Twelve years ago, South African-Canadian filmmaker Neill Blomkamp burst on the scene with “District 9,” the rare sci-fi film that was appreciated in its time, landing four Oscar noms, including one for best picture. Now, Blomkamp is wading into horror territory with “Demonic,” which follows a woman named Carly (Carly Pope) who uses technology to delve into her troubled history with her mother — and begins to realize evil forces might have been at play. “Demonic” hits theaters and VOD on Aug. 20.
You shot this film last year at the height of the pandemic. Can you talk about where the idea came from
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This movie is highly, highly unusual in the way that it was made, in the sense that when COVID began, it was clear that many huge Hollywood productions were on pause. I was always inspired by “Paranormal Activity,” and I love the idea of a filmmaker that just shot something in their house, but I never had the opportunity to do it. So I guess this story sort of emerged out of the puzzle pieces I had access to. I started thinking about this in April, and we were shooting by June. It was sort of a case of reverse-engineering the film.
You use technology for the scenes where Carly enters a virtual reality world. Can you tell us about this process?
The process is called volumetric capture. It’s unlike motion capture, so it’s unlike the process of a typical motion capture audiences are used to. Motion capture would apply the motion of a body or facial capture to something artists build separately. This version is: Your actors are in hair and makeup and wardrobe — that is how they look. The only difference is that instead of filming them with a film camera, you’re capturing them in 3D.
And this is an early technology, correct?
It’s a very new way of doing things that I haven’t really seen done before in film, which is extremely hilarious to me [since] it’s a very low-budget horror film. Because you shouldn’t have 16 minutes of CGI in a low-budget horror film, but that’s how it ended up happening. And you can tell with all of the glitches and the errors in it, it’s extremely early technology. But when that resolution comes down to the same level that we’re used to with film cameras, it will be pretty revolutionary, I think.
You founded Oats Studios, where you make short films, and you’ve worked with several actors who appear in “Demonic.” Is the idea to make the movies you want to make and build this repertory company of actors and artists?
The way that it was originally built was to create a single studio where everything happens under one roof, which is highly unusual in live-action production. The examples of that would be more like in animation like Pixar, where everything just happens in a building, and the film comes out. I wanted to try to do that with live action, and it creates an extremely creative environment. It has a very good vibe, I think, if you make the content from beginning to end.
We’re all still waiting on a “District 9” sequel — at the end of the film Christopher said he’d be back in two years. It’s been 12.
I know. He’s been stranded for quite a while now. He’s had issues.
Things you didn’t know about Neill Blomkamp:
Hometown: Johannesburg; he now resides in Vancouver
Other films: “Elysium,” “Chappie”
Fast friends: Frequently works with actor Sharlto Copley, whom he met in high school
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