Connect with us

Entertainment

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Comic Book Movies

The Batman | Official Theme By Michael Giacchino Is Here

In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.

Published

on

By

Genre:

Action, Crime, Drama

Release Date:

March 4, 2022

Director:

Matt Reeves

Cast:

Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, Jeffrey Wright

Plot Summary:

The Batman is an upcoming American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film is being produced by DC Films and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is a reboot of the Batman film franchise. The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay with Mattson Tomlin.

FILM RATING
Continue Reading

Comic Book Movies

Opinion | Why Affleck Is Right About Superhero Movies

Published

on

The whole “superhero vs. cinema” debate has been talked about ad nauseam, but add Ben Affleck to the list of actors who have put out their sort of opinion about the genre that he was once a part of. For those who don’t know, and for context, Affleck played Daredevil in the 2003 adaptation of the same name, along with Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Justice League, and finally, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Take it from someone who has done nothing but small movies recently, with the exception of reshoots for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, franchise movies are killing the spotlight for non-franchise movies. Note: Not the theatrical experience, as people are still going in droves to see No Way Home which is great for theaters, but the ability to see something other than Tom Holland at their local movie theater.

Affleck’s quote was pretty clear, talking to Entertainment Weekly, the Good Will Hunting star said: “Hey, I’m so into the Marvel Universe, I can’t wait to see what happens next.” And there’ll be 40 movies a year theatrically, probably, all IP, sequel, animated.” He would then go on to mention The Last Duel, the Ridley Scott film that he starred in this last fall that had critical acclaim but underperformed at the box office, only making $30.5 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo. The Last Duel did top VOD charts, so at least they can hang their hat on something.

When reading Affleck’s quote, some may roll their eyes at yet another person using Marvel as their example, but the numbers back it up. The top ten highest-grossing movies of 2021 domestically were all franchise movies of the prequel, sequel, and franchise kickstarter assortment. The first original movie to come up (not counting Free Guy or Jungle Cruise, which obviously have hopes for sequels) was another Ridley Scott movie, House of Gucci. Hell, Disney accounted for a quarter of the entirety of 2021’s domestic box office (CNBC), with Sony, by the power of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, coming in at second place.

Ben Affleck photographed exclusively for EW on December 8, 2020, in LA.

Nothing that Affleck said above is wrong. Argo, Affleck’s Oscar-winning 2012 film, likely would be relegated to a streaming series. Hell, Martin-freaking-Scorsese had to make The Irishman for Netflix and his next film, Killers of the Flower Moon, for Apple. And look, thank God for streaming, or else these voices wouldn’t get to share their work. Ricky Gervais’ After Life has resided on Netflix for each of its three seasons, and it’s some of his best work. But what is depressing is that movies like Affleck’s The Tender Bar, which is not a perfect movie by any means, get a limited theatrical run before heading to Prime Video, a common practice nowadays for films without a post-credits scene.

And I should be the first to say, that I am very blessed to experience the number of movies I do at press screenings. If I hadn’t made a screening to see Flee, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, or The Tragedy of Macbeth to name a few, I likely would have missed them before they hit streaming. My local AMC usually does a decent job of getting the smaller releases, they had India Sweets and Spices for a week, but all three mentioned in the previous sentence were nowhere to be found at any point of their theatrical run. And I know that The Tragedy of Macbeth is heading to Apple TV+ this Friday, but it’s a visual spectacle more than anything, and seeing it on the big screen probably enhanced my enjoyment rather than watching the Bergman-like imagery on a laptop.

I must also disclose that screeners do have a certain level of convenience. Sometimes the commute into New York or Philadelphia does not outweigh the enjoyment of sitting in bed watching The Night House or Annette, so I cannot act like I am not guilty of opting for a screener, but there are also times where there isn’t a choice.

I’m also not trying to kid myself, not every movie needs a big-screen to fully experience the movie, but that also doesn’t mean that filmmakers who don’t make movies about men in tights should instantly be thrown onto a streaming service, with a limited theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles as the coveted added bonus.

