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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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Paramount Players taps ‘Good Time’ directors Josh and Benny Safdie for ’48 Hours’ remake

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Safdie Brothers
ROB KIM/GETTY IMAGES

Hot on the heels of the success of their Robert Pattinson-led crime-thriller Good Time earlier this year, directors Josh and Benny Safdie have been tapped to write and direct a remake of the buddy-cop film 48 Hours for Paramount Players.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, who co-wrote Good Time together, will be on scripting duties, along with comedian Jerrod Carmichael, while Chernin Entertainment will produce with Oscar Boyson and Sebastian Bear-McClard under their Elara Pictures banner.

The original 48 Hours was directed by Walter Hill and starred Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy as a grizzled detective and fast-talking hustler who form an unlikely partnership to track down two vicious cop-killers before they strike again.

The Safdie brothers, who were recently nominated for Best Directors at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, are also in development on A24’s thriller Uncut Gems, an original story set in the New York City Diamond District starring Jonah Hill as the film’s main character.

A release date for either film has not been announced.

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Meet the protector of Wakanda in this action-packed new TV spot for ‘Black Panther’

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Black Panther

With just two more months to go until Ryan Coogler’s long-awaited Black Panther finally hits the big screen, Marvel Studios has unleashed a new TV spot featuring plenty of action-packed new footage from the upcoming superhero film starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Andy Serkis.

Set just after the events of last year’s Captain America: Civil WarBlack Panther follows T’Challa as he returns home to Wakanda to succeed to the throne and taking his rightful place as king after the death of his father. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.

Black Panther, which Coogler co-wrote alongside Joe Robert Cole, also stars Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker. The film will open in theaters on February 16, 2018. You can check out the newly released TV spot in the embedded tweet below.

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The Walt Disney Co. will acquire most of 21st Century Fox in a historic $52.4 billion deal

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Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox

It’s official: The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox announced this morning that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Disney to acquire the vast majority of Fox, including the 20th Century Fox film and television studios, for a whopping $52.4 billion in stock.

“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a statement on Thursday. Iger has also extended his contract with the company through the end of 2021 to help oversee the acquisition process.

“When considering this strategic acquisition, it was important to the Board that Bob remain as Chairman and CEO through 2021 to provide the vision and proven leadership required to successfully complete and integrate such a massive, complex undertaking,” said Orin C. Smith, lead independent director of the Disney board.

Iger says Disney is “honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building, and we’re excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings.”

The newly announced deal will place the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool under Marvel control, meaning that they are bound to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in one way or another over the course of the next few Marvel films. Disney claims the control of these properties will allow them to “create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love.”

In addition, Disney will also now have control over Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox’s sister company specializing in the financing and distribution of independent, art-house, and foreign films. The studio has introduced audiences to films such as Little Miss Sunshine and 12 Years a Slave over the years and is already having an exceptional awards season with The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Though, as Disney continues to integrate the assets it has acquired into its company, the future of Fox Searchlight will remain uncertain.

“We are extremely proud of all that we have built at 21st Century Fox, and I firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry,” Murdoch said.

He continued, “I’m convinced that this combination, under Bob Iger’s leadership, will be one of the greatest companies in the world. I’m grateful and encouraged that Bob has agreed to stay on, and is committed to succeeding with a combined team that is second to none.”

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