Over the last six years, acclaimed filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) has been attached to sequels to Aliens and RoboCop, two of modern science-fictions most beloved series. Yet despite considerable online interest for both projectswhich would have ignored later installments and picked up immediately after 1986s Aliens and 1987s RoboCop, respectivelyneither appears likely to get off the ground in the foreseeable future, courtesy of clashing visions and studio priorities. Nonetheless, on the eve of the debut of his new thriller Demonic, the Academy Award-nominated South African writer/director remains upbeat about the possibility of again working in established franchises, provided the opportunity is right.
I wouldnt be averse to looking at other large pieces of IP that are owned by the studio. You just have to do it very cautiously, I think, he remarks. Theres certainly no reason to not be working with big studios on movies. Its actually a pretty good process. The only thing to really be aware of is, with a very well-known piece of IP, what does that mean? Just be aware of the elements that are riding on it.
While Alien and RoboCop didnt pan out, Blomkamp has another high-profile venture in the pipeline: a sequel to his 2009 breakthrough District 9, the sci-fi apartheid allegory that earned four Oscar nods (including for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay). The writer/director has recently stated that his planned follow-up will be rooted in American history, although when pressed directly about the film, hes reticent to reveal many details. Still, he does divulge that making a sequel in the first place was never a set-in-stone goal; rather, it simply sprang from a natural moment of inspiration.
I never wanted to force a sequel to it. It was just one day, I was struck by something, and I realized there could be a very cool way to do a sequel that suddenly made sense to me. Thats really all it is, right? You dont force creativity like that. And if it takes over a decade, thats fine. It could take forever, and theres never a sequel. It doesnt matter. That said, if Blomkamp isnt ready to provide a timetable for District 10s completion, he does verify that its currently on his front-burner. Im actively working on it. Im just unsure of when itll be right, and perfect.
As he plots a return trip to that futuristic world, Blomkamp has already charted a totally new course with his latest. Premiering Aug. 20 in theaters and on VOD, Demonic, his first feature since 2015s underperforming Chappie, is a low-budget horror film that was produced during the pandemic in 24 days. The story of a young woman named Carly (Carly Pope) whos invited by shady religious types to participate in a cutting-edge technological trial that involves sending her inside her estranged mothers (Nathalie Boltt) comatose mindwhere, it turns out, an evil entity lurksits a VR variation on a demonic-possession thriller. Think of it as The Lawnmower Man meets The Exorcist, shot in stripped-down claustrophobic fashion and embellished with plenty of volumetric-capture effects.
Though it shares with his prior output a love of sci-fi tech, Demonic is Blomkamps first genuine foray into horror, and the 41-year-old director confirms that hes long had the urge to do something in the genre. Ive always been interested in horror, and I was always particularly interested in wanting to do a tiny self-financed horror film, almost like a challenge, like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. I never knew when I would do that; I just knew that I wanted to at some point. So when the pandemic hit, it felt like with everything else slowing down, it would be a good time to try that idea. I think horror is very conducive to a low-budget environment, and you can do stuff in that genre that isnt very expensive.
Demonic boasts various touches that recall the works of James Cameron and David Cronenberg (among others), but the director asserts that there were no specific creative templates for the film, saying, Im not very good at looking outside at what other films are doing. Its much more of an insular process. Rather than channeling illustrious forebears, what appealed to him was the opportunity to generate the type of low-fi terror that made The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity such cultural phenomenons. Above even trying to be scary, the main objective was to create a sense of tension and dread. I just wanted this surface tension that was there the whole time. Those movies were inspirational because they were low budget, the filmmakers just went out and shot them, and they got a visceral audience response from them. I thought that was a really interesting thing.
COVID-19 may have impacted the logistical components of Demonic, but the genesis of the film came from two distinct creative impulses, both of which happened to merge seamlessly here. I think the idea for it was a bunch of separate ideas that I had for things that I wanted to work on at some point, like volumetric capture, which ended up being VR, and the idea of the Vatican acting in more of a 21st-century way, buying up tech companies, he says. So, I just blended them, really.
Above even trying to be scary, the main objective was to create a sense of tension and dread.
