monday, critics and fans worldwide have lapped up everything the game has offered. It holds nods and winks the franchise as a whole (especially the originals) whilst giving us glimpses of new characters, islands and puzzles. The HUD retains the point and click charm but in a modern way. And with a full voice cast back to bring new and old characters to life, it seems this is the perfect time to hoist the main sails and set sail once more as we return to Monkey Island…

‘Return To Monkey Island’ will be available on PC via Steam, macOS and Nintendo Switch from Monday 19th September 2022.

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Manchester Comic Con Returns! With A Star Studded Lineup And More

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With the summer Movie, Comic Book & TV season in full swing with the likes of Stranger Things: Season 4 & Obi-Wan Kenobi currently airing to their respective streaming services and Jurassic World: Dominion amongst other anticipated projects on the horizon, There’s certainly a lot to look forward too over the coming months, And one of those is the return of Monopoly Event’s Manchester Comic Con, the event which promises to bring all the love of Pop Culture & More into one place! Here’s just a small sneak peak at what you can expect below…

Manchester Comic Con General Information Provided By Monopoly Events

The next Comic Con Manchester in the summer of 2022 promises to be an event to remember for comic, tv, and film culture fans across the globe as we bring you a phenomenal guest line-up including Star Trek‘ and Heroes legend Zachary Quinto, Teen Wolf stars Tyler Posey, Holland Roden, Shelley Hennig, Dylan Sprayberry, and Linden Ashby, Superman and Lois stars Tyler Hoechlin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, and Alex Garfin, the LEGENDS that are Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner. Lesley Ann Brandt, D.B. Woodside, and Aimee Garcia from Lucifer, The Walking Dead star Chandler Riggs, Cobra Kai stars Martin Kove, Jesse Kove, Ron Thomas, and Tony O’Dell, Little Mermaid voice actor Jodi Benson, Supernatural‘s Emily Swallow, Bai Ling from The Crow, Police Academy‘s Lance Kinsey, and the sweetest of all reunions as we welcome Peter Ostrum, Paris Themmen, Julie Dawn Cole, Michael Bollner and Rusty Goffe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!

A guest line-up that already is truly unimaginable – and as always – it’s all by the fans for the fans.

Let us not forget our epic Traders Hall as well! Where you could buy everything from a dancing Gizmo plushie to a Baywatch lifebuoy! Finally, our league of loyal cosplayers were all in attendance with their amazing costumes and make up ready and willing to get in a selfie or 100!

The Star Studded Guest Line-up Provided By Monopoly Events

This is sure to be the pop culture event of the summer & one both you & I surely wont want to miss. Am I right?

To buy your tickets and find out more information, head over to the official Manchester Comic Con site before it returns to the BEC Centre, July 30-31.

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PARAMOUNT+ Reveals UK Launch Date, Pricing, Distribution Partners & More

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Paramount+, the global streaming service from Paramount Global, will launch in the UK and Ireland on 22 June 2022. After countless months of waiting It was announced by the company reporting their first-quarter earnings call on 3 of May, during which Paramount’s President and CEO, Bob Bakish, outlines global expansion plans for the streaming service. 

The ongoing momentum of Paramount+ will also see the service launch in South Korea in June, with further launches planned in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria in the second half of the year. Additionally, in 2023, Paramount+ will launch in India in partnership with Viacom 18, as part of a recently announced agreement, and is poised to participate in this fast-growing market. 

“Paramount is known for its leading portfolio of premium entertainment brands and a robust content engine that fuels our rapidly expanding streaming service, Paramount+. This year will be monumental for our streaming strategy as we accelerate our global ambitions, rapidly expanding Paramount+ in Europe beginning with the UK, Italy, Germany, France and more by the end of this year and debut in Asia with South Korea in June, followed by India in 2023,” said Raffaele Annecchino, President and CEO, International Networks, Studios and Streaming, Paramount Global.  “With an already expansive global footprint and a strong, long-term market-by-market strategy, we are well-poised to continue our positive momentum.” 

