For the third instalment of our #FestiveFrights programme, we bring you Jake Hammond’s The Snowglobe. When we began the search for films to feature in this year’s programme The Snowglobe proved to be one of the most unique and unforgettable shorts on our radar. Hammond mixes the dark, sadistic sensibility of a slasher with the broad emotional strokes of a classic melodrama. The result of which feels like if David Lynch directed Silent Night, Deadly Night. We’re excited to share the film with you this festive period alongside a conversation with Hammond on developing his wonderfully concocted combination of styles.
What inspired you to create a Christmas/Horror/Melodrama hybrid?
The concept of the film stems from a story my mother told me in high school. When she was a teenager, she lost her own mother to cancer. Since then, there have been three or four times in her life when she woke up by the feeling of her mother’s presence, a very specific embrace that she remembers from childhood. These “visits” always occurred at the onset of something challenging she was about to go through in life. It was as if her mom knew and came to warn her. This idea stuck with me. On one hand, an experience like this is frightening because it signals something bad on the horizon. But on the other hand, it’s comforting because there’s this feeling of someone you love watching over, no matter what’s to come. After realising that I wanted to use this as the basis for a film, everything fell together pretty quickly. I subconsciously drew from the imagery and feelings of some films that inspire me, three big ones being Halloween, Silent Night Deadly Night, and Mattel’s Barbie movies, and mashed it all together with my mother’s story as the backbone.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere of The Snowglobe. It feels continuously uneasy but also dreamlike. The melodrama and horror blend makes it almost feel Lynchian. What were you looking to achieve tonally?
I’m so glad you felt that way about it! I really aimed to achieve what you described, an intersection of unease with dreamlike fantasy, while still being bound within reality. Holiday horror is my favourite subgenre, particularly slashers. It all started with Halloween at the age of seven and progressed from there. I discovered Silent Night, Deadly Night in middle school and was riveted by the image of a Santa Claus slasher. At the same time, I have a very sentimental attachment to Christmas and Christmas films; the warmth, the colours, the music, the twinkling snow, the little mice that come out when the clock strikes twelve. For The Snowglobe, I aimed to blend the cozy, saccharine feelings of a Christmas world with the bleak terror of imminent death. In terms of Melodrama, I think a lot of that style came from Mattel’s Barbie movies. The films are obviously artificial, yet there’s this very honest feeling of childlike sentimentality and purity that I find beautiful. So, I think the dialogue between the girls and the emotional components of their friendship and connection to Anna’s mother stemmed from that. I find overt sentimentality really inspiring!
For sure, that sensibility comes across in the cinematography too. What did you shoot on and what did the conversations with your DoP consist of?
We shot the film on a Sony A7sII with vintage prime lenses that I ordered off eBay. Melina Valdez, who plays Trish, shot the film and I took over when she was acting on camera. I went to film school with Melina and we’ve become really close friends over the years. She is amazingly talented and is actually first and foremost a filmmaker herself. She can do it all. The shoot was insanely quick, so there wasn’t much discussion aside from a few references, plus I trust Melina enough to know that she can look at something quick, get it, and apply it effortlessly. The main inspiration for the look of the film, primarily the fireplace scene, was Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. Whenever we’re in the sorority house in that film, there’s this warmth, but there are also these crazy gothic shadows where someone could be lurking. We wanted the fireplace scene to feel like that. The girls are protected by the warm glow of the fire, but the context of the scene and the world around them is dark and foreboding. The Snowglobe, a symbol of love, is being pulled further and further into darkness.
How did you work with Melina and Isadora to develop both of their characters?
Isadora was in my college thesis film Pigskin and she was so incredible, so I’ve tried to work with her on pretty much everything I’ve done since! A relationship of trust and understanding is the most important thing to me in filmmaking, and I feel like I have that with both Isadora and Melina. The experience was really comfortable and free. In terms of character development, there honestly wasn’t much prep work. It was very straightforward. They read the script and it felt like we were all on the same page, so I pretty much just trusted them to run with it! I’m so happy with everything they brought to the table.
I have to ask about the credits song/music video. How did that come about?
So, basically the film is grounded in “reality”, despite there being this unexplainable enchanted Snowglobe with a secret power that binds Anna and her dead mother. I imagine that inside the Snowglobe there is this world we can’t see; an enchanted dreamscape of Anna’s fantasies and memories, where everything is wonderful and everlasting. In the film, Anna can’t access the place inside the Snowglobe because she’s trapped in a very grim real world. So, for the music video sequence, I wanted it to feel like we were entering into that world for a moment. It’s not reality, but it’s what Anna wishes her reality could be, one filled with color and music and family, like a Barbie Christmas wonderland. The lyrics remind me of Anna’s tragedy in that they hint at a loved one “going away”, but the imagery and sounds of the sequence are filled with a vibrant positivity. I don’t expect anyone to really pick up on that, but that was the idea.
What does the future look like for you film-wise?
I’m currently mapping out three feature films; one of them being a feature adaptation of The Snowglobe. I’m using my Covid time to really figure out myself and my interests and what I want to explore in these future projects.
If you’d like to watch more Christmas-set horror shorts that are featuring throughout December as part of our #FestiveFrights programme, click here.