Celebrating quirky and offbeat films, the second Twisted Celluloid Film Festival takes place at Triskel Christchurch from May 15-18. Among the guests will be American director, Bret Wood, who will introduce the Irish premiere of his southern gothic movie, The Unwanted. He will also take part in a Q&A session after the screening.
Wood’s film is inspired by the gothic novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. First published in 1871, it tells the story of a young woman falling under the spell of a female vampire. The Carmilla story has been adapted for cinema several times. Wood says The Unwanted is a modernised retelling of the story from the perspective of the woman who comes to town and is later suspected of being a vampire.
Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale is about a father who’s trying to protect his daughter from the vampire who, stranded in their town, has been taken in as a guest in their home.
“In my twist on the story, there are no literal vampires in the supernatural sense,” says Wood. “It’s more about the paranoia that drives a person to believe in vampires. It’s about one man’s religious mania and how that becomes an excuse to commit acts of violence. At the same time, it’s about a young woman who lives in the oppressive home of her creepy father, and how she develops the strength to be independent and finally leave home.”
Transposing Sheridan Le Fanu’s story from rural 19th century Ireland to a specific part of contemporary America didn’t pose problems for Wood.
“I come from the rural south and to me, there’s not a whole lot of difference between that and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Ireland. The main thing that needed to be in place was the setting. It had to be detached from the city. It’s an isolated place where the mind of the father becomes paranoid about the rest of the world. I just needed that mentality. There’s a fair amount of that fear of the outsider in the rural south. The father has a religious mania so he thinks the rest of the world is immoral and wants to protect his family’s morality. It’s a universal story which we filmed in Georgia and North Carolina.”
The father is played by William Katt, who played the ill-fated prom date of the demonically possessed adolescent girl in Brian De Palma’s horror movie, Carrie. The two actresses are both from the rural south. Carmilla (Christen Orr) is on a quest to find out about her mother who disappeared mysteriously and was last seen in the rural town where Laura (Hannah Fierman) and her father live.
For Wood, the challenge was to create a reason why someone would think someone else was a vampire. “I wasn’t going to have a character drinking blood in the film. So I constructed a back story for Laura. She cuts herself because of her own psychological issues. Carmilla becomes engaged in it and cuts for Laura. So there’s blood play in an erotic way. It’s not your usual vampire.”
The father is horrified that his daughter is a lesbian. “But that’s the thing he won’t admit to himself. He has to construct this other scenario so he won’t have to accept the fact that his wife and later, his daughter, are bisexual or lesbian.”
While Wood has submitted his film to LBGT film festivals, he doesn’t think it plays as a gay-themed film. “But gay people like it. One of the actors is lesbian. The film is not a white man’s representation of lesbians. It’s about two characters who have an affair and happen to be both women.”
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