The Deep Focus podcast is back, and this week, we have filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, known for “District 9,” “Elysium,” and blending sci-fi with socio-political commentary and envelope-pushing technology. Blomkamp’s latest film, “Demonic,” does all that with a little bit of a twist. It’s his first supernatural horror film that takes him outside of his comfort zone of sci-fi, and it’s seemingly less heavy on the socio-political observation. That said, as the film seems to implicate the Vatican, feature nefarious doctors and scientists, and traffic in conspiracy theories—to say more is to get into spoiler-ish territory— “Demonic” has an entire aspect of it that seems to hum with the existential anxiety and dread of our modern age.
Shot in British Columbia, Canada, where Blomkamp and his Oats Studios reside, during the pandemic. “Demonic” stars Carly Pope, Chris William Martin, and Nathalie Boltt and centers on a young woman (Pope) who unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces are at the root of a decades-old rift between mother (Boltt) and daughter are ruthlessly revealed. “Demonic” is also a movie about, as the title suggests, demonic possession, and instead of, perhaps, traditional ways to express that, Blomkamp uses Volumetric Capture Technology, which is somewhat like Motion Capture Technology, but different. It’s in its nascent stages, it’s used in VR and video games, and in “Demonic,” it has a purposefully rough, lo-tech 8-bit feel to it. Blomkamp is totally ok with that. In some ways, “Demonic” was a fun experiment for him, melding all the narrative and technological ideas he had in his head into one cohesive story that leveraged both, but never forgot either, nor basic story.
Blomkamp hadn’t shot a film in six years, not since 2015’s unfairly maligned “Chappie,” which blended sci-fi, comedy, and notions of A.I. autonomy. But if there’s a theme of the interview, it’s how unfazed and sanguine Blomkamp is about nearly everything. Didn’t enjoy “Chappie” or any of his other films? That’s ok. He’d been working on an “Alien 5” film—ultimately deep-sixed by Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox at the time—and a “RoboCop” sequel, and the time spent on those projects ate up some of the six years he was absent from the cinema. But the filmmaker has a very realistic view on Hollywood, working on franchise and intellectual properties you don’t own or have control over, and he seems very un-burned; he would work with Hollywood again in an instant, despite making “Demonic” at home and on all his own terms (Blomkamp also spent those six years putting together his Oats Studios and working on tons of projects where he could test out various technologies in short films and commercials).
He’s also writing and developing a “District 10” film now that he feels like he has something to say—he wasn’t about to write a sequel for sequel’s sake—but he’s trying to keep it totally under wraps, so was mostly tight-lipped about it. He’s also said he’s not against revisiting the world of “Elysium,” and it sounds like he hasn’t quite given up on that franchise. The final takeaway? After a six-year absence from the big screen—which again, you’re likely more concerned about that than he is—the new goal is to likely make a lot of films in the future, and the director hinted that he has many of irons in the fire (one of those may be a project called “Inferno”).
So, yes, prepare your ears for a frank, insightful conversation with Blomkamp about “Demonic,” what happened with “Aliens 5” (he’s certain it’s never coming back, FYI), and well, his entire career. IFC Midnight will release Neill Blomkamp’s “Demonic” is in theaters and everywhere you rent movies on August 20, listen to the conversation below.
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