An Isolated Widower Searches for Ritualistic Redemption in Paolo Mancini & Daniel Watchorn’s ‘Bloodshed’

Ridden with guilt after the untimely death of his wife, Getty sets out to create a sacrificial altar in search for redemption and the chance to bring her back. Paolo Mancini and Daniel Watchorn’s Bloodshed is a short extreme horror film about a lone man’s descent into insanity. Mancini and Watchorn’s vision boasts a strong disturbing aesthetic and it certainly doesn’t hold back on the gore. This short is packed with blood, so if you’re squeamish… well, you’ve had your warning. Twelve Cabins caught up with the co-directors amidst Bloodshed’s festival run to talk the film’s reaction thus far and their love of exploring dark and psychological themes.

Bloodshed is such a tense ride. Where did the idea for it come from?

Daniel Watchorn: Bloodshed came from a profound love of exploring the dark side. It’s our first draft about love and how far some go to make sure it lasts. 

Paolo Mancini: I always try to work from personal experience. I look at what terrifies me to my core and then refuse to turn away. For me, the idea for the project was spawned from a few things. The first is that I have a severe aversion to needles and the drawing of blood. I go white as a ghost, get lightheaded, nauseous. Secondly, I had lost a close relative and a dear friend, and wasn’t able to cope. To the extent that I simply became numb – apathetic even. I recognised that this was not normal but my ego wouldn’t allow me to feel the grief; which is a deep expression of love and part of the human experience. This denial of grief festered in me for a long time. So these feelings definitely played an integral part in the development of Bloodshed. Dan & I asked ourselves: what happens if you refuse to surrender to the fact that we are utterly powerless in the face of death? In Getty’s case it gnaws at his sanity and the rest Well… 

How did you create the look of Getty’s hobby shed? It starts out looking pretty disturbing and then ends up like one of the rooms from Hostel or Saw!

DW: The shed is one of three on my friend’s dad’s property. He’s a bit of a collector so we had most of what we needed already there. That being said, everything had to be taken out and reorganised. Jodie Rice, our production designer, read the script and knew where we needed to end up. It became very clear that for efficiency, movement and the overall feel, everything needed to be carefully placed. We trusted Jodie’s eye for that. She was our leader in terms of space and building the background to Getty’s downfall. We also had very little time and the budget was a factor, so we shot the film chronologically to allow for shed disintegration.

PM: The film Gods were on our side with our location there is no doubt. Bloodshed is mostly a one-hander but we knew that for the story to be poignant and impactful, the shed had to be a living, breathing character. As Dan said, we were blessed with Jodie’s aesthetic and also a brilliant cinematographer in Christian Bielz. This was a wonderful collaboration between every department in our small yet mighty crew. We conveyed our goal to create a slow-burning, taut, visceral piece that was oozing dread and atmosphere like a slow bleeding wound… The shed had to evoke discomfort and revulsion. Of course this all crescendos to a vicious, bloody climax. We didn’t have a large budget for FX and our Makeup Artist Anna Della Zazzera did so much with so little. We just asked how much blood we had left for the last scene and said “use all of it!” Then we told our Colourist Marc Boucrot to saturate the shit out of it. Crank it to 11. The thing is called Bloodshed after all.

A small anecdote! Up until the very day of shooting, we couldn’t find a clawfoot tub. And they’re way too expense to buy. We were gutted because we knew how visually dynamic it could be. Well, we settled for a cement mixing tub. Dan and our PA were driving to set with the shitty bin when lo and behold, ten minutes from the location, a clawfoot tub was resting on someone’s lawn! A house was gutted for renovations and there it was calling our name. The house wasn’t lived in, so we left a note, shot for three days and returned it… this must be what Werner Herzog feels like, I thought.

Did you draw from any extreme body horror films when developing the concept?

DW: Marina de Van’s Dans Ma Peau (In My Skin) is so good. I’m drawn to the fear of ourselves. Julia Ducournau’s Raw had that feel of discovery too. Getty needs to get inside himself and find what courses through him and makes him exist. He’s on a quest to better himself no matter the cost. If transfusions worked, he probably would have started trying to amputate.

