French/Italian director Gerard Diefenthal talks DARKSIDE WITCHES, Barbara Bouchet and upcoming sequels.
It seems that since the release of Rob Zombies THE LORDS OF SALEM, witchcraft and witches have found a inspired interest from filmmakers and producers. While Robert Eggers THE WITCH made an impressive feature debut with his gripping historical horror-thriller, French born, Italian based director Gerard Diefenthal stepped in with another story influenced by folktales and the 1692 witch trials in Salem and Europe.
That movie is DARKSIDE WITCHES, released last year in the United States on DVD via Brain Damage Films. Receiving mixing reviews for its sometimes amateurish acting and the use of tons of digital CGI, the movie has the merit of starring the still amazing and beautiful icon of Italian horror Barbara Bouchet, although she detached herself from the picture soon after its release. And even if the story for this one is something we have seen countless times in the past, its a sort a voyage down memory lane, which bring us back to the Italian Gothic that we loved so much in the sixties and seventies.
Conceived as a trilogy by Diefenthal, who also wrote the screenplay and played the role of the Exorcist Don Gabriele, DARKSIDE WITCHES (which also features a new score by Claudio Simonetti) has been already sold to more than fifteen countries and gathered together enough investors to allow its author to start production on its sequel.
SHOCK had an exclusive chat with Gerard Diefenthal, who has set his home in Italy after he married in 1996 Patrizia Nigro, and hes currently working on the second chapter of the erotic horror saga…
SHOCK: You have a degree in law, how did you end up working for George Lucas Industrial Light & Magic and making movies?
DIEFENTHAL: Ive always loved Cinema since I was a kid; I remember that my father took me to the theater on Sunday morning, while my mother use to take me there during the week. Every time, it was like living an incredible adventure, I was entering an amazing dimension which I didnt want to leave anymore.
Back home I watched television and series like WILD WILD WEST and THE OUTER LIMITS or Christopher Lee DRACULA, which scared me a lot. Ive always been telling my parents that I wanted to make movies, but they wanted me to have a more serious job. One day I told them that I wanted to go to United States to learn special FX and with $1000 that my father gave me, I bought a one way ticket to America.
SHOCK: You have worked in big Hollywood productions as TERMINATOR 2 and TWISTER; what do you remember of those experiences?
DIEFENTHAL: Ive learned a lot from them, it was the beginning of my training path. Having the chance to be working side by side with such masters of FX, it was priceless. But Ive also learned that without a proper budget its almost impossible to create good visual effects. In those years doing special FX was real art, much different than today. I remember that we were programming with Shelf and for me that I had used Lightwave for rendering 3D images it was very hard.
SHOCK: Why did you decide to get behind the camera and become a director?
DIEFENTHAL: I was tired of being just a supervisor, a creative mind for someone else. This doesnt mean that I dont like that job anymore, but I always wanted to do something that was just mine, for myself. With the experience I had, I thought it was the right moment to become a filmmaker. I would have loved to do that in United States, but due to family reasons I had to get back to Europe.
SHOCK: How did you come up with DARKSIDE WITCHES? Is it true thats always been your intention to do a trilogy?
DIEFENTHAL: Yes, DARKSIDE began in my mind as a three movie saga. Its a very big project where I am developing many different characters that will be changing through the story and they will flip their roles. A single movie wouldnt have been enough for what I had in mind, Its not just for a market request that Im shooting two sequels, but an idea I had since the beginning.
SHOCK: Will it be a sequel or another story about witches?
DIEFENTHAL: It will be the official sequel, titled DARKSIDE WITCHES: APOCALYPSE, the story its not over yet. Father Gabriel and his team have failed, the demon Pazuzu wants to dominate the world and destroy all the Christians, but he forgets that Samael, who is Lucifer, is avid for all the souls on earth. I cant tell you more.
SHOCK: Barbara Bouchet after the completion of the film detached herself from it and refused to promote the film for its extreme violence, and because Italian censorship accused your movie of blasphemy and gave it an X certificate. Whats really happened between you two?
DIEFENTHAL: I really have no idea, Barbara read the screenplay before accepting the role, she knew what the story was all about, she knew everything and she even saw the storyboard. Maybe someone close to Barbara told her to dissociate and distance herself from the movie. Her decision caused me some serious problems with the marketing of the picture and with the press.
SHOCK: That didnt seem to bother you too much, as you promised that the sequel will be even more filled with sex and violence
DIEFENTHAL: Every movie gets some criticism and bad reviews, and thats OK. Its alarming when instead nobody talks about a film. All filmmakers are attacked and criticized for their movies, therefore Im not worried. DARKSIDE WITCHES shows the audience the dark side of evil, the perversion of Demons, in the first movie there is this bar scene with the Witch Lucrezia, played by beautiful Simona Cappia, where I wanted to depict her not just as a murderer, but also as a perverted creature hungry for sex. I wanted to show her dark side, therefore the second chapter will be even more violent and bloody and will contain more sex, but in the right balance.
SHOCK: Who did you cast in APOCALYPSE? I assume that Barbara Bouchet wont be in the sequel
DIEFENTHAL: The first film had quite a big success around the world, therefore: never say never! It could be that shell change her mind again. Anyway I have again chosen an international cast. Special guest will be Eiza Gonzalez, very well known for taking part in the TV series FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, then Ill have back sensuous Simona Cappia and Giuditta Niccoli, two actresses that I have discovered and with whom I had a very good feeling on the set. Im also working to cast Bruce Payne and Alexander Skarsgård.
SHOCK: What fascinates you about the horror genre and in particular, witchcraft?
DIEFENTHAL: Witchcraft in the horror genre is often very conventional, but a TV series that I loved is Adam Simon and Brannon Braga SALEM. Braga deeply explores the dark side and considers sex as a weapon. What fascinates me of witchcraft is the mysterious and creepy atmosphere typical of the inquisition era, a time in which it was very dangerous doing something as studying herbal medicinal products or creating something new, without being accused of witchcraft. The Church has always seen evil in everything, and relied on fear to dominate people. Theres always been, and still there is, a lot of lack of knowledge about these dark and evil themes; I believe that good and evil, faith and deception, are elements which are very close, that depend on each other. That’s what intrigues me the most.
SHOCK: It looks as if you had a lot of fun playing Don Gabriel in Darkside Witches, will you reprise the role also in the sequel?
DIEFENTHAL: Yes, I really enjoyed acting. I directed it, produced it and acted in it, it was an impressive and exhausting job, but an amazing experience. I particularly recall the scene set in the Temptation Garden, with Simona Cappia. It was the longest and more difficult to shoot for me, I couldnt concentrate on it, because Simona was naked, and before her I had three more sexy temptresses. I cant remember how many times we had to repeat it, at a certain moment I began laughing and I couldnt stop! Anyway I will play Don Gabriel also in DARKSIDE WITCHES APOCALYPSE.
SHOCK: What software did you use for the digital FX? Will you extensively use them also in the sequel?
DIEFENTHAL: In DARKSIDE WITCHES I used Maya and Lightwave for the 3D effects, Nuke, After Effects and Photoshop, for the compositing, while for editing I used Avid, and Davinci for the Color Correction. But, as for the sequel Ill have a much bigger budget, thanks to the distributor who was really happy with the results of the movie, released in more than 15 countries, I will have the world renowned Industrial Light & Magic creating the visual FX. Expect something amazing…