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Copyright © Kitley's Krypt
2013 RONDO AWARD
Kitley's Krypt: Youíve often stated that H.P. Lovecraft was a big influence on you as a child. Who were the biggest cinematic influences on you in your youth?
Mariano Baino: I grew up watching the Italian
stuff, of course, watching Dario Argento and Lamberto Bavaís films. But the
reality of it was I watched a lot of American films. People are always
surprised when I say that Steven Spielberg always remains one of my favorites.
I grew up watching American films. Certain sensibilities and certain influences
are very European. But at the same time, for example, itís only afterwards
watching some of my stuff that I think thereís as much Hammer influence in there
as there would be Italian films of the 70s. When I watched some of the stuff
from Dark Waters, I think, ďGod, this is like a Hammer film.Ē
KK: Was there any particular film as a kid that really made an impact?
MB: There was definitely Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I remember coming out of the cinema after watching that, and the only way I can describe it was like Iím walking three feet in the air. Like I was walking, but didnít feel like I was touching the ground. I also remember going to watch Jaws with my parents. And yes, I was definitely scared of the sea and not going there for a long, long time after that. Of course, there was Deep Red was another film that made an impactÖand Suspiria.
KK: Did you have your interests in horror as a child?
MB: When I was really, really small, I was more
like an adventure/fantasy guy. I loved Tarzan and Sinbad. I loved
Harryhausenís stuff, like the 7th Voyage of Sinbad. I still
remember going to watch that with my parents, and coming out and it was like a
magical world for me.
KK: Were your parents supportive of your interests in horror and science fiction?
MB: Yes, absolutely. My parents were wonderful. They were always supportive of anything and everything I wanted to do. I remember going to see Zombie Flesh Eaters with my mother. I think I was 14 or something. In Italy, I think that was only a 14 certificate. At the time, Italy was very lenient. Now, in a weird way, itís gone the other way around: Before in America, everything was censored and Italy was very liberal. Now, a lot of stuff in Italy cannot be shown on television anymore. Everyone has problems with the censors. Here [in the U.S.], you can see anything you want, but in Italy, they have regressed to a more of a puritanical view of things.
KK: What can you tell us about your short Caruncula? How did the concept come about and how long did it take to make?
MB: The concept came from one of my old school
diaries, where youíre supposed to write what homework youíre supposed to do. In
there, I had some notes and drawings and stuff. But I had this note that said,
ďMake a film where the person looks like the victim, but in the end is the
perpetrator.Ē Basically that was the concept. By the time I came to
Caruncula, I had forgotten that scribble, but basically had this idea where
I wanted do a thing where you have a final twist. I wanted to make a very
innocent person that would be exactly the way you always see victims in horror
films, but in the end turned out not to be exactly what you thought. Also, I
loved the idea of the monster being a sympathetic character. If you watch
Caruncula, all the human beings are sleazy and horrible. The only real
innocent is really the monster.
KK: Itís interesting how the story came second after you got the locations.
MB: Yes, part of it could have been done anywhere. He could have worked in a garage, he could have worked anywhere. At that point, I thought, ďIíve got production value right here, why not make it look much more expensive than it was?Ē Two of the locations were actually a garage that was attached to the house we used. So the maniacís lair was all built in there, and the basement where she hides in the cinema at the end was built in there as well.
KK: Dark Waters seems to be commenting on the duality of a person with the two sisters (one good, one evil). In the end, good prevails but at a price. Is this a philosophy you feel in real life?
MB: I think Dark Waters is actually much
more ambiguous than that. Thereís the duality in the one person. In a way,
Elizabeth is not the good one. She doesnít want to accept that sheís a
monster. Her sister is actually very comfortable with the way she is, so sheís
a monster and proud of it, and she wants the mother, the monster, to come back.
