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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The ‘Uncharted’ movie is probably just one of those things that’s never actually going to get made

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Uncharted
NAUGHTY DOG/SONY INTERACTIVE

Between Spider-Man parting ways with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now this new development regarding the long-in-the-works film adaptation of Uncharted, it’s been a pretty eventful and rather unfortunate week for Tom Holland.

Dan Trachtenberg, the fifth director to be attached to Uncharted, has reportedly exited the project for unspecified reasons, though it’s likely it had to do with creative differences or whatever bullshit excuse it is that these studios manage to pull out of their asses whenever a director leaves a high-profile project.

Again, Trachtenberg was not the first, second, third, or fourth director to be attached to be Uncharted, but the FIFTH. David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Seth Gordon, and Shawn Levy were all attached to the project at one point or another but ended up leaving for various different reasons.

On the bright side (?), however, Sony is already looking to lock down a replacement for Trachtenberg and a new director should be in place soon in anticipation of the film’s early 2020 production start.

But, like, let’s be real here for a second; what are the chances of the Uncharted movie actually happening at this point? This is a truly cursed production and if it does actually ever get made, I vow to release my tax returns.

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Adam Driver and Annette Bening work to expose the CIA’s torture program in ‘The Report’ trailer

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The Report
AMAZON STUDIOS

Another day, another trailer for a movie starring Adam Driver; a few days after Netflix blessed us with two teasers trailers for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Amazon Studios has released the first trailer Scott Z. Burns’ The Report.

Driver stars here as idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones, who is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to lead an investigation of the CIA’s inhumane Detention and Interrogation Program, which was formed in the wake of 9/11 and used “enhanced interrogation techniques” — that’s government codeword for torture.

“Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public,” reads the synopsis.

In addition to Driver and Bening, The Report features one hell of an impressive ensemble cast that includes the likes of Jon Hamm, Sarah Goldberg, Michael C. Hall, Douglas Hodge, Fajer Kaisi, Ted Levine, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Linda Powell, Matthew Rhys, T. Ryder Smith, Corey Stoll, and Maura Tierney.

The film premiered at and was purchased out of the Sundance Film Festival in January and currently boasts a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it sounds like we’re going to be in for quite a treat when The Report hits theaters on November 15 and Prime Video on November 29.

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Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman & Margot Robbie glare intensely at each other in the ‘Bombshell’ trailer

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Bombshell
LIONSGATE

Despite taking place entirely in a hot, stuffy elevator and featuring little to no dialogue, the first trailer for Jay Roach’s Fox News drama Bombshell about the downfall of Roger Ailes does a pretty damn good job of showcasing what is likely to be a serious contender this awards season.

Written by Charles Randolph, Bombshell chronicles the inevitable collapse of Ailes’ reign at Fox News, where he served as chairman and CEO up until his resignation in 2016 amid dozens of sexual harassment and abuse allegations from several female employees at the conservative media empire.

Among the many women who accused Ailes of misconduct were former Fox News hosts Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, who are played here by Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, respectively, while Margot Robbie plays as a fictional associate producer named Kayla Pospisil.

As if those three stars weren’t enough, the film’s ensemble cast also includes the likes of John Lithgow (who plays Ailes), Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Malcolm McDowell, Mark Duplass, Rob Delaney, and Stephen Root.

I don’t know about you, but I dig everything about this trailer (I could literally watch Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, and Margot Robbie glaring at each other in an elevator all day) and I’m actually pretty excited to see how Bombshell turns out when it drops in December.

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