SHOCK talks to Canadian filmmaker Gabriel Carrer about THE DEMOLISHER and future projects.
With the Eli Roth redux of Michael Winner’s venerable vigilante classic DEATH WISH on the horizon, it behooves all fans of such violent, vengeance-drenched psyche-thrillers to look to the North. Why? Because a Canadian lad named Gabriel Carrer has already remade DEATH WISH. Well, not so much remade as pummeled it to a pulp, thrown it into a blender with a mash of other hard-edged urban shock classics and used the resulting paste to paint a stark new picture of stylized dread, madness and chest-beating violence.
The film is THE DEMOLISHER, a slickly realized indie shot in Guelph and Toronto that, in 2015, enjoyed festival play around the world and garnered rave reviews from international press.
The film stars prolific indie actor Ry Barrett (SAVE YOURSELF, NEVERLOST) as a man who, after his wife is severely injured, dons riot armor and takes to the Toronto streets to pulverize the scum that slither ’round late at night. But when he erroneously targets a woman who he thinks is a criminal, he stops at nothing to find her and “demolish” her. With his moral compass now as skewed as his sanity, a cat and mouse game leads to a disastrous finale.
THE DEMOLISHER is a solid piece of filmmaking, betraying its modest budget and delivering a juiced-up, action-oriented Peckinpah-meets-Nicolas Winding Refn poem about the corrosive (but cool looking!) nature of violence.
With news of a U.S. release bubbling on the horizon (the film has already been released in Germany), SHOCK talked to Carrer about his mean mutha of a movie and his new picture, which will be featured at Fantasia’s “Frontieres” program this year.
SHOCK: THE DEMOLISHER feels like an 80s vigilante epic but has a modern, hard-edge. Can you break down its influence aesthetically and thematically?
CARRER: The film carried on what we aesthetically couldnt fully explore in my previous film, IN THE HOUSE OF FLIES. We kept the camera very still, but now we are in open wide places, so how could we tell the story of these characters in the most simplest way?
I also love the chase of giallo films and early slasher classics. There are some fantastic giallo motifs in the film, such as black gloves of THE DEMOLISHER, tightening them over the steering wheel of his car as be broods with anger in the first few shots of the film. I am also product of the ’80s, and I grew up watching DEATH WISH and other revenge films. I even have a signed Charles Bronson window card framed hanging above my television beside my toy robots. I always wanted to make a revenge film, and I felt unsatisfied with the revenge in my previous film. So this film would naturally be all about revenge, but I also didnt want to try and make a revenge film because all the best revenge films have been done. So I tried to approach it from a different perspective, not focus on the violence but more so the internal struggle of our lead character. What scapegoats could be revealed through his actions and mistaken interpretations? And how could all this be in his head? Those were questions asked during the process. I also stand firm with my case on Michael Shannon being cast for the role of Paul Kersey in the DEATH WISH remake, but Bruce (Willis) is good too.
SHOCK: There is minimal dialogue, and exposition, save for some at the header. Was this choice to let movement and action tell the story evident in the script or did it change as the edit progressed?
CARRER: The script was all action and movement based. There was not a lot of dialogue from the start by choice. I wanted this to be more of a dreamlike film, less focus on dialogue and what is actually happening, and more focus on the revengeful visuals, visual emotion with our main character and the music. For the past year or two, I was finding myself playing films in the background while I worked. Once in awhile I would glance over and stare at an image that was unfolding. This inspired me to make a film where you treat it more like a painting on a wall that made a sound. Every now and then, it could evoke a thought or emotion. You can play this film in the background while you work, and perhaps some of the images or ideas behind it may evoke or inspire something else. In the editing room, arrangements were made with various scenes, and sometimes we played with the time frame. Some of those time fragments are still in the film, before, after and during. What happened first? It raises questions with the narrative…
SHOCK: The music become the drive of the movie. Did you cut to the music? Was it added later? If so, what music did you temp the edit with?
CARRER: Music is the dancing partner of cinema, music impregnates film giving it life. If you dont focus on the score or the sonic notation of scenes, then you are leaving your dancing partner at the side lines. It becomes selfish. Our fantastic composer from the U.K, Glen Nicholls, read the script and began creating all these marvelous sounds after he read the story. This was important because it helped me visualize the film. While I was writing the script, I was listening to everything from European trance/techno music to lots of 70s-80s stuff like Alan Vega and his group Suicide, early noise bands and then Tangerine Dream. Angus McLellan my editor had all the musical tracks and would cut the scenes to the score then go back and revise accordingly, there was no temp music. Music becomes a core and resonating seed in the film and he had all the music before we even started filming.
SHOCK: What is it about him do you think that filmmakers in Canada keep gravitating towards? And on that note…was he always your Demolisher?
