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An Interview with Adrian Corona, Director of Dis

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2017

Films directed by Adrian Corona on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Dis - in a few words, what is it about?


Itís an arthouse horror film based on the mandrake/mandragora legend, aka, the devilís root, aka, the insanity root. Itís centered on the story of Ariel (Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here]), an ex-soldier with a dark past who, after disturbing encounters with his ex-lover Sophia (Lori Jo Hendrix) and his pimp brother (Peter Gonzales Falcon), vanishes into the forest where he encounters a demonic figure (Manuel Dominguez) who has a diabolic-scientific enthusiasm for mandrake gardens.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Dis?


Mandrake literature (everything from The Bible to Harry Potter), Danteís Inferno (specifically the circle of the suicides, where disembodied humans have been turned into plants) and other literary sources like weird fiction, gothic literature and noir.


Dis isn't necessarily following a stringent narrative but is very atmosphere- and associtation-heavy - so what made you choose to tell your story that way, and how much of an effort was it to not lose your storyline in the proceedings?


It is association-heavy - albeit not free association. I chose to tell the story this way because I believe atmosphere is the essence of terror. I wasnít afraid of losing the story line, so there never was a conscious effort to avoid that. On the one hand, the film is a dark thought experiment: I wanted to take a simple mythological idea and extend it to its maximum, radical consequences. On the other hand, the film is something like a character-based expressionist tragedy: a powerful but fragile stranger in a strange land as he is being unraveled, and I think Bill Oberst jr superbly captured this.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror for a bit, and is this a genre especially dear to you?


Very dear. Iíve been a student of horror all my life. Iím also a student of underground cinema, experimental cinema, exploitation, arthouse, surrealism and transgressive cinema. So there are obvious influences from all these sub-genres.


Dis is mostly an outdoors film - so what can you tell us about your rather impressive locations, how did you find them, and what was it like filming there?


I stumbled upon the locations by accident. I was writing an MA dissertation in philosophy and I would take these long, deep hikes into the cold Perote Sierra and the surrounding area in the beautiful, exotic state of Veracruz, Mexico. I heard rumors of a haunted building and I hiked there. The building, I later learned, had been a TB sanatarium, a psychiatric hospital, and a military academy before it was abandoned for forty or so years. So it has some history! Some of the locals feel uneasy about it and horror stories abound but what struck me the most was the natural evil feel it had - very Tarkovskian - and I knew right away we had to shoot there.


Dis is pretty much carried by its lead Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here], who's in pretty much most of the shots of the movie - so how did you get him to be in your film, what was it like working with him, and did you write your screenplay with him in mind from the get-go?


I did not write the script with Bill in mind but I did picture Ariel as a gaunt, tragic figure with a penetrating stare and a mystic aura and Bill was a name that kept popping up in LA when I was showing the script around. Of course, I was familiar with Billís work from Take This Lollipop and Criminal Minds but I did not know he was in such high demand and I did everything in my power to work with him. From his work and from our meetings, I realized Bill is an actor with foundation, an actor who is not afraid to face the abyss, an actor who will even dive into it if need be. And he showed this. But Bill also gave the film invaluable fragile human elements - itís one thing to show a body ripped apart on screen, itís quite another to show a soul ripped apart. Working with him was fantastic. I was in constant awe of his self-discipline, his courage and what he demands of himself.


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


Peter Gonzales Falcon is a close friend. He starred in Felliniís Roma and was my first choice to play Arielís brother.

Iím a fan of Lori Jo Hendrixís work from the 90s. When I learned she was living in Mexico City, I did all I could to get in touch.

Anne Voitsekhova came highly recommended for her ability as a dancer: she has a background in classical ballet from the Ukraine and was one of the top-rated exotic pole dancers in Mexico City at the time of the shoot.  

I had seen Manuel Dominguezís theater work and had been wanting to work with him for some time. I knew he was an actor who could make something out of nothing - without showing an inch of skin or uttering a single word. I knew he was perfect to play The Figure.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!


It was a tight shoot - 13 days - with three months of pre-production. The shoot went well and under budget but it was intense. For the lake and cabin scenes, we had to take long expeditions on burros and camp in the woods. It was October, it rained most of the time and even the local guides said the temperature was abnormally low. It was kind of tough but ultimately I think the harshness added realism to the film.


The $64-question of course, where can Dis be seen?


It just started the festival circuit last month. It premiered at the TOHorror Film Festival in Turin, Italy where it won the Anna Mondelli Award. It also won three awards at the Dark Veins Horror Fest: Best Actor (Bill Oberst jr), Best Evil Character (Manuel Dominguez) and Best Extreme Film. It will play next in Argentina: Cine con Riesgo. Then again in Italy at the Optical Theater Festival.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Dis yet?


So far, audience and critical reception have been great, but of course, we just kicked off.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iím working on a horror noir feature currently in development.


What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Passion. I did not go to film school but I had two great mentors: Mexican directors Mario Hernandez Sepulveda and Ricardo Benet.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Dis?


I have a 20-min short film, Portrait, which was distributed by The Open Reel.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Blatantly visual. Blatantly experimental.


Your favourite movies?


In a Lonely Place, Night of the Hunter, Los Olvidados.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Just to thank you for this interview and for supporting indie films.


Thanks for the interview!


No, thank you, Michael!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...


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