As Carly eventually discovers, the masterminds behind her predicament are church officials with a decidedly contemporary method of combatting Satans minions. In terms of developing the film, the exorcism part was more crucial, just because its one of the horror tropes thats easy to get into. It was built around the idea of, we know we want to do something low budget with demonic possession and exorcisms, so what would that look like? Getting volumetric capture involved with thatwhich was a separate idea that I hadstarted yielding this VR idea in a way that you could have a demon existing in someones mind, and people going in looking for it. It really was a case of merging elements that we wanted to put into the pot, while figuring out what to shoot during COVID.
As with so many cinematic undertakings during the past 18 months, Demonics completion was complicated by the pandemic, thanks to numerous operational protocols that put an additional burden on the production. It doesnt make it easier to shoot something thats already low budget when you have additional costs because of what is required for an element that normally, pre-pandemic, wouldnt be there, he states. But then at the same time, you want to make sure that the crew is safe. Fortunately, Blomkamp and company emerged largely unscathed from the process, with only one close call threatening to derail the film. We only had one potential COVID scare with a crew member, and we had to stand down and just sort of dissemble everything until we got the COVID results. Because of the way locations worked, it actually knocked everything for like two weeks. But it turned out he didnt have it.
Neill Blomkamp and Carly Pope on the set of Demonic
Even if such issues led to inevitable slowdownsBlomkamp estimates that COVID safety measures led to a 20-25 percent loss of efficiencythey had little effect on the finished product, which sets itself apart from its horror brethren via Carlys VR trips inside her moms digitized dream consciousness. According to Blomkamp, creating that unreal environment wasnt a walk in the parkespecially for his actors. Theyre in this insanely restrictive cage of cameraslike, 260 cameras, very close to them, he explains. But Carly and Natalie were great in that environment. It was just very hard, because theres the acting part of it, the emotional part of it, but then youre also trying to make sure that, on a technical level, theyre actually walking through the set correctlywhich isnt there, because all you have is a bunch of cameras. its about measurements and making sure they hit certain exact positions. Super mathematical. It was not easy, he laughs.
That techno-reality feels intimately connected to video games, which is no surprise in light of the fact that Blomkamp is currently collaborating with Gunzilla Games on a AAA multiplayer shooter. Pressed on the relationship between Demonic and games, he explains, I think the element that makes it feel gamey is just the fact that the technology is, in fact, running on a video game engine. Its running on Unity, so it is a game engine. As for his approach to designing those unsettling sequences, Everything that was live action was 100 percent not handheld. It was all Steadicam and very controlled. So when we were in VR, I wanted it to be handheld, to feel loose and like a massive environmental shift for the audience, so they felt like they were in VR with the actresses.
A volumetric capture sequence in Demonic
Demonic proves that Blomkamp remains committed to feature directing, although since Chappie, hes also kept busy with Oats Studios, an independent outfit he founded in 2017 for which hes directed numerous short films starring the likes of Pope, Sigourney Weaver, Dakota Fanning, and his favorite leading man, Sharlto Copley. Oats has been an outlet for both narrative and technological experimentation for Blomkamp, and he says theres also a third component to Oats, which is trying to build something outside of the film industry that is actually making films, which is an interesting idea. Achieving that dream, he chuckles, requires doing something exceedingly unpleasant: Losing a lot of money. I think you would need to lose a lot of money in order to get there, and then it may work. And hes quick to add, At this point, other people have to lose the money.
Blomkamp concedes that he doesnt know Oats ultimate fate, nor his own cinematic future, save for the fact that a sequel to Chappie is definitely not in the cards (I dont think so. I dont think that universe can be revisited. I dont see how thats ever going to happen). What he can envision himself doing, however, is striking a newfound balance between the epic sci-fi action of Elysium and the confined, claustrophobic suspense of Demonic. I think Im going to probably make something [next] thats bigger, he reveals. I think Im going back to a larger filmmaking scale. But I would not mind at all going back to something of this size again. I think just fluctuating between budget levels, and using different skills, is not a bad thing.