Elizabeth is not; she feels that something is wrong with her, and sheís trying
to suppress this monster side. So in a way, the whole thing is basically is
more about discovering, ďOh my God, that is what my mother is, and this is my
family.Ē Itís almost like those films where someone goes back for Thanksgiving
and finds that their family has dark secrets. ďMy father is an alcoholic, my
mother is a heroin addict. Oh my God, how am I going to deal with this?Ē Iím
not interested in making films about people in those settings. So for me, that
was my version of it.
KK: Following the success of Dark Waters at festivals, did you get offers to do any other films?
MB: I went about trying to sell the film. I felt
responsible for the people who put up the money and such. So instead of setting
myself up immediately with another project, I spent my time on a personal labor
of love. Ever since I read the book, Ritual, I had always wanted to make
it into a movie. I tried to set that one up, and that one was so close to
becoming a reality so many times, than in a way it became a cycle of life: ďRitual
is happening.Ē I would get very close, and then the financing would collapse.
So I thought I would start something else and do Ritual later. But it
seemed like I missed the right moment.
KK: With Dark Waters, you did a lot of different jobs, besides directing. What part of the filmmaking process do you enjoy the most?
MB: In terms of enjoying, for me, thereís the old
saying that the script is written three times: when you write it, when you shoot
it, and when you edit it. So for me to actually be not part of one of those
three steps always seems weird. Of course, to me it seems like painting where
you do the pencil drawing and someone puts the color. I could never understand
that about comic books, for example. You do the pencil work, then someone inks
it and then someone colors it. For me, Iíve always felt like if this film is
written three times, I want to be involved those three times.
KK: What would be the least favorite?
MB: There is no least favorite. Maybe the solitude of writing sometimes, only because itís just you and your brain, and in a way, all you do is second-guess yourself all the time. Thatís the trap: The blessing and the curse of becoming better. When you are completely naÔve about scriptwriting, you donít second-guess yourself that much. The more you know about it, the more you start thinking, ďIs this stuff good? Is this stuff okay?Ē, and then you lose the spontaneity. Sometimes I wish that I could go back to when I was 8 years old and could write these things that I think is brilliant. Of course, that would be wrong in a way, but only if you could do that first and then go back and censor yourself. But now youíre second-guessing yourself when youíre doing it and thatís the problem. Thatís what makes you agonize about it, because it stops you and makes you slower. You have an idea and have that first rush. Then the next day you look at it and think that maybe itís a piece of shit. Thatís the thing that I donít enjoy, so if I get past that, then I would enjoy the writing as much as all the other parts.
KK: In an interview with Sight and Sound, you stated that people often make a horror movie with the assumption that it will be easy. Do you think that mindset is still prevalent today?
MB: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thatís why they want to give the first project to a guy that directs music videos; they never give them a drama, do they? They always give them a horror film. Why? Because they think it is something thatís easy to do. The problem is that with horror you see the surface very easily. So a lot of people only see the surface Ė they see the mechanics and they think you can recreate the mechanics and make a horror film. Of course, we know it doesnít work because 99% of horror films are crap. Unfortunately, they are made by people that donít care. You donít get that many directors making dramas as a first job when they really want to make comedies. People who make dramas really care about them. People who make comedies in a way really care about them. People who make horror films, most of them, do it as a step to something else. They really want to make a ďrealĒ film, but in the meantime they think theyíll make a horror film [because] it makes money and itís easy.
KK: Weíre tickled to hear you feel that way, since we are always complaining about filmmakers who start out in the horror genre, but then leave because they want to make ďreal filmsĒ.
MB: Of course. Unfortunately, then it becomes a vicious circle. In a way, the fans feed the same machine by supporting certain types of films. When you go to discuss your film, they tell you, ďNo, people want Hostel. So make another Hostel.Ē Then you find yourself having to justify yourself why you want to make certain types of film because when you say, ďI love making a horror film,Ē first thing that goes through peopleís minds is five idiots in the woods with someone and a knife. You have to explain that youíre making a classic horror film, and you have to go through all that again.
KK: Can you tell us how the situation with Dark Waters getting a special edition DVD from NoShame Films came about?
