Horror film deconstruction produces ‘creepy love-child’

Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

When two film artists put their heads together, it produces a ‘franken-baby.’ In a project entitled The Pit: A Study in Horror, seven artists deconstruct the horror genre and explore the creation of the uncanny space as part of New Westminster’s New Media Gallery that features The Scary.

When we were brainstorming, the idea of using location and horror film-making technique was the way of combining our expertise. The approach we ended up taking was very much a hybrid of the two of us; I consider it our creepy little love-child,” says horror filmmaker Karen Lam about working with mixed media artist and educator Lauren Marsden.

A fruitful collaboration

Still from The Pit: A Study in Horror, 2013. | Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

Still from The Pit: A Study in Horror, 2013. | Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

Lam, known for her movie Evangeline (2013), credits her work with co-director Marsden as the source of their project. When Lam and Marsden met, Marsden was using location to focus of her artistic approach.

“I don’t work in a single film genre but create films that are shaped by the location I’m filming in and the performers that I’m working with. My work is usually presented in galleries or in the new media section of film festivals. So I’m really just crossing over between the worlds of contemporary art and film,” Marsden says.

For Marsden, a Vancouver-based artist with Trinidadian roots, it was the first time she was invited to work on any kind of cinema project. Likewise, Lam looked forward to the collaborative project.

“The best bit was that the pairings were like blind dates; I had no idea who I would be working with or what their artistic discipline would be,” says Lam.

She found working with Marsden an important milestone in her development as filmmaker. She appreciated Marsden’s outlook. Marsden also enjoyed working with Lam in deconstructing the genre and explaining the techniques that convey horror to the audience.

“One of the things we realized is that it is not always the story that creates fear, but that it is some of the more technical cinematic qualities that make a horror film terrifying such as the creation of suspense through very specific camera movements and sounds,” explains Marsden.

While she believes that most people are familiar with the conventions of cinema as moviegoers, she hopes the film will bring an awareness to the behind-the-scenes filmmaking process that creates feelings of horror.

“For example, we know that when the sound gets deeper and the camera moves slowly around a corner, we can expect that something terrifying is going to happen but not because we are thinking about what the camera is doing. It’s just something we feel and get carried along by,” says Marsden.

Vancouver, a good backdrop for horror

Production still from The Pit: A Study in Horror, 2013. | Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

Production still from The Pit: A Study in Horror, 2013. | Photo courtesy of Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden

Marsden observes than many films shot in Vancouver are of the horror, thriller and paranormal genres.

“I think that part of the reason for this can be attributed to the production of the X-Files in Vancouver in the ‘90s. Another quality of Vancouver is that the natural light here is quite muted and grey most of the year and so it lends itself well as a location for dark films,” she says.

Lam thinks that horror film-making in Vancouver is not only very strong here but also across the country. She adds that Canada is home to a large number of horror filmmakers, horror magazines (like Fangoria and Rue Morgue) and an incredibly supportive horror community.

“I think the horror community in Vancouver is very fortunate to have access to the locations and the experienced cast and crew that are built up from our ’Hollywood North’ industry,” says Lam, who has been a lifelong horror fan.

For more information, visit www.newmediagallery.ca.