- The Black Phone To The Sadness: 11 Of The Best Horror Movies Released In 2022 Till Now - Augustman Malaysia - September 24th, 2022
- 7 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week Including 'Don't Worry Darling' in Theaters - Bloody Disgusting - September 24th, 2022
- Underrated Horror Movie of the Month: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT - Geek Girl Authority - September 24th, 2022
- Barbarian, Pearl, and Why Its a Great Moment to Be a Horror Fanatic - Rolling Stone - September 24th, 2022
- The Boys star's horror movie gets rave first reactions - Digital Spy - September 24th, 2022
- Raw, The Perfection, and the 12 most disturbing horror movies on Netflix right now - Netflix Life - September 24th, 2022
- There is a cycling horror movie coming, and I have never been more excited - CyclingTips - September 24th, 2022
- Welcome To The Hellfire Club: 10 Horror Movies STRANGER THINGS' Eddie Munson Would Have Loved - Nightmare on Film Street - September 24th, 2022
- Finnish Horror Movie 'The Knocking' Set to Arrive in Early 2023 - Bloody Disgusting - September 24th, 2022
- A brilliantly scary horror movie is among the movies on TV tonight - JOE.ie - September 24th, 2022
- The Pyramid - Was Found Footage Horror Movie Really That Bad? - Bloody Disgusting - September 24th, 2022
- This Polarizing Horror Movie Is Still Splitting Opinions Online - We Got This Covered - September 24th, 2022
- Alex G on Fireworks, Faith, and Horror Movies - Interview - September 24th, 2022
- What Are The Best Horror Movies Set In The State Of Texas - klaq.com - September 24th, 2022
- SCANNERS: New HBO Series Based On David Cronenberg's Head-Popping Horror Movie In The Works - FearHQ - September 24th, 2022
- A Sleeper Horror Flick's Word-Of-Mouth Buzz Projected to Overtake 'Don't Worry Darling' - We Got This Covered - September 24th, 2022
- 10 Deep-Woods Horror Films To Get Lost In This Autumn - Dread Central - September 24th, 2022
- 'Spin the Bottle' - Justin Long and More Join Supernatural Horror Movie - Bloody Disgusting - September 16th, 2022
- 30+ Best Horror Movies on HBO Max Creepy Catalog - Creepy Catalog - September 16th, 2022
- 7 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week Including Ti West's 'Pearl' - Bloody Disgusting - September 16th, 2022
- Peep these 15 new horror movies to prep for Halloween, from 'The Curse of Bridge Hollow' to 'Pearl' - USA TODAY - September 16th, 2022
- Barbarian review: One of the most surprising horror movies of the year - FOX 5 New York - September 16th, 2022
- Smile Film 2022: Release date, cast and trailer of horror movie - The Scotsman - September 16th, 2022
- Queen Latifah's End of the Road Is a Horror Movie about MAGA Country - The Portland Mercury - September 16th, 2022
- Children of the Corn (1984) Revisited Horror Movie Review - JoBlo.com - September 16th, 2022
- 30 New Horror Movies You'll Be Able to Watch for Halloween 2022! - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- 'The Inhabitant' - Odessa A'zion Horror Movie Coming to 100 Theaters This October - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- 5 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week Plus 'Jaws' Comes to Theaters in 3D for the First Time! - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- 'Nanny' Trailer - Sundance Horror Hit Comes to Theaters and Amazon Prime Later This Year - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- The horror movie thats like Tolstoy, but with more blood - Sydney Morning Herald - August 31st, 2022
- The Number 1 Earner at the Box Office Is A Horror Movie Heres Why Thats Bad - Dread Central - August 31st, 2022
- 'Men': Visual Effects Supervisor David Simpson Breaks Down the Shocking Body Horror Climax [Interview] - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? - JoBlo.com - August 31st, 2022
- Every Kevin Bacon Horror Movie, Ranked - We Got This Covered - August 31st, 2022
- 19 Reactions To The New Blumhouse Horror "They/Them" That Will Either Make You Want To Watch It Or Avoid It - BuzzFeed - August 31st, 2022
- The Last House on the Left at 50: Wes Cravens shock horror retains its power - The Guardian - August 31st, 2022
- 'Who Invited Them' Review Witty Horror Comedy Introduces the Neighbors from Hell - Bloody Disgusting - August 31st, 2022
- Mem Ferda produces terrifying road trip horror movie THE FEARWAY - Film News - August 31st, 2022
- Immortality: The Kotaku Review - Kotaku - August 31st, 2022