PM: Dan & I grew up together, we met when we were nine years old playing soccer, and truly bonded over film. Whether it was gorey like Braindead, international cinema from Giallo masters Argento & Bava, Zulawski’s Possession to Miike’s Audition, classic horror like Psycho, or good old American fare like Texas Chainsaw Massacre; we ate it all up. I can’t say we drew upon specific films but we can’t help but bring these influences into our directing. It was there intrinsically.

The editing allows the tension to build, flow and really culminate at the end. How did you approach post-production to make that a reality?

DW: We had a solid idea of what we were looking for walking into post-production. The script was written with sound and visuals in mind. But it was only when we met Tom Randaxhe, and had some discussions about the truth of the piece that we started to expand beyond the pages of the script. We worked closely with Tom to establish the escalating pace. 

PM: To echo what Dan said, discussions with our editor really brought this extra dimension to Bloodshed. In addition, we had some killer artists contribute for the post process: Dillon Baldassero our composer and Luc Bouchard our sound designer. From the onset we told all our keys and our lead actor that every component of the film is meant to parallel each other along the trajectory of the thirteen minutes. Everything must emulate or reinforce Getty’s deterioration which is that of an untended wound. We start in a quiet place; solemn and melancholy. So the presentation is deliberate, polished, precise. Next, the initial pain of a cut and the blood flowing ever so slowly. From there, the refusal to treat the injury to oneself. Then, the infection occurs which is the turning point. Hence from there, Bruno’s peformance was more manic, the shots we chose were dirtier, the soundscape evolves from eerie and mournful to something savage and the pace of the editing was quicker and progressively more aggressive in style. Finally, as the infection ravages, everything crescendos in unison. We told Tom not to hold back for the finale and he was up to the task.

After the premiere at Fantasia, how did audiences react to Bloodshed?

DW: I’m terrible because I read all of our press. We’ve been lucky on the festival circuit. We’ve had consistent praise for Bruno Verdoni’s fantastic performance and Christian Bielz’s amazing camerawork. Bloodshed doesn’t work without the team we built to make it.

PM: I’m stoked with how the film has done on its festival run thus far; with about another year on the circuit ahead. To have a World Premiere in our native province of Quebec, in Montreal, where Dan lives, with our first collaboration was a huge honour. We’ve received 30 selections to date and have garnered some awards along the way which is extremely exciting for us. Of course, you don’t do it for the accolades. You do it to make art; failing along the way, learning, failing again, and pray that that piece of you resonates with an audience. And horror fans are the most ravenous of them all so it’s super rewarding and humbling to be showcased on an International stage. To know that your work has connected with others is an awesome feeling. It’s also a tremendous relief because you set out to make something and you simply don’t know how it shall be received. Fling it into the horrorverse and hope for the best. We just have to put every fibre of our being into making the best film we can. We have to be present and ensure that we tell the truth with every frame. No pressure!

What draws the both of you to work in the horror genre?

DW: Paolo and I have been talking about horror for years. We used to have a movie night where we would watch two films and talk about our picks endlessly. They weren’t necessarily horror films, but we always appreciated films that had dark psychological themes.

PM: It’s the rawest, most primal and liberating genre to work in. Every impulse in human nature is explored. It allows, and forces, your imagination to be absolutely limitless. Anything goes. As it should. Horror can be mindless as fuck, it can be vile, emotionally resonant, it can allow us to face our fears and process our trauma…  or all of the above. No other genre of film gives a filmmaker that freedom. At the same time it’s a huge responsibility. One Dan and I don’t take lightly.

What can expect next from you two in the near future?

DW: We have a short film ready to go. We’re just waiting for easier times to shoot. I’m not an optimist but I think it will get done in the next decade. Who knows? We are also working on a feature about Satanic rituals which is sure to be a hit. Thank you for the questions. I hope we can do it again.

PM: Dan and I are currently completing a high-concept horror saga. We’ve also decided that we should have a contained, two-hander to consider as our feature debut. So that’s what we’re aiming for. In the meantime, we’re putting together a pitch package to get some funding for our follow-up to Bloodshed. Fingers crossed that we can shoot the short late this Summer.

Bloodshed was programmed by the Twelve Cabins team after being sent through our submissions route on FilmFreeway. If you’d like to see your film on our pages, submit here.

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