MB: NoShame wanted to do that from the beginning. Miguel DeAngelis, who is the head of NoShame, was always a huge fan of Dark Waters from the first time he saw it at the Fanta-Festival in Rome in 1994 or 1995. So when they started NoShame, that was always one of the things that they wanted to do. But at the beginning, since everything had to re-mastered and stuff, he waited until the distribution company was going. Then at a certain point, he said they could now do Dark Waters, so letís do it properly. We always wanted to do a double disc set, but I think they got carried away with it the more we were discussing it. It was one of the rare cases where the director was involved in the project so they could get a lot of stuff out of me, and I could get a lot of stuff out of them. They could get a lot of things from other people like interviews Ė I think the ďmaking ofĒ they did for us was definitely one of the most extensive they had done. I gave them access to the behind-the-scene photographs, my storyboards, everything. I think they did a brilliant job. Not just because itís mine; even if I was looking at it from the outside and seeing that box set, it would still be one of the best Iíve seen around.
KK: Whose idea was it to do the amulet reproductions?
MB: My original thing when we were discussing it was to make the box the shape of the amulet. I wanted the box to be round basically Ė the amulet would be the box. I think I got the idea from the Anchor Bay Evil Dead edition. The only problem was that if we made a round box, it wouldnít fit in the shops. So at that point, they said, ďWhy donít we make a model of the amulet?Ē, which I thought was brilliant. Iíve got to say that the best thing was that I expected it to be a plastic model, so when I first saw it, I thought, ďWhat have they doneÖits real stone!Ē I donít think there are that many DVDs around with a model like that around.
KK: Do you still have the big amulet from the movie?
MB: Yes, I do. Thatís what we used for reference work. I took photos of it and sent them to the people who would be doing the model. I also have a really big amulet, which we were going to use in the film to do a shot Ė we never used it, but I kept the huge amulet. I wanted to have a moment where the blood was flowing down from Elizabethís mouth, with the blood going onto the amulet to put the amulet together. We wanted to shoot inside one of the channels of the amulet and follow the blood, so we made a big amulet in order that we could actually go into it, but we didnít have the equipment to do it. But I ended up with a nice amulet that can sit on the wall, so thatís okay.
KK: Did you design the amulet?
MB: Yes. You can see the original sketches I did on the DVD. But then they modified it because when youíre making it three-dimensional, it doesnít work as well as when you draw it.
KK: Why did you decide to trim down the existing version of Dark Waters for this new DVD release?
MB: Well, hindsight is always good, but I think very soon after watching Dark Waters it bothered me. By the time we did the special edition of the DVD, I had already gone into an editing room about three or four years before, making a different version of the film to show around because I always thought, ďThat was not the version I wanted.Ē I think the advent of computer editing helps, because we edited on film, which Iím glad we did. If you started editing on film, its great training for once you start editing on computer. Not that I would like to go back to that way, because I love the flexibility of having the computer, but it gives you great discipline.
KK: Is Ritual still a project on the side?
MB: Yes, absolutely. Once again, in 2005, it was almost happening again, with NoShame Films. I kept optioning the book by myself. Then with NoShame films, we actually bought the rights to the book. I thought, ďThatís it, now weíre finally going to make it.Ē Of course, now itís stuck again, and in the meantime Iíve gone onto other things. But Iím definitely going to make that film.
KK: Do you have any other projects that you are working on?
MB: Thereís another film with the same producers
that I wrote Thy Kingdom Come for. I wrote a film for this production
company called The Red Dark Pictures. Now Iím writing a film for the
same producer, and this one Iím going to direct as well. At this point, Iíve
had so many things collapse; I donít really want to say much more than that.
KK: Are there any filmmakers today that have impressed you?
MB: Iím a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. The
Devilís Backbone was one of the best films ever. Panís Labyrinth was
absolutely incredible. I loved The Orphanage, which was one of my
favorite films of the last couple of years. I actually really liked Inside.
Also, Let the Right One InÖ Oh my God! Itís Swedish and is great. There
are great things being made.
KK: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Itís been a real pleasure.
MB: Thank you.