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An Interview with Sam Mason-Bell, Director of Senseless

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2022

Films directed by Sam Mason-Bell on (re)Search my Trash

 

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

 

Senseless is about trying to run away from your problems and walking into a situation that you have no control of. In this case that involves Jason, our protagonist walking into a supernatural forest that wants his soul.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Senseless?

 

Due to it being the Covid-19 pandemic we found ourselves unable to shoot Terror At Black Tree Forest so we were drawn to telling a story that was journey-focused and could be done with limited location, cast and crew. We thought about survivalist films like Evil Dead 2, Mandy, and how one character can keep your captivation. I've also always wanted to tell a story about someone walking into a woods that's evil, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I also really wanted to make a film that relied on primal instincts during anxiety and panic attacks in particular fight or flight, and how we deal with that when we're faced with horrors.

 

Do talk about your co-writer on Senseless, Jackson Batchelor [Jackson Batchelor interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?

 

Jackson is co director of Trash Arts. I'm fortunate to work with him on most of our projects. With Senseless we were trying to make sense of how to make films during the pandemic. We were actually working on a comedy idea but then got driven by the idea of one person focused horror piece. We also really wanted to experiment with narrative and special effects, pushing for a more surrealist piece.

 

Senseless is very associative when it comes to narratuve and seems to follow the logic of a nightmare - so what was the idea behind telling your story that way, and how easy or hard was it to not literally lose the plot in the process?

 

We knew we wanted it to be a film that did not focus on dialogue to drive the narrative forward, we knew there was a three act structure but it didn't naturally have to follow it through plot. I always describe the film as a walking nightmare, and what is a nightmare if not a series of horror setpieces? I also really wanted the audience to feel for Jason, his actions have led him  to the forest but he's not a bad guy, it was very important to stay with the emotions of Jason after seeing horrific sites.

 

What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror?

 

The horrors are definitely seen through Jasons eyes, seeing the evil play with his darkest desires or fears. We wanted the horror to be fantastical and trippy. Using dopplegangers of Jason showing the scary side of who he could be, but also literal monsters and to have that very maniacal Evil Dead vibe, they love the torture they're creating for Jason.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

For me it was key to let the emotions build up, to feel the fear, the loss through physicality rather than dialogue. I didn't want Jason chatting away to himself, his memories, the forest hallucinations can do that. The film was shot over 5 days in the woods but the post production and the extra footage grabbed for the ghosts was the most complicated part. We utilised working with green actors due to lockdown and hosted a green screen session in our garden. We were very fortunate to work with Craigus Barry on the score and sound design, a lot of that was so important to the narrative, we would tell Ryan what we'd be hearing what he'd be feeling but none of this was created. Craigus worked to bring the surrealism and folk horror elements perfectly.

 

Do talk about Senseless's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

We designed the film to be minimalist on cast and really didn't want Jason to have many interactions beyond doppelgangers and monsters. Ryan Carter I've been lucky to work with on many films, he has the most intense eyes and totally understands how to express how he's feeling instead of needing to force through dialogue. We've worked on numerous projects together so we knew he'd be comfortable with the improv, it took some time for him to adjust to not expressing through words but he got there! Ella Palmer who plays Diane wanted someone who could also show empathy in the final moments but have that rage for all of his inner paranoia and anxieties. The rest of the cast on the actual shoot were myself and Jackson. I've always wanted to play a skeleton and Jackson always wanted to play a monster so it worked out nicely!

 

You of course also have to talk about the forest Senseless was shot at, and what was it like filming there?

 

Hollybanks Woods is a beautiful woods, it was the most ideal location you could imagine during lockdown. Quiet and thankfully dry! We quickly realised bugs loved to attack Ryan though which he wasn't a fan of!

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was an interesting shoot as it was mostly all night times as Senseless is only set over one night. We barely had any crew on most days outside of me, Jackson, Omar Jose Mahmood Lagres and Katie Johnson so it was very hands-on with lighting, fortunately Jackson became a bit of an expert lighting the woods! We stayed quite close to the road knowing it would be quiet, not wanting to get lost. It's ironic as a year later we went to the same woods for Terror At Black Tree Forest and got losed numerous times! After the first 5 days we did a few extra green screen sessions, and then a year later I felt it needed more so we got Chris Mills and Simon Berry doing some extra moments of the ghosts, I'm so glad we got to have them involved adding to this horror experiment!

 

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

 

Senseless is now out on Blu-ray via Darkside Releasing.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

This year me and Jackson both had opportunities to direct horror features. I directed my first body horror, I adore David Cronenberg and we got to do a creepy chamber piece about a parasitic sound in the woods that creates virus-like symptoms watching a couple slowly lose there minds. Jackson is currently filming I Curse This Land, our first full on folk horror about a witch's curse on a small village many years later.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Twitter: trashartsfilm

Facebook: trashartsuk

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD