Ricky Church pays a visit to the set of the horror film The Heretics…
Last week I was invited out to the set of Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment’s, the people who developed Antisocial, The Drownsman and Bite, latest endeavor: The Heretics, an upcoming horror film that focuses on a woman who was kidnapped by a cult at a young age. After surviving their sacrificial ritual, she’s kidnapped again years later by surviving cult members who want to see the ritual fully completed. The primary set is an impressive log cabin built from scratch by the crew out in the middle of the woods that is just as creepy in the daytime as it must be at night.
The intention of The Heretics is to create a character driven film that focuses on a survivor’s quest through their trauma. “The original idea went through an evolution of a couple different versions,” director Chad Archibald (The Drownsman, Bite) told me. “The original idea was based on this concept of what if you kidnapped someone you thought was an angel? It evolved to this cult and we did a lot of research on cults and brainwashing.”
After the massive success of Bite, Archibald also felt the need to take on a film that was a bit more down to earth. “I’d never done a cult film before or anything really about cults. It’s such an eerie concept and atmosphere. I wanted to do something a little more serious after Bite which was kind of our ‘fun’ film. It was just goo and eggs and a girl turning into a bug. After that I thought I’d switch it up a bit with a different tone and feel to it.”Photo Credits: Brandon Marsh Photography
Archibald’s drive to do something different seems ready to payoff, especially as he and his team achieved an eerie feeling surrounding the cabin. Led by production designer Vince Moskowec, the cabin’s construction was a big labour of love. Moskowec scrounged through his own collection of skids to help build it and utilized other resources, stretching a limited indie budget into something much more. The cabin is massive and consists of a large, open area complete with a pentagram on the floor, bed and fireplace in the corner and a collection of wood-carved masks and animal skulls on the wall. The next room over is dimly lit and full of sketches of angels, demons and a collection of pictures Nina Kiri, the film’s lead actress, taken from afar as someone watches her. Moskowec had a lot of creative control over the design and décor of the cabin, but still described its construction and design a “collaborative effort between myself and the entire team.”
Even the cult’s masks are made out of pure wood, carved by Moskowec himself. Archibald said that was a conscious decision as he “wanted them to feel organic, feel like one with nature and we actually went out and designed a bunch of stick masks and stuff. We wanted to take a bit of a different aspect and mix wood and bone. If you look through a lot of the cult masks they have jaw bones from different animals. That was kind of the feel and Vince just went nuts on it and started building a ton of them.”
The set even impressed the two lead actress, Nina Kiri, who plays the kidnapped survivor, and Jorja Cadence, who plays her girlfriend. “I don’t know what it was when we came to the cabin and it was dressed for the first time on the first day of shooting, it was incredible!” Kiri said.
Cadence clearly agreed, expressing her admiration for the crew. “It’s just incredible the way they make a brand new cabin that they just built look old and rustic, like its been here forever. You look at the walls and its all different pieces of wood and looks dirty, gross and moldy, I just can’t believe they were capable of pulling that off.” Asked what piece of the set struck her most, Kiri said “That room with my fricking face everywhere! That has been really weird, but really cool though.”Photo Credits: Brandon Marsh Photography
Both actresses’ play characters that have suffered traumatic experiences and actually meet in a PTSD support group before they begin dating each other. Much of the film’s emotional backbone is in fact layered within their relationship and motivation to move past their trauma together, something Kiri and Cadence hope resonates with audiences.
“This is a really great film,” Cadence says, “particularly because it’s a horror, but it’s a horror with heart. The three main characters have so much heart and so much humanity to them. There’s some crazy stuff that goes on, but I hope audiences still really feel and emphasize with those characters and know its not just horror for horror’s sake.”Photo Credit: Brandon Marsh Photography
It is also notable that The Heretics not only has two female lead characters, but females who are also part of the LGBT community. “There’s something really strong about having two female characters be the strength of the film,” says Kiri. “What I really think is admirable about female heroines is they don’t always need to carry a gun or be this big, burgeoning presence in order to exemplify strength.”
Just based off of everything the cast and crew have said to the intricate design of the cabin, its clear The Heretics is a film not to be missed once it is released. Check back here for more information on the movie in the coming months.
Photo Credits: Brandon Marsh Photography – www.brandonmarshphoto.com
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