Ben Affleck photographed exclusively for EW on December 8, 2020, in LA.

There are some filmmakers that seem to get theatrical runs; Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch expanded and was playing in almost every theater around me, Licorice Pizza has been going steady at the box office, hell, House of Gucci, by the same director of the financial flop that was The Last Duel, is still selling out showings almost two full months into its run.

The financial side of things is a whole other issue. Yes, of course, the film industry is a money-making business at the end of the day, but there has to be some middle ground that allows mid-budget/small-budget movies to see the light of day. There’s just something about seeing a comedy like Don’t Look Up in a crowded theater full of laughter that makes the movie funnier than watching it at home.

Look, at the end of the day, this is just my opinion and I am completely aware that people will go and see No Way Home for their sixth rewatch instead of The Worst Person in the World. I cannot act like I don’t catch the latest MCU movie, but I also make an effort to catch Spencer while it’s in theaters or do my rewatch of Licorice Pizza after already seeing it at a press screening at the AMC. I just wish that instead of asking people to cancel their reservation to see Nightmare Alley in an effort to open up auditoriums for No Way Home, Matrix Resurrections, etc., we let those films have at least one showtime. And none of what Affleck said was about the quality of the Marvel movies, that’s a whole different debate, it’s just the silencing of voices in the industry. With it seeming like the number of Marvel movies only rises every year, film lovers can only pray that Dr. Strange could cast that forgetting spell on moviegoers with the Peter Parker in this scenario being the MCU, DCEU, and any other franchise that has dominated the box office in recent years. Even Tom Brady and the Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots lost in the playoffs (thank you, Eli Manning) every once in a while.

FILM RATING
Continue Reading

Batman

The Batman Director Matt Reeves Says Bruce Wayne is Inspired By Kurt Cobain

Published

on

The latest issue of Empire Magazine will feature new images and stories from the upcoming  DC film directed by Matt Reeves, ‘The Batman.’ In the latest issue, Reeves talks about his inspiration for this latest iteration of Gotham’s dark knight.

“When I write, I listen to music, and as I was writing the first act, I put on Nirvana’s ‘Something In The Way’. That’s when it came to me that, rather than make Bruce Wayne the playboy version we’ve seen before, there’s another version who had gone through a great tragedy and become a recluse. So I started making this connection to Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, and the idea of this fictionalised version of Kurt Cobain being in this kind of decaying manor.”

Robert Pattinson – Batman [credit: Empire Magazine | Warner Bros. Pictures]

Reeves knew that Robert Pattinson would be perfect for the role after seeing his performance in Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, which initially caught his eye.

“In that movie you could really feel his vulnerability and desperation, but you could also feel his power,” Reeves explains. “I thought that was a great mix. He’s also got that Kurt Cobain thing, where he looks like a rock star, but you also feel like he could be a recluse.”

Robert Pattinson also shed some light as to what we can expect from his version of the dark knight. We get the picture, that this Bruce Wayne will be a dark, tormented soul, finding purpose through his nightly struggles in the streets of Gotham.

“Bruce has been hiding away,” says Pattinson. “He’s not really a socialite at all. He’s building all these little contraptions and things, just with Alfred. And even Alfred thinks he’s gone insane!”

Robert Pattinson – Bruce Wayne [credit: Empire Magazine | Warner Bros. Pictures]

Some of the differences we will see in the new incarnation, will even appear in the bat-suit, in the form of limited gadgets but also, the noticeable wear and tear of the suit.

“He’s been out every single night for two years, getting beaten up and shot and stabbed and burnt, and it shows,” the actor explains. “There’s a bullet graze on the cowl, right at the beginning. I don’t think that’s been done before.”

The Empire Magazine “Batman Edition” hits shelves this Thursday 23 December.

The Batman hits theaters March 4, 2022

FILM RATING
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Popular Now

Advertisement
Advertisement

TRENDING NOW

Trending

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x