The Pyramid: Q&A with writer & director Alex Visani
Alex Visani, the genius behind upcoming Italian anthology flick The Pyramid catches up with The Horror Hothouse’s Emma Knock to talk about the ambitious new movie that he hopes will breathe new life into the Italian horror scene.
Written by Alex Visani and Raffaele Ottolenghi comes The Pyramid, an anthological horror flick divided into four different stories, all of which are connected by one object; a bizarre little pyramid. Over the centuries the pyramid has been the catalyst for wide-spread death and destruction and, after being lost for years, it has accidentally been reawakened to once again bring forth madness and mayhem.
Hi Alex, thanks for chatting with us about your upcoming film. Firstly, can you give us a little background on The Pyramid?
Hi guys! Well, The Pyramid is a truly independent and ambitious project written by me and the actor Raffaele Ottolenghi and produced by Empire Video. The project is born from the collaboration of five young independent Italian directors: Alex Visani, Antonio Zannone, Luca Alessandro and the duo Roberto Albanesi & Simone Chiesa. Each one of them will give birth to an episode of terror generated by the pyramid and every episode will be connected to the others by a chronological order. The Pyramid gathers the strength and passion of this group of artists and represents the Italian independent scene. In fact, each one of the segments was filmed in different parts of Italy to prove that horror is alive and kicking and take its wrath along all of the country.
The Pyramid is an anthology divided into four different stories that are all connected by the illusive pyramid – what was your inspiration in setting it out as an anthology as opposed to the regular feature film format?
I’ve always loved anthological horror movies, from the Amicus features to the Romero’s Creepshow, and the idea to make a movie divided into episodes has always fascinated me. At the same time, of course, it’s a way to optimise the budget and the quality of the final product because a full-length soloist project is more expensive and dispersive. If you create an anthological horror you have less time to tell your story but you can invest the budget to make a more accurate realisation of the set and of the effects.
The pyramid object acts as the catalyst for all the madness and mayhem in the story and also acts as the common device that brings all four sections of the feature together – which is an awesome concept, by the way. How did this idea come about?
Well, I think that The Pyramid is a truly passionate homage to Hellraiser (and the infinite genius of Clive Barker) and also to a masters of cinema such as Mario Bava and to an underrated and mostly unknown young Italian director of the 90s called Fabio Salerno who made the cult movie Notte Profonda (Deep Night). At the same time I think it has its own personality. There are a lot of horror and gore sub-genres mixed inside The Pyramid. People will find psychological horror, possession and supernatural themes and a lot of situations in the vein of cannibal and zombie-movies. The idea of the pyramid as the continuous connection between the stories was born because I preferred to create a link (or “a fil rouge” in french style) between the episodes trying to make my anthological movie more like a full-length film. I wanted a movie and not a collection of separate short movies.
Each story appears to have a title – Apocalypse, Pestilence, Dream Door and Ritual – can you share a little bit about each story and the inspirations behind them?
Yes , there are four segments : Ritual (wich is directed by me), Dream Door (by Luca Alessandro), Pestilence (by the duo Albanesi/Chiesa) and Apocalypse (by Antonio Zannone). I’ve directed the first episode Ritual which is the opening of the entire movie. In my episode an unfortunate guy found the pyramid (we see, during a short intro the story of its creation by demons) and slowly becomes possessed by the infernal object. It’s a story of possession and struggle with evil forces with gore and also ironic moments. Raffaele Ottolenghi (who writes the episode with me) and I were inspired by Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, Evil Dead 2 and there are some influences from Tales From The Crypt the serial.
After the conclusion of Ritual there’s a girl who came in to the possesion of the pyramid and this is the beginning of Dream Door, the second story. In this case the influence was Notte Profonda (Deep Night) directed by Fabio Salerno, Wes Craven’s Nightmare On Elm Street and a bit of Hellraiser, of course. During the episode we will see the difficult relationship between a young girl and his boyfriend, who’s a comic artist, and the terrible effects of the pyramid on them. This is the most introspective segment with a strange, dream-like atmosphere.
Then is the turn of Pestilence in which we’ll see the contagious effects of the pyramid, which now has gained great powers. It will spread a horrible sort of pestilence, in the vein of the masterpiece Prince of Darkness from the master John Carpenter. This is the most aggressive and full-packed action episode.
Then there’s Apocalypse that will show us the ultimate effect of the previous pestilence. The world is near to the end, the human race is almost extinct but there’s a little hope still alive. A couple of post-nuclear knights that will fight to find and destroy the evil pyramid. Of course this episode is gory homage to post-atomic b-movies of the eighties.