CARRER: Ry Barrett is a warlock of an actor. I have known him for over 10 years and this man is capable of conjuring up depths within a role that not everyone witnesses because he hides them in his nuances. This is a good thing. He doesnt display everything right in front of the viewer or the character he is playing. Ive seen him drop motifs throughout films he was in and sometimes I doubt even the filmmakers saw them, because I sometimes never see them until a film is finished. I wonder if he is even aware of this. This is why he is prolific, he doesnt over think. He is a natural. He works on a subconscious level instead of external or even internal. This goes beyond that. Ry Barrett was always and is The Demolisher.
SHOCK: What adventures has the film taken you on so far?
CARRER: Everything was an adventure, from writing the script to it having its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. I was surprised to hear it won the silver audience award for best Canadian feature, because I did not see the film as an audience film and people who have seen it are very divided about it. Following Fantasia it went to SITGES in Spain then to the Vancouver International Film Festival. All which I was very surprised about and even split audiences even more. Germany was the first to pick up the film before it screened anywhere and they gave it special treatment. The fine folks at Meteor Films saw the film as our team did. They were passionate about it and the importance of the score and music. I was not able to attend these festivals except Fantasia, but I did fly to Edmonton to be present with the film at DedFEST. DedFEST screens its films at the Garneau Theatre, a huge old theatre that makes its audience remember the importance of seeing cinema in the theatre and the experience.
SHOCK: Critics responded enthusiastically. But – predictably – there has been some dissent from some viewers. As the movie has its own identity and refuses to conform, do you still stand firm that you made the right decisions to make an arthouse action film and not an easily digested crowd-pleaser?
CARRER: Critics are like the weather and drugs, they are unpredictable. The ones who I thought would detest the film ended up embracing it and vice versa. Sometimes you watch critics give bad reviews to films you love, and when they give you a bad review, you are happy because you know you are doing something right. Especially if those films were of inspiration to you. I loathe conformity with film and cinema. People, producers and some critics place so may rules on what makes cinema, and sometimes they are unconscious of these rules. The decisions I made during the film all came from the process. I did not go into this thinking I was going to make an arthouse action film. I went into this making what I want to see and WHAT would come out of the act of making it. You have to make your film your way. You arent making an art house film if you say you want to make one right before the act of doing so. It is a label that is being wrongfully used these days with filmmakers and audience goers. There are films coming out that are trying to be arthouse, then trying to be digested crowd-pleasers because they need to make money. That is a contradiction, its not arthouse then. Arthouse is not a label, it is a process! True arthouse is punk, it does not care about financial mediums, compromise or entertainment. Do not compromise. As people, we are always trying to slap labels to define things, it is in our nature to do so, but it is also damaging. If you are making a digested crowd-pleader then do it! There is no shame, just make it and own up to it. Do not hide behind the bedroom door like some unwanted mongoloid troll in front of a beautiful women laying in your bed who wants to be with you.
SHOCK: What can you tell me about your next project VENTABLVCK?
CARRER: Our team at Latefox Pictures will be taking it to the Frontières International Co-Production Market at the Fantasia International Film Festival in part with the Raven Banner Entertainment showcase. The audience will see some visuals from some early development that has been happening. Since THE DEMOLISHER conjured up some hate, VENTABLVCK is a film that is going to war with the hate by becoming the hate. That was the trigger. It is literally a fight movie without being a fight movie. It has lots of violence against men. It is about a lonely man working as a pizza delivery driver for a Syrian immigrant who operates a pizza joint and then eventually gets recruited by a woman obsessed with fashion who runs a boutique underground fight ring. It is about self inflicted violence in a non literal way and redemption.
SHOCK: Is it difficult creating such singular indie cinema in Canada? Or has the global village of the digital age erased many of the cultural problems with making and exhibiting art?
CARRER: It is easier then ever to create singular indie cinema in Canada. Now is the time to do it. Some artists are sticking to their full potential integrity to create the art they wish to create now, others are taking other traveled roads to do so. There is no right or wrong way, the fact that artists have a choice and many options to exhibit their art is incredible. The digital age has helped bring cultural relevant issues to the masses, and there are so many artists in so many mediums exploring these issues and creating their opinions through their art. Everything is becoming digital, the art, film and visuals we create all linger in the digital world now. It is fairly inexpensive to create a film these days or make a film that will plot your point. If you cant afford to do certain scenes, thing of the context and film it way that it could convey the same issue, motivation or subtext. Regarding the exhibition of film, it is getting tougher to produce a film then reveal it at a theater without having a large amount of capital or financial aid. The risk of the film not making its return at the theater is higher, especially at the independent cinemas. That is why film festivals are vital and are the key to exhibiting film as an art form. There is less risk, because festivals dont rely on a singular. Sure it doesnt make financial return like having a box office run, but it brings things back to what is important, you and the audience.
SHOCK: When will North American fans be able to lock their mitts on THE DEMOLISHER?
CARRER: I wish I could say, but I am under close eye to not say anything for the moment. But I can say that a major distributor has taken the film for North America physical and VOD. The film is also being released by another company, which has previously released Nicholas Refns, Bronson and Valhalla Rising. It has found a good home with some good company. Its important the film gets listed with a rooster of films that our team have drawn inspiration from, so that is an element we always look for when distributors approach us. A home base where it can be understood for what it is…