Interview: David F. Sandberg brings his unique style of filmmaking to 'The Conjuring' franchise
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David F. Sandberg on ‘Annabelle: Creation:’ ‘It really felt like something I could make my own’

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In Annabelle: Creation, it feels as though horror is being hearkened back to its glory days when the genre relied upon tension and suspense as opposed to predictable, cheap jump scares that leaves its audience feeling rather annoyed more than excited while walking out of the theater.

The latest installment in The Conjuring franchise, helmed by Lights Out director David F. Sandberg, who recently signed on to direct Shazam! for New Line and DC, chronicles the events that take place several years after the tragic, unexpected death of the daughter of a doll maker and his wife, who invite a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their seemingly normal home.

While it may play out in a rather conventional, by the books manner, Sandberg brings his unique style of filmmaking to a sequel that was to be dreaded by those were left disappointed by the first Annabelle movie. The scares are well-crafted, and Sandberg even incorporates a few easter eggs throughout what feels like a wildly fast-paced haunted house ride that only the biggest “ponysmasher” fans will be able to catch.

My conversation with Sandberg picks up a few moments after we chatted about this prank in Brazil, inspired by Annabelle: Creation. Here’s the full interview:

What was your initial reaction when New Line approached you to direct the Annabelle sequel? 

They came to me during the post-production on Lights Out and they were very happy with how the film had turned out. And, you know, I had a very good experience working with them, but when they first asked if I wanted to direct the sequel to Annabelle, I was like, “Well, where are you going to take it? Is it just going to be the same movie again the way a lot of horror sequels are?” But then I was totally surprised to then read Gary Dauberman’s script and see that it was very different from the first movie. So, it really felt like something I could make my own.

It’s a very standalone movie, and you don’t even have to have seen the first one to see this one. You can even see the first one after and it still works. Plus, it’s a real period piece, and we got to build the whole house from scratch, it’s a mostly girl cast, which I thought was really cool, and there was just a lot of things that made me want to do it.

Yup, the kids in this movie were outstanding. Gabriel Bateman’s sister, Talitha Bateman, was especially good. 

Yeah! But she didn’t just get the part. She auditioned several times and really proved how good she was. The casting was so important and we had so many girls that kept coming back. It takes so much work to find the perfect actress for the right role.

One of the best scenes in Annabelle: Creation is when one of the orphan girls is trapped in the barn and the light bulbs start unscrewing themselves from the ceiling. Was that moment inspired by your Attic Panic short at all?

Yes, absolutely. There was actually a different thing that was supposed to happen in the barn during that scene that was, you know, not as exciting. So, when the studio mentioned that they were going to do some additional photography and asked me if there was anything that I wanted to change or improve upon, I brought the idea to them. A lot of people who have seen Attic Panic told me, “Hey, you guys should do a feature film based on Attic Panic,” but I always thought that there was no story there. You just can’t make a feature out of that. So, instead, we decided to incorporate just that part into Annabelle.

It was really cool with the help of Hollywood-level people. In the short, I used CGI for the light bulb and everything, but it didn’t turn out great. This time around, I had an actual practical effects guy who made a remote controlled unscrewing light bulb and stuff like that, which looked really cool and Benjamin Wallfisch did a great recreation of the score I made for the short.

Seriously, the barn scene probably got the best reaction out of the audience at my screening. One of the other scenes that seemed to play really well was the ending—that very final scene. 

You said you haven’t seen the first Annabelle movie, right?

No, I haven’t.

Yeah, that was a worry if people would be too confused by it, but it seems most people sort of are still OK with it. We actually cut into, those very last shots, is actually footage from the first Annabelle movie. So, you could actually just start Annabelle one right there and just have one really big, long movie. I thought that was really cool. But yeah, that was a worry, and we even considered test screening without that ending, as well, which we did. People who knew what that was, like, people who had seen the first Annabelle movie, really loved that ending so much.

I’m sure working on the set of a horror film has to be pretty exciting, but I’m sure it can also be a bit creepy at times with the weird props laying around and what not. Were there any creepy or unexplainable things that ever occurred on the set?

No, I mean, I was too busy directing most of the time, so I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. But, Stephanie Sigman, who plays Sister Charlotte, was a bit freaked out, so she actually asked to have the set of the movie blessed by a priest. She said, “I’m not touching any dolls!”

You recently confirmed that you’ll be directing Shazam! for New Line and DC. Do you think it’s going to be a bit of a challenge making the switch from the horror genre to the comic book genre?

I’m mostly just excited about trying something different, but I’ll definitely be making a return to horror at one point or another. I’m just really excited to try something different.

