Nicholas Alexander’s Mind-Melting Slasher ‘Death Screens’ Is a Spiralling Descent Into a World of Screens

Twelve Cabins last joined Nicholas Alexander in conversation to discuss his body horror short Mud Pie. His latest film Death Screens is the next film in a series, which continues on from Mud Pie, that the Director is dubbing Project: Paranormal – a collection of Twilight Zone-style short films about strange and supernatural occurrences. Death Screens is centred around screen media and a protagonist who becomes sucked into various alternate realities during one fateful evening. It’s great step forward for Alexander who’s development as a Director grows with every short he makes. Twelve Cabins spoke with Alexander as Death Screens continues its festival journey to discuss the continuation of Project: Paranormal and his desire to push his limits as a filmmaker and be more ambitious with every film he makes.

How did the narrative of a character falling into these different forms of entertainment come about?

The script of this short film went through multiple drafts with different things happening in each one because we were wanting to have a solid climax to end with for the first five Project: Paranormal shorts, but the ending was always the same with the character being trapped in a laptop computer. Then, when I did the last draft for it, I tried to make the idea simpler by thinking about what one can do with a laptop, but specifically regarding forms of entertainment, and then, I came down to three forms of entertainment for a character to get trapped in without knowing till it’s too late – A Video Game, A Movie, and a Computer itself. 

What are you finding that you’re learning from making these films? It feels like there’s a consistent development with everything from the story to the shot composition. 

With every short film I make, I’m always learning how to push my limits to hopefully create something more ambitious and entertaining for audiences as well as learning more and more about what my style consists of and how to convey each shot in the best possible way that tells the story. However, when I’m not making short films, I’m analysing and learning from my favourite directors as well as other Masters of Horror to see what works and is effective in their films at entertaining and scaring audiences. 

How challenging were the digital effects to create? Were you always set on having a 90s-style action game as one of the forms of entertainment?

Our VFX Artist and Composer Andrew Roberts created the environment in Blender and then screen recorded the movement of how the character moved within the environment. After that, he then added the other elements in it like the evil versions of Landon, the laptop, ammo, med kit, and other things within the environment. However, this was a lot easier than when he created the Chomper Plant in The Vase because rather than trying to make a realistic monster plant in a real environment, he was creating a digital environment from scratch that was made to look simple similar to how simple action first-person shooter games looked in the 90s. The 90s-style for the action video game was something thought of during the editing process, but the idea of a video game as one of the forms of entertainment was always intentional; especially, it being a first-person shooter action video game. 

The transitions between each form of entertainment are so slick, is it a case of storyboarding or do you figure that out in post-production?

The transitions into each part of the short film were always planned from the storyboards because the one thing that I thought would be cool and interesting was zooming in and out to convey the idea of going through screens and ending up in another form of entertainment. 

On a larger scale what are you aspiring do with your Project: Paranormal series?

Currently, I’m taking a break from the Project Paranormal Series to try out different horror short films, but I’d like to return to the series again in the future because I like the Twilight Zone-style horror shorts that we’ve made.

So, what can you tell us about what you’re working on right now?

I’m currently editing a two-minute and thirty-second horror short film I recently shot called Sleeping Bags, and I’m planning on shooting another horror short film called Out of Body soon.

Death Screens 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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