‘The idea of scaring people is always captivating’

Express News Service

While introducing her film, Black As Night, during its world premiere, an elated Maritte Lee Go told the packed auditorium, “This is a dream come true. I remember writing in my diary at 14 about hoping to direct a horror film someday. This is finally happening; it is crazy!”   Talking about the moment she checked off one of her childhood dreams, the filmmaker admits she has always been fascinated by the horror genre, and that fear never stopped her from consuming frightening films. “I would watch scores of horror films and have crazy nightmares, but as time passed by, I grew extremely captivated by the idea of scaring people. I remember the first script reading session of Black As Night with the crew and the executives from Amazon and Blumhouse (the film’s production house). It was a magical moment where my childhood dream began to take shape.”

Maritte shares that her religious upbringing was a catalyst in fuelling her fascination for the supernatural. “My mom would often say things like, ‘the devil is out there’ and ‘the demon will enter your mind’,” she says. “Even though they would leave me terrified, I enjoyed watching films like The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose as well as fun films like Drag Me To Hell.”

On the contrary, Asjha Cooper, who essays Shawna, a teenager who swears to eradicate the menace of vampires in her city, reveals she is not a fan of the horror genre. “I’m scared of horror films. I prefer films where the threat can be taken down easily. Take, for instance, a film like Jordan Peele’s Us, where it’s the humans wrecking chaos.

However, I always have a hard time watching films where supernatural elements like demonic entities and spirits are at play,” Cooper says, laughing, adding that she drew inspiration for her performance from the “realness” of the world the film is set in. “I simply tried to bring a lived-in experience to my character; I didn’t want to behave like a typical character in a horror film. For Shawna, her world is real, and when her seemingly normal life is intruded by vampires, I wanted to capture that realness of the chaos.”

One aspect that distinguishes Black As Night from other vampire titles such as Twilight, Underworld, and Dracula franchises is the awareness the characters possess about the gothic genre. Films and books about vampires are referred to within the film’s universe. One of the best scenes in the film has Shawna panicking about the possibility of turning into a bat after being bitten by a Vampire. “The characters are aware of pop culture. So, when something odd happens, they know it’s real and they don’t pretend it is normal,” Asjha says. She adds that filming in the pandemic was a challenge the team did not plan for.

“The production was abruptly shut down due to the pandemic, and when we returned to the sets months later with newly implemented rules, filming was particularly difficult. Even while rehearsing, we had our masks on, robbing us of the facial reactions of the co-actors. On the plus side, when we performed in front of the camera, there was a sense of novelty as we were seeing each other for the first time.”

The film’s usage of colours, framing, and production design bring a gothic aesthetic to the visuals. Maritte reveals that she drew visual inspiration from the David Slade directorial, 30 Days of Night, which she says is one of her favourite horror films. “Techniques like the usage of shadows and silhouettes, the movement of the camera in the action sequences were inspired from 30 Days of Night. I would also attribute Kill Bill and Harry Potter films, which are embedded in my memory, as sources of inspiration.”