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Audiences want to see a new ‘Back to the Future’ movie the most, results of a new survey find

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Back to the Future
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According to a new survey conducted by The Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult, the film franchise that Americans want to see a new movie from the most is Robert Zemeckis’ iconic Back to the Future series, which concluded 29 years ago with Back to the Future Part III in 1990.

The survey polled 2,201 adults between November 8 and November 11, with 71% saying they want to see Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown take the time-traveling Delorean out for another spin. However, Zemeckis has previously said that Back to the Future fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for another sequel.

Another franchise that polled well was Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story, which trailed close behind Back to the Future with 69% of surveyees saying they would like to see another installment in the animated franchise. Luckily for them, the long-awaited sequel Toy Story 4 is due out in theaters next summer and already has an official trailer.

Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park also performed well on the survey and came in at 68% and 67% respectively, while Shrek wasn’t too far off with 65%. Indiana Jones 5 and Jurassic World 3 are both expected to hit theaters in 2021, and a Shrek reboot was recently announced as being in development at Universal.

Among the franchises that underperformed were Star Wars and Avengers, coming in at 63% and 57% respectively, which Morning Consult vice president Tyler Sinclair says is evidence that audiences are more likely to watch a new installment in a franchise that has been dormant rather than one that is currently active.

“There’s a strong consumer demand for movie reboots and sequels, which spells good news for movie studios looking to capitalize on that nostalgic feeling,” Sinclair said.

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‘Once Upon a Deadpool’ trailer reveals the holiday-themed PG-13 ‘Deadpool 2’ re-release

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Once Upon a Deadpool
20TH CENTURY FOX

20th Century Fox has released the official trailer for Once Upon a Deadpool, the upcoming holiday-themed PG-13 re-release of Deadpool 2. The film will open in theaters for a limited engagement from December 12 through December 24 and won’t feature any of the graphic violence or adult-themed humor seen in the original R-rated theatrical cut.

Indeed, Once Upon a Deadpool is “the Merc with the Mouth’s reimagining of Deadpool 2 filtered through the prism of childlike innocence” and finds The Princess Bride star Fred Savage joining Ryan Reynolds‘ titular anti-hero to pay homage to his role in the 1987 bedtime-story classic in new scenes shot for the re-release.

“Fox has been asking for a PG-13 basically since the start in 2006,” Reynolds told Deadline. “I’ve said no since 2006. Now, this one time, I said ‘Yes’ on two conditions. First, a portion of the proceeds had to go to charity. Second, I wanted to kidnap Fred Savage. The second condition took some explaining…”

For every ticket sold, Fox will donate $1 to the charity Fuck Cancer, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit dedicated to cancer prevention and providing emotional support and guidance to cancer patients and their families. The organization agreed to temporarily change their name to “Fudge Cancer” to be more PG-13 friendly for the release of Once Upon a Deadpool.

“While my participation in this film was anything but voluntary, I am happy to learn that Fudge Cancer will be the beneficiary of this shameless cash grab,” Savage remarked.

You can check out the trailer for Once Upon a Deadpool below.

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WarnerMedia announces the Criterion Channel in the wake of the shuttering of FilmStruck

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Criterion Channel
CRITERION CHANNEL

The Criterion Collection and WarnerMedia announced Friday that they will be launching the Criterion Channel, a free-standing streaming service that will debut in the spring of 2019 and offer a vast library of Criterion films to subscribers for a monthly fee. The news comes just weeks after WarnerMedia revealed that they would be shutting down FilmStruck, a similar streaming service from Turner Classics Movies, on November 29.

“The Criterion Channel will be picking up where FilmStruck left off, with thematic programming, regular filmmaker spotlights, and actor retrospectives, featuring major classics and hard-to-find discoveries from Hollywood and around the world, complete with special features like commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and original documentaries,” a statement from Criterion and WarnerMedia reads.

The two companies said that the Criterion Collection will also be part of WarnerMedia’s forthcoming direct-to-consumer streaming service, which will offer content from other Warner-owned properties like HBO and Turner. The service is expected to become available near the end of 2019.

“The Criterion Channel will continue to produce their guest programmer series, Adventures in Moviegoing, which has already featured such cinephile luminaries as Barry Jenkins, Guillermo del Toro, Bill Hader, and Mira Nair. Criterion’s monthly 15-minute film school, Observations on Film Art, Tuesday’s Short + Feature, and the Friday double-bill will all be back as well,” the statement added.

In response to the shuttering of FilmStruck, more than 20 filmmakers and actors, including del Toro, Christopher Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuarón, and Leonardo DiCaprio, rallied behind the streaming service and signed an open letter asking WarnerMedia to reverse their decision. A Change.org petition also calling for FilmStruck to be saved has received more than 55,000 signatures.

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