Maria Kyriacou, President, Australia, Canada, Israel and UK, Paramount, said, “The addition of Paramount+ to our strong portfolio of free-to-air, pay-TV and streaming services will broaden the range of choice available to our audiences in the UK and Ireland. Paramount+ will be a one-stop destination for Paramount’s biggest brands, where fans of all ages can find exclusive original premium content, global hits, and discover a world of favourites from Paramount’s vast catalogue.” 

PRICING AND DISTRIBUTION

In the UK, Paramount+ will be available online at

https://www.paramountplus.com/

and on mobile and a wide range of connected TV devices via the Paramount+ app, via broad direct-to-consumer distribution through Apple, Amazon, Google, Roku® and Samsung, with more platforms to be announced in the coming months. Users will be able to sign up to the service for £6.99 per month/£69.90 per annum in the UK, after a free seven-day trial*.   

Paramount+ will launch on Sky platforms in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria in 2022 as part of a new multi-year distribution agreement that also includes the extended carriage of Paramount’s leading portfolio of pay TV channels. Sky Cinema subscribers will get the bonus of Paramount+ included at no extra cost. 

ROBUST CONTENT SLATE

Paramount+ will launch in the UK with a broad content slate of more than 8,000 hours of content for the whole family, spanning new and exclusive Paramount+ originals, hit shows and popular movies across every genre from Paramount’s world-renowned brands and production studios, including SHOWTIME®, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.  

In addition, Paramount+ is home to some of the world’s most beloved franchises in the world. Audiences in the UK will have access to the Star Trek universe; and the library and new seasons of Taylor Sheridan’s critically acclaimed Yellowstone series. South Park and the MTV Shores 

will also be available, and kids and families franchises, this include SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, Rugrats plus new originals based on Nickelodeon’s most beloved characters such as Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.   

PARAMOUNT+ ORIGINALS

Some of the most anticipated Paramount+ and SHOWTIME® originals from the US, UK and other international markets will be available in the UK and Ireland when the service launches, including HALO, 1883, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, The Offer, Mayor of Kingstown, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, The First Lady, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Queen of the Universe and Jerry & Marge Go Large. 

These will join premium international scripted Paramount+ originals produced by VIS – the international studio division of Paramount Global – in association with independent production companies in the UK and around the world. Previously announced original UK dramas heading to Paramount+ include Sexy Beast, A Gentleman in Moscow, Flatshare, The Burning Girls, The Ex-Wife and The Blue. 

Scripted originals from around the world include

Los Enviados (The Envoys) (Mexico) and Cecilia (Mexico) – both of which have been renewed for a second season; Simon Beckett’s Chemistry of Death (Germany); The Signal (France); Bosé (Spain); Fallaci (Italy); At Midnight (Mexico); and more.   

Hours of original factual titles from the UK production community will also be available, including Haunted, The Box, Rise of the Tech Titans, MH370: The Lost Flight, Chalet Girls, LA Hairdressers, Fashion House, Pervert: Catching the Strip Search Caller and Girl Taken. 

KIDS AND FAMILY

Thousands of hours of Kids and Family content on the service will include Paramount+ Original series Fairly Odd Parents: Fairly Odder, iCarly S1 & S2, the reimagined Rumble and Big Nate. They will join original TV movies, including Honour Society, Promposal, Little Wing, Snow Day, Nicole From Last Night and Blue’s Big City Adventure. 

BLOCKBUSTER MOVIES

Paramount+ will offer unlimited access to blockbuster movies with new releases like

Scream 5, time-proven classics such as Grease and Star Trek, and family-friendly selections like PAW Patrol: The Movie, Clifford The Big Red Dog and more. 

EXCLUSIVE PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Also coming to the UK service this year are Paramount+ exclusives The Thing About Pam and Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons. They join other exclusive titles including South Park: Post Covid and South Park: Post Covid: The Return to Covid, as well as Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, The First Lady and The Man Who Fell to Earth.  


Paramount+ is a global digital subscription video streaming service from Paramount that features a mountain of premium entertainment for audiences of all ages. Internationally, the streaming service features an expansive library of original series, hit shows and popular movies across every genre from world-renowned brands and production studios, including SHOWTIME®, BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and the Smithsonian Channel™, in addition to a robust offering of premier local content. The service is currently live in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Nordics, and Australia.   

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