Neill Blomkamp’s new horror film “Demonic” apparently has everything: a trauma subplot, an alienated relationship between mother and daughter, a nightmare sequence with monsters, a group of Vatican soldiers performing exorcism and VR scenes filmed using volumetric video recording technology.
The story follows a woman, Carly (Carly Pope), whose mother, Angela (Nathalie Boltt), is in a coma. When Carly was a teenager, Angela had a sort of break and killed 21 people, resulting in a decade-long alienation, but now Carly is being recruited by two doctors (who turn out to be a kind of Vatican special forces team) to reach out to her. The doctors, Michael (Michael J. Rogers) and Daniel (Terry Chen), connect her to a device – and this is where the volumetric recording comes in – that lets her get into her mother’s subconscious and walk around her mind in the middle of everything. Memories. However, there is a demon inside Angela – which explains her pause – so when Carly enters her dreams, the supernatural being begins to go after her, leading to all sorts of chaos, including nightmares and hallucinations.
Blomkamp said the VR scenes stemmed from his interest in using volumetric recording, even though the technique is fairly new and has not really found its way into mainstream Hollywood or filmmaking yet.
“I just love the aesthetic look, I love it,” Blomkamp said. “I wanted to find a way to use it, but I knew because it was so glitchy and so new that you had to think carefully about how to put it into a story where you can treat it like normal visual effects. . It had to be explained why it looks the way it does, and then in the case of this movie … I thought you could explain it to the audience in the sense that it’s a prototype piece of technology. ”
For “Demonic,” Blomkamp described the difficulties of using the technique during the filming process, as more than 250 cameras were arranged to capture the actors from all angles to properly display them as three-dimensional objects in the film’s VR scenes.
“The cameras should be arranged around the actors in a way so that they are close enough that you are trying to get the resolution up, but they are far enough away that the actors still have enough space to walk,” Blomkamp said. “So it ends up being a super-limited, horrible prison-cell-style situation with just a cage of cameras around the actors. It’s not great, it’s not a good recording process.
Despite the newer technology used to put together Blomkamp’s vision, he said the film was inspired by more classic horror films, such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
“I always wanted to try the challenge with a small, self-funded horror film at one point, but I never really knew when,” the director said. “Then, in March and April last year, when the world reacted to the pandemic, I kind of revived that idea, so I sifted through those older ideas that I had that were floating around in my head.”
One idea was to exploit volumetric capture, while the other idea involved people from the Vatican’s institution operating on a “more business in the 21st century”. With “Demonic,” Blomkamp said he was able to combine these two seemingly different ideas about VR and demonic possession and fit it into the smaller budget.
“I was trying to scare people, so I hope that’s what’s happening,” Blomkamp said. “I do not know if it succeeded or not, but that was the goal.”
“Demonic” opens Friday in U.S. theaters and on request.
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