SHOCK reports from the set of the Black Fawn/Breakthrough Films feature THE HERETICS.
It was a warm Spring day in Erin, Ontario, a rural town North of Toronto where life is quieter, where a man can live his life full measure, away from the manic pace of the city and its toxic urban sprawl.
I was summoned here on this pretty day by the lads at Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment, to get a sneak peek at the making of BITE director Chad Archibald‘s new horror film THE HERETICS. The movie is one of 8 movies that Archibald and his Black Fawn partners are making (the deal also includes already released pics like ANTISOCIAL, ANTISOCIAL 2, THE DROWNSMAN and the aforementioned, acclaimed body horror flick BITE as well as the upcoming BED OF THE DEAD) and is a “cult” movie, i.e. a picture in which some class of protagonist gets mired in the depths of a class of pagan brutes, who more often than not wish extreme bodily harm upon them.
How perfect that the idyllic faced of Erin be home to such staged shenanigans.
The Guelph-based Black Fawn team are more like a tribe. The same crew and often, casts, show up to work on most of their efforts and to be on one of their sets is a casual, intimate affair. Funny that, after the relatively high profile festival, theatrical and video presence of BITE, that behind the smoke and mirrors is a mom and pop outfit that makes their pictures quick and dirty.
“What’s really amusing is that most fans don’t get that,” Archibald tells me.
“They see a movie like THE CONJURING and, on the message boards and social networks, they’re comparing stuff like BITE to it, without having any idea just how indie we really are.”
Certainly, THE HERETICS and all of the Black Fawn pictures are slave to severe budgetary limitation. But as Archibald infers, those limitations almost never show up on screen. A general look at films like the Warner Bros. backed THE CONJURING films and THE DROWNSMAN or BITE, reveals results that are not that different from each other. Black Fawn movies universally stretch dimes into dollars and are beautifully produced on minimal budgets on sparse locations.
Credit much of that splendor to production designer Vince Moskowec, an endless fountain of innovation who fully completely understands how to create something grandiose out of thin air. On this day, after an epic drive into the country, we park at Archibald’s sisters’ farm and then I’m led to a pick up truck driven by producer Cody Calahan (who also directed ANTISOCIAL) and driven to the set. The set is initially a field with a pair of trailers, an outhouse and a few scattered tents, of which one of them is home to Moskowec’s “lab”. The veteran artist has tables full of wood, bones, glue and other debris and has made a series of incredible pagan masks. I’m allowed to choose one to keep and I’m blown away. Using latex as a base, Moskowec first sculpts a generic human face and then simply wanders into the woods to collect pieces of tree bark and cast off animal bones, securely adhering the organic refuse to the face and creating something nightmarish (the one I select has a gruesome deer jawbone embedded into its splintered forehead). Upon first glance, I’m impressed. After further speaking with the intelligent, eccentric Moskowec, I’m astonished. This guy is the real deal.
Astonishment leads to near-skull-explosion when I’m taken to THE HERETICS’ “cabin in the woods”, a massive construction that Moskowec designed and built using left over skids and found junk. It’s – pardon my French – fucking incredible. So incredible, in fact, that the owners of the land that the team are shooting on let them use it for free with the agreement that they’re able to keep the cabin as their own.
Heaven knows what they’ll get up to in it.
Because in the context of the film, this sturdy cabin is home to real deal horror.
Inside the cabin, a pentagram is painted on the floor, in the middle of the main room. This is, after all, the site of severe Satanic ritual. THE HERETICS involves a young woman who is selected by a cult to serve as the second coming of the demon Abadon, a vessel in which to drag the monster from Hell into the real world. God knows why they’d want to bring the winged, fanged monster into the present day. But God has little to do with the logic of it, really.
Archibald takes me into the next room, an eerily lit chamber in which a miasma of hand-drawn sketches of devils and angels and archaic verbiage are plastered on every surface. Tools litter the peripheral, instruments presumably to be used for murder and violence most foul.
I’m beyond impressed by this room, this cabin, this team. Not just by their relentless innovation and camaraderie, but by their kindness, openness, lack of ego.
Maybe it’s a Canadian thing?
Expect tons more coverage from the set of THE HERETICS in the coming weeks, including full interviews with principal cast and a magnificent chat with Archibald himself.
In the meantime, feast on my exclusive photos below…