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An Interview with Torin Langen, Director of Malleus Maleficarum

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2014

Films directed by Torin Langen on (re)Search my Trash


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


Malleus Maleficarum takes place in a small town that's returned to the dark ages of religious fundamentalism, sacrificing witches in protest of Halloween. The film follows a trio of family members, two siblings and their aunt, as they partake in the annual ritual. But their actions don't sit well with the younger brother, and he's forced to rebel and fight for his beliefs.


What where your sources of inspiration when writing Malleus Maleficarum?


With all of my films, the inspiration for visuals comes before anything. I'll go into the writing process with ideas for individual shots or scenes, then daisy-chain these ideas together with a plot. The writing process was more focused on cinematography since Malleus Maleficarum is a film without dialogue. Visually, my major sources of inspiration are filmmakers Jan Svankmajer, Shozin Fukui and Michael Todd Schneider. Svankmajer's shorts are typically told without dialogue and are hauntingly gorgeous, Fukui's films are inspiring for how they were produced (super guerrilla-style and strange beyond belief) and Schneider inspired me to be as daring and experimental as I want to be with my work. That being said, I don't think Malleus Maleficarum is anywhere near as visually intense as any of these filmmakers' output, but they were incredibly influential on the project and myself as an artist.


Your film can be understood as a dark satire on religious fundamentalism - your personal thoughts on the subject?


There's definitely undertones of satire but that was never meant as the theme of the film. It serves as the setup, the MacGuffin, but isn't really what the film's about. It's a story about teen rebellion; a young man stuck in a world where everyone around him is passively sadistic, but he's the only one who recognizes it. He sees how destructive their culture is and is horrified by it, but his attempts to break free come at the cost of rejection. Total isolation is one of the scariest things I can think of, so I try to work that into my projects as much as possible. It's something we can all relate to, in some capacity.


Malleus Maleficarum was shot entirely without dialogue - why, and what were the advantages but also challenges of filming that way?


The film doesn't have dialogue because, quite frankly, it didn't need it. I saw ways for everything conveyed in the film to be told silently and thought talking would only serve as unnecessary noise. The advantage of this approach was being able to move a lot more quickly on set and gather more coverage as a result. I ran audio as a guide track, but everything was ultimately dubbed over. This gave me the opportunity to direct during takes to ensure that timing was exactly how I wanted it. The real challenge came in editing, since I had no dialogue to determine how long to hold on a shot for. As a result, the cuts dictate the tone of the film more than they otherwise would, since the bulk of the pacing was in the edit. Malleus Maleficarum was the most challenging project I've edited thus far, and the film went through several different incarnations before I was totally happy with it.


Do talk about the look and feel of your movie for a bit?


Since we were working with a very low budget (though I have to thank Brian, Pat and Steven Lockyer for stepping in and helping fund the project!), I didn't want this to be another indie DSLR movie. DSLRs are fantastic tools, but when you have a camera that provides a cinematic look and no gear to facilitate that look, it winds up looking very cheap. As a result I went with a Canon XH-A1, which to me resembles more of a 16mm film stock. The film was mostly shot handheld in an effort to make it resemble a 70's independent production, but in a more subtle way than the new-wave "grindhouse" content coming out now. Locations were also crucial to me; I wanted to avoid anything overtly modern wherever I could. That being said, I didn't set out to make a period piece, but it was important that the locations resembled a town trapped in another era; reflective of their religious beliefs.

I already talked about the editing dictating the tone of the film, but just as important was the soundtrack. Stephen Schooley and Justin Cober did a fantastic job on this and were incredibly patient and detail oriented throughout the entire process. It took me a bit longer to "find" this film than some of my previous projects, and I wasn't even sure I'd achieved the vibe I wanted until I heard their music. Their talents were indispensable in making this film what it is, so I'll take this opportunity to publicly thank them for their efforts. They also play in a band called New Wings and are releasing an album later this month, so check in at their Facebook page for news and updates:


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


The entire cast is built out of actor friends of mine. Eric Repke, who plays the lead, is my oldest friend and has been involved with almost everything I've done since I started making movies. I've known Erin Stuart for a few years and wrote her part with her in mind, and she pulled it off flawlessly. Beca MacKinnon is a friend from high school that I'd been meaning to cast for ages and she fit the bill perfectly. I met Maxwell Lantz through a production company I volunteered at ages ago, and his theatrical background was an enormous asset to the project. I met Sam Varteniuk through a handful of filmmakers' meet ups he helped host, and in getting to know him found out he had a background in acting. In the end, I think everyone did a fantastic job. It also made most sense to cast friends in a lot of ways; we were working long hours and at times needed to schedule pickup days on short notice, so it was easier to ask this of a friend than someone I knew solely on a professional level. It also made the atmosphere on set a lot more playful and creatively inspiring.


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


For the most part, anything negative I have to say was really due to self-imposed pressure. At the time this was the most elaborate project I'd attempted, so there was a certain level of self doubt and anxiety I had trouble overcoming. That being said, everyone involved was a team player and did everything they could to make things run as smoothly as possible. Brian Lockyer and Reese Eveneshen were absolutely crucial in the making of this film, not only for the skills they offered on-set, but in their positivity and helping me stay subjective when certain creative decisions needed to be sacrificed (as is the case with any film). Although it was a stressful shoot, I look back on it happily. Everything worked out in the end, after all!


The $64-question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?


As of now, the film's just starting its festival tour, so catching a screening is your best bet at the moment. I do have plans for some sort of release with my other short Fondue, but as of now nothing is set in stone.


Any future projects beyond Malleus Maleficarum you'd like to share?


For the past year almost, I've been involved with a film called Late Night Double Feature, an anthology being produced out of Toronto by Three Evil Cats Productions. I directed a third of the film and am excited to see it come together as well as it has. Hopefully there'll be some finalized release info in the near future I can share, but for the time being there's not much more I can say. Extremely happy with how it's turning out, though!


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


My cast and crew went above and beyond their call of duty for this film, and I can't thank them enough for it. I'm very, very proud of what we pulled off together, and their support has been invaluable every step of the way. Thanks so much, everyone!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD