Maxime Alexandre and the cinematography of horror films

Following on from the 2014 hit horror movie, The Conjuring, cinematographer, Maxime Alexandre, talked to horror genre magazine, Dread Central, about his experiences and influences in filming the new prequel film, Annabelle: Creation. Filmed to bring the audience into the story of how The Conjuring started, Alexandre shares his ideas and visions for the film.

Choosing an early 20th-century film setting

Annabelle: Creation is set in a period long before the original film, and tells of how the doll in The Conjuring came to be. After the tragic death of their only daughter, a doll maker and his wife welcome several girls and a nun into their home, after an orphanage closes. The curse of Annabelle soon becomes apparent, as the evil creation makes the children and the nun the target of its evil imaginings.

Previous experience of dark films helped

Having previously worked on films like High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, and Silent Hill: Revelation, Maxime Alexandre was thrilled to be working on the prequel to such a great horror movie. In the interview, he discussed how the use of light and dark, as well as the structure of the house they filmed in, influenced his style and collaboration with the film’s director, David F. Sandberg.

Making a period movie is always exciting

According to Alexandre, having a period movie is exciting for a cinematographer. However, he also says that he searches for a balance between production design, costumes, and all other creative influences so that he can create the most effective images for the film. Keeping in mind the director’s initial vision is also paramount when planning the lighting, etc.

The changes that went on in the house in the film are an important part of the story, and the colour palette had to match the ideology of the situation. In the film, the house lies on an open ground, isolated and surrounded by dry, withered grass, with a few stunted trees. Alexandre’s idea was to create the palette from the inside of the house, leaving only brief glimpses of the warm exterior of the countryside outside. He goes on to say how he thinks that Annabelle: Creation is his most glamorous work.

Making darkness alive

With all the strong contrasting scenes that showed light and dark in stark defiance of each other, Alexandre explained how, quite often, contrast is the cinematographer’s biggest enemy. Sandberg’s initial brief on lighting was to state that he “wanted the dark to have a character”, as if it was one of the actual cast members, deserving an end credit. He wanted to see the darkness moving as if it was alive. Alexandre used the teamwork of the entire lighting crew, the art department, and the props team, and heard their shared ideas on Sandberg’s vision. And, with the help of the electrical team, they managed to get the light to move in the same direction at all times, giving the effect of the darkness moving towards the characters in the film as if it was alive. In Alexandre’s own words: “A movie is successful when the audience has been transported into a story.”

Will you have the guts to watch Alexandre’s newest masterpiece?

h/t: Dread Central
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