Creepy Cutouts and Sinister Silhoettes – We pay a visit to Mansfield Dark

At the most recent London Horror Society Short Film Evening I had the very great pleasure to meet and enjoy some of the short films of Richard Mansfield. Richard is one half of production company Mansfield Dark along with his husband Daniel and the shorts on show that evening included Count Magnus based upon the story by MR James.

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From Count Magnus

Pure animation is something that we don’t really see very much of in the world of horror, (except perhaps in TV shows aimed at a younger audience) so I was curious to know what got Richard started in making filmmaking and who his influences were:

‘I’ve been making films since 2005, I started off making marionette (String puppet) films based upon dark fairy tales. I met my husband Daniel in 2008 and by this time I was making the fairy tale films with silhouette shadow puppets and Daniel would often narrate the films. Daniel then made his first live-action features Meltdown followed by Lady Chatterley’s Revenge (aka You Crazy Bitch!) and I followed making my own live action horror films, the first being The Mothman Curse.

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The Mothman Curse

Our influences are wide but classic horror and camp cinema creep into pretty much all of our work. I grew up on the films of Oliver Postgate and the silhouette films of Lotte Reiniger and Hammer films of course.’

Mansfield Dark’s animated features are very distinctive, Richard explained the physical process of making them work:

‘When I make the shadow films everything is designed on paper then cut out of black card.

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Some of the puppets have many parts and are joined and operated by elastic mechanisms or a length of wire. The backdrops are projected onto a translucent screen from acetates and the puppets operated live whilst being filmed. I also place foreground cut-outs to increase the illusion of depth.

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In post production I also add other elements such as rain or snow. The soundtrack is recorded and edited with the visuals and all being well …movie magic ensues.’

Richard has very kindly agreed to let us host his movie Wolfskin

The animated films are but one aspect of Mansfield Dark’s output, the company also make feature-length live action films:

‘Our features are either horror, LGBT or both! My first horror The Mothman Curse was filmed in London’s  Cinema Museum using an experimental black and white pinhole camera. It gave the film a very creepy low-res CCTV-like image (but it is not found-footage).

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The Mothman Curse

I love mystery and ambiguity and most of my horrors are about people being stalked by supernatural entities. My second horror Video Killer followed a group of strangers being stalked by a demonic childhood friend who sent them VHS tapes containing disturbing cartoons (which were animated on an iPad).

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Video Killer

Both our LGBT films Drink Me and The Secret Path contain horror elements. Drink Me is an erotic thriller about a suburban vampire and The Secret Path follows a couple of escaped sailors in the early 1800’s  who find the hiding place in the woods is haunted.

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The Secret Path

Mansfield Park have a new film in production, Scare Bear which we were lucky enough to see a trailer for it looked to us like a warped Alice in Wonderland Richard told us what we can expect to see:

Scare Bear is our upcoming horror release.

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We filmed it last year at the end of June in the woods. It’s a mainly one-actor movie set in 1978 with Henry Regan (star of The Secret Path) He’s hunting for treasure using a metal detector and starts to uncover items from his childhood that remind him of his sister Grace who has been missing presumed dead for over 15 years. He films his finds with his Super 8 camera and starts to notice a dark figure with a bear-like head following him. He digs up a toy telephone and starts getting calls from someone who sounds just like Grace.  It a sort of fantasy horror, I grew up loving films like The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw and this is my version of Folk-horror. It has a really wonderful new score composed by folk musician George Hoyle and his band Cunning Folk. It’s filled with sinister toys, clockwork robots and a puppet show from hell! I’m really proud of it and looking forward to releasing it very soon.

Scare Bear looks right up our  street, but what else is in the Mansfield Dark pipeline?

‘Up next, Daniel has just released his new LGBT found-footage thriller Watch Me it is available to rent or download from Amazon UK and USA. I’m finishing production on another supernatural feature called The Christmas Tapes (title may change) about a man who finds a stash of audio tapes in his basement. As he sets up the house for the big day he listens to the tapes which were recorded in his house over 10 years ago by a medium who was able to capture the voices of the dead. As he gets drawn into her story he starts to notices strange things happening around him and fears that the entity on the tapes may still be in the house. I’ll be releasing that later this year around Halloween. I’m hopefully also shooting a new LGBT horror The Secret Visitor very soon too. It’ll be a modern-day sister film to The Secret Path and hopefully another MR James adaptation…phew!’

It was interesting talking to you Richard and we look forward to seeing more from, Mansfield Dark

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