- The 15 Best Films Coming to Amazon Prime in September 2022 - The A.V. Club - August 31st, 2022
- The Invitation: R-rated cut of Nathalie Emmanuel horror film will be streaming - JoBlo.com - August 31st, 2022
- Chilled-Out Horror Stans Sound Off on the Movies That Help Them Relax - We Got This Covered - August 22nd, 2022
- Rick And Morty Fans Can't Help But Love These Horror Movie References - Looper - August 22nd, 2022
- Famous Horror Movie Scenes That Were Completely Improvised - Looper - August 22nd, 2022
- 8 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week Including 'Predator' Prequel and Slashers from Blumhouse & A24! - Bloody Disgusting - August 6th, 2022
- 'They/Them' underlines the risks of combining horror and social commentary - CNN - August 6th, 2022
- The Number 1 Horror Movie On Netflix Reached A Box-Office Record Set By 'Avatar' - Dread Central - August 6th, 2022
- 'Nessie' - The Loch Ness Monster Horror Movie We Almost Got from Toho and Hammer! - Bloody Disgusting - August 6th, 2022
- I called it post-horror and now Ive created a monster - The Guardian - August 6th, 2022
- Action Xtreme To Begin Filming Action Sci-Fi Horror Movie THE EXPERIMENT - HorrorCultFilms - August 6th, 2022
- 5 Psychological Horror Movies The Average Person Would Never Survive - /Film - August 6th, 2022
- Horror Movies, OutWrite 2022, and More Best Bets for Aug. 410 - WCP - Washington City Paper - August 6th, 2022
- Every Ti West Horror Movie, Ranked - We Got This Covered - August 6th, 2022
- Let The Trolling Begin. The Voice's Blake Shelton Goes Full Horror Movie In Welcoming Camila Cabello To Season 22 - CinemaBlend - August 6th, 2022
- The first transmission of semen by fax: the story of Bruce Dickinson's batsh*t crazy horror movie Chemical Wedding - Louder - August 6th, 2022
- The Quarry Director Will Byles Names His Horror Movie Favorites And How They Inspired The Game - Exclusive - Looper - August 6th, 2022
- Horror Cinema Room dials up the fear factor in immersive film screenings in Dubai - The National - August 6th, 2022
- 'History of the Occult' - Cinedigm and SCREAMBOX Acquire Lovecraftian Horror Movie from Argentina! - Bloody Disgusting - August 6th, 2022
- Free Movie of the Day: Horror film Irrational Fear - JoBlo.com - August 6th, 2022
- Tim Roth Talks Starring In The Horror Film Resurrection, Collaborating With Quentin Tarantino, And More - Exclusive Interview - Looper - August 6th, 2022
- The Best Horror Movies on Prime Video You Absolutely Need to Watch - CNET - July 28th, 2022
- This Is The Most Popular Netflix Horror Movie Of All Time - Dread Central - July 28th, 2022
- 4 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week Including 'Pennywise' Documentary on Screambox! - Bloody Disgusting - July 28th, 2022
- 15 Horror Movies That Went Too Far - /Film - July 28th, 2022
- The Best Cosmic Horror Movies That Will Make You Hate The Unknown - /Film - July 28th, 2022
- Outfest Wraps With World Premiere Of Kevin Bacon Horror Film They/Them - Deadline - July 28th, 2022
- Gender Roles at the Movies: Which of These Classic Horror Films Got It Right? - pride source.com - July 28th, 2022
- Nope Is Set to Be the Blockbuster Horror Movie of the Summer - Vogue - July 28th, 2022
- 15 Best Horror Movies with One-Word Titles - IndieWire - July 28th, 2022
- She Will review edgy psychological horror meets feminist revenge fable - The Guardian - July 28th, 2022
- Jordan Peele's 'Nope' and 4 New Horror Movies Releasing This Week - Bloody Disgusting - July 20th, 2022
- The Black Phone on VOD & 4 Other Horror Movies Released 7/15/2022 - Bloody Disgusting - July 20th, 2022
- Here Are The Most Anticipated Horror Movies For the Rest of 2022 - We Got This Covered - July 20th, 2022
- 5 New Horror Movies Released Today and "What We Do in the Shadows" Returns! - Bloody Disgusting - July 20th, 2022
- What happened to the kid's horror film? Film Stories - Film Stories - July 20th, 2022
- M. Night Shyamalan's next movie is an adaptation of a horror novel - Gamesradar - July 20th, 2022
- ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS Is the Weirdest Movie You Have to See (Fantasia Fest Review) - Nerdist - July 20th, 2022
- Blast from the Quad Cities' past: Dr. Igor is up for Horror Host Hall of Fame - WQAD Moline - July 20th, 2022
- Sleepaway Camp 3 (1989) WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? - JoBlo.com - July 20th, 2022
- Best Horror Movies of 2022: 'Black Phone,' 'X,' 'Scream' and More - Variety - July 12th, 2022
Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero