Black Fawn Films are on a roll. The Canadian production company has made 8 feature films over the last 4 years. Their catalogue includes Antisocial & Antisocial 2, The Drownsman, The Sublet, Bite, Let Her Out, and Bed of the Dead. Their latest film, The Heretics, has perfected the multi-sub-genre model and delivers one hell of a fun time while doing it.
Part cabin-in-the-woods thriller, part psychological puzzle, and part demonic possession battleground, the film peppers in some genuine jumps and creeping tension builders. The demonic creature design is unique and effectively unnerving. If you’ve seen Bite, you’ll know that Back Fawn doesn’t shy away from a body horror and knows how to work with their practical effects to get the job done right.
In The Heretics, a notorious cult kidnaps a young girl and sacrifices themselves by the light of the locust moon. The next morning the girl awakes, caked in dried blood and surrounded by corpses…but safe – or so she thinks. Years later, the locust moon is about to rise again and the girl is captured once more by a surviving member of the cult. She is taken to a remote cabin where she learns that a demon has been growing inside of her all these years, and before the dawn it will rise.
The cast – Nina Kiri, Jorja Cadence and Ry Barrett – have a wonderful chemistry. Their strong and honest performances carry the whole film, and it’s clear that they’re passionate about the project.
I had a chance to sit down with the stars of The Heretics to discuss the film before its world premiere.
Kelly McNeely: How would you describe The Heretics?
Nina Kiri: It’s a cult horror film.
KM: In that it’s about a cult…
Jorja Cadence: But it’s a future cult film as well. (laughs)
Ry Barrett: It falls under the cabin-in-the-woods subgenre, but there’s a lot more going on. It doesn’t just exist in the cabin. It’s sort of a paranoia-infused, psychological, love story, thriller horror.
JC: There’s a lot of different elements to the film. It’s hard to give any information about the film until you’ve seen the whole thing.
KM: Can you talk a bit about the physicality or the transformation – again without giving too much away?
NK: I guess the physicality is that my character, Gloria, goes through a transformation and finds out a lot about herself and then that starts to reflect on the outside. So a lot of it is internal, and towards the end, in terms of makeup and where the film goes, it’s a very human transformation.
KM: And how much time did you spend in the makeup chair?
NK: 8 hours on the first day, then it got to be about 7 or 6 the more times that we did it. So usually about 6 hours each day.
KM: What drew you to the The Heretics project and your characters?
JC: It was pretty hard when I was auditioning, because they didn’t give us much about what was actually going on. Especially for my character. I think I did 3 auditions and each time I would get a new scene that would show me more about the plot and what was happening with the story. It was like, whoa, what I thought last time definitely wasn’t right! So that was part of the reason I was drawn to the project. It was already so surprising and so alluring within the audition process, and that’s when you know. If the scenes you’re doing then are great, it’s just gonna be such a ride if you actually get the project.
KM: And so much mystery to it…
JC: Yeah! So much mystery. I had no idea what was going on and I was like “I gotta do this”.
NK: I think the first draw was that it was with a group of people I already knew from Black Fawn, which was cool to see and it’s always really exciting when you get to see familiar faces and names. It was the same with me for the audition process. When it’s an audition you can only go so deep with the few days that you have – but when I had the full script and worked with an acting coach that I know, we delved into the motives and things about the character. I just became so excited about it and every scene, it was like, oh my god, I had something that was really important to me about that scene.
RB: I’ve worked with Chad [Archibald, director] and the Black Fawn team a handful of times. I’m always interested in working with Chad. He sent me an outline of the first half of the film, so I still didn’t really know where it went or what exactly happened in it, but I got the idea of the duality that my character Thomas has. Getting to play with the audience’s expectations and perception. Each of the characters sort of has that in their own way, and that’s what really drew me into it. The other side is the physicality of his role. He’s mentally and physically pretty damaged so it was great to dive into that.
KM: As an audience watching horror, we tend to learn from what we see. Lessons like don’t run upstairs, don’t drop your weapon, etc. What lessons can we learn from The Heretics?
RB: I guess in the face of complete evil, still try.
NK: Psychological strength is really prominent in it, so just having the strength to continue to be normal whatever normal is for you.
RB: Your past doesn’t necessarily change who you become. It can, but it doesn’t have to.
KM: What can audiences look forward to?
JC: Lots of surprises, it’s really thrilling.
RB: There are a lot of different genre elements involved. It has psychological elements, supernatural elements, that cabin-in-the-woods subgenre and religious and cult aspects. There’s a lot that gets thrown into it, but it doesn’t get over-complicated.