What is your favourite of the four stories?
It’s hard to say! I love all of them because they’re very unique and different for style and contents. I’ve appreciated the work of all the directors involved in the project, they’re talented and with a visual style that’s original and intense. I’m very curious to know what the audience will say about every episode and, above all, what will be the favourite one above them!
What was the decision between having different directors for each section and not one overall director – is the style for each very different?
I believe that it is the union of the people who gives them strength. I know these young directors and [they have] a lot of passion for horror movies and lot of talent, and I believe in them (and they believe in me). I made the intro to the movie and one of the episodes and I’ve done the general supervision of the entire project, but every other director involved has put his passion and his talent at the service of the movie. I think that the different style of direction of every episode is the true strength of The Pyramid because the people who will see it can be transported, every time, in a sort of different dimension with a different atmosphere and a different storyteller that will talk about one concept : the pure evil. Everyone has got a personal vision and perception of evil and it will be interesting to see in which of them people will be reflected.
You co-wrote The Pyramid with Raffaele Ottolenghi. How did you approach working together on the screenplay?
It was very funny. At the beginning my intention was to make a short movie, then Raffaele calls me [with an idea] (that later developed in Ritual) that was very interesting. So we met and talked about making a full-length movie, but it was too much expensive and needed too much time to be done by us two. So I thought to make an anthological movie instead and with the help of other indie directors who shared the same passion. We developed together (with Ottolenghi) a subject that I then turned into a screenplay.
Did you share any artistic differences during the creation of The Pyramid?
We went together despite our differences. Of course it’s hard to make an indie movie with different directors and a limited budget but all the guys were amazing. Sometimes we discussed making some changes inside the stories and a different developement of parts of the script but everything was fine.
As the director of one of the stories as well as the co-writer, what aspect did you enjoy the most?
Well, the most enjoyable thing was to see the episodes coming to life from the hands and the minds of the directors. It was a beautiful experience. Writing a screenplay and then seeing it developed by other people, all of them full of true passion for the project and for the horror genre, is the biggest satisfaction. Almost all the professionals and actors involved in the project worked in co-production without taking money. They will be paid in % after the movie is sold. All of them believed in The Pyramid and they were very excited to take part in this project. I think this is the true root of the art.
How close is The Pyramid to being completed and ready for screening?
The movie, after 8 months of hard work, is now almost finished. We’re adding just the last few touches in video & audio post-production and testing it in private projections and audio sessions. I think that it will be ready at the end of February. Of course I will send it to all the possible horror festivals all around the world. And, of course, there will be a copy also for you. I’ll be very happy if you do a review for your website! (Editor: Aww, you guys!)
What are you aspirations for The Pyramid once it’s complete?
I hope that the movie will be appreciated by horror fans but the main goal of The Pyramid is to shed a new light on [horror films coming from Italy]. It’s a piece of work made with a lot of passion and all the people involved in the project are great professionals. All of them deserve to be noticed by the audience.
What can horror fans expect from The Pyramid?
There are a lot of horror and gore sub-genres mixed inside The Pyramid and it’s very entertaining. There’s blood, action, sometimes humour and a lot of references to cult movies of the past (especially from the 80s). I think that there’s a good equilibrium, inside the movie, between horror, psychology and action and also the special effects crew did a very good job.
If you could work with anyone in the industry who would it be and why?
Jeffrey Combs. One of my favourite icon of the genre since I was a child. And for the special effects…well…Screaming Mad George is a true genius.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Now I’m working hard with the other directors to add a few last touches to The Pyramid. When the movie is released I will start to working on another project. It will be a horror movie, but I’m preparing something very bizarre and sick. A new kind of serial killer will be involved in it. And , maybe, there’s also another interesting idea boiling in my mind…a horror web-series!
Finally…what’s your favourite scary movie?
It’s hard to say because I’m a true fanatic about movies and especially horror movies so it’s always hard to make a strong selection between thousands films I’ve seen. But there are some titles that obsessed me such as The Beyond by Lucio Fulci, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Evil Dead trilogy by Sam Raimi, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Tobe Hooper, Nekromantik by Jorg Buttgereit, Cannibal Holocaust by Ruggero Deodato, Martyrs by Pascal Laugier, Nosferatu by Murnau, Demon Mask and Bay Of Blood by Mario Bava and almost the entire filmography of MASTER John Carpenter
Thanks a lot for the interview and for your support. Stay horror & stay independent!
Follow Alex on Twitter at @Alex_Visani