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Transhuman (2016) Review

rsz_transhuman1TRANSHUMAN (2016)

Starring Natasha James, Steven Berkoff and Michael McKell

Written & Directed by Nicholas Winter

Transhuman will be released on DVD by 88 Films on October 9th 2017

“Transhuman follows a young journalist into the underbelly of a transhumanist cult, spanning generations back to the nazis and World War Two”.

“Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities”.

Thank god for Wikipedia because otherwise I would not have a clue what the hell the title of this film means. The subject is actually quite interesting and ripe for exploration, but this isn’t the film to do it. There’s the seed of an idea here, but the execution lets it down massively.

Coming from Porcelain Films, Transhuman follows British journalist Alex (Natasha James) and her investigation into some nasty business in picturesque Spain. When her close friend Cassie (Rebecca Scott) goes missing, she must help hired muscle Lukas (Marc Bannerman) in finding her. As they do, they uncover a much larger terror.

rsz_transhuman2Transhuman feels like a film cobbled together because if what was available at the time. It’s as if the filmmakers had some actors they wanted to work with and some lovely Spanish locations at their disposal and just cooked up a story to fit around them. But the story is ultra-thin, and so director Nicolas Winter fills the film with scenes of discussing where to go next, driving to that place, walking around that place, with morose orchestral music forever in the background.

The production values are actually pretty great, with a proficient polish over everything. But that can only carry a film so far. Scenes are dragged out forever, particularly one set in a car that should have been claustrophobic and tense but became filler after lasting five whole minutes. Much of the film just wanders nowhere.

The performances only slow things down further but much of this is fine down to the script more than the actors. Each of the characters is pretty interchangeable, stood around in rooms spouting inane dialogue like they’re in a cut scene for an early Resident Evil game. They each do their best, but with nothing exciting to say or do, no way of making themselves likeable, it’s a lost cause.

Any positives from this? At about an hour in, Winter starts to get a bit more ambitious with his camerawork and editing, and Eastenders star Marc Bannerman starts to ham it up which livens up proceedings. The experienced Michael McKell also shows up to add a bit of class.

rsz_transhuman3But it soon slumps into lazy, boring and ultimately pointless flashbacks, adding backstory that’s not needed to characters that have no dimension.

These actors, location and subject matter deserved better than this. As it is, I have to be honest and say I found this a pretty miserable viewing experience.

Best bit: the random and distracting appearance of a Barcelona shirt!

4/10

Interview With ‘Lost A Girl’ director Nicholas Winter by Dean Sills

lag1Interview With Lost A Girl director Nicholas Winter by Dean Sills

Synopsis – Lost A Girl

A new job, a new city, a new start. As Saskia waves goodbye to her ex-boyfriend and sister, with them go the last vestiges of a scarred childhood, and for the first time she feels the excitement and potential of a life away from the demons of her past.

Having settled into the job, Saskia becomes aware of unusual tensions between herself and her colleagues. Animosity and hostility circulate. Feeling isolated and alone, her co-workers appear to be conspiring against her, but all is not as it seems.

A clandestine meeting with her boss sets her mind racing about the possibilities of corporate sabotage and character assassinations and Saskia is plunged into a world of paranoia, jealousy and betrayal.

An outside investigation is launched and Saskia is enlisted as a trusted employee to help with small tasks concerning the security of the company.

With no one to turn to and mounting pressures on her performance at work, the cracks begin to appear. A malignant force permeates the darkness and encroaches on Saskia in ways she never thought possible.

Kate, a co-worker, goes missing, and the police begin an investigation. It seems someone is trying to frame Saskia and she needs to find out who, before it’s too late.

Saskia learns that her actions have terrifying consequences, and as truths are uncovered, an evil is unleashed that she had long forgotten but could never escape.

lag2Now you all know a little about the movie please welcome the director of ‘Lost A Girl’ to UK Horror Scene, Welcome Nicholas and thank you for talking to UKHS about your new movie.

OK, let’s get started with the questions, Nicholas.

UKHS – Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your production company Porcelain Film Ltd ?

NW – I started Porcelain back in 2004, just to give the films I made a genuine legitimate feel, especially when approaching other companies for sales and distribution. The first official Porcelain Film, was a short called ‘Lo-Fi’, shot on the Canon XM2 in awesome Mini DV. The film starred Gina Lyons, who, while working on the film, was very interested in how everything behind the scenes was being set up. So we promptly thought it might be a good idea to start producing films together.

After ‘Lo-Fi’ was made and was eventually sold (which was after about a year of different short film festivals) we set about planning the future for Porcelain Film, with various projects, with a few more short films and then eventually the kamikaze leap to feature films.

Http://www.porcelainfilm.com

UKHS – What was the inspiration behind ‘Lost A Girl’ ?

NW – I saw an opportunity to make a simple film, which would be situational in nature, while trying to brainstorm a few ideas about a year ago (around August 2012). I’d had an idea about a paranoid protagonist whose life is systemically deconstructed, but I didn’t know where to set it. I let that idea brew for a while – the idea slowly morphed into something that I could begin to enjoy creating – with that simple deconstruction idea I could tap into the working world, and the office environment, where you have a nice cross section of personalities. Add to that a sense of unease and tension and I knew I could create a film that had a world of its own and would have a sinister mood and atmosphere throughout, which got me fired up to go off and make it…

The high end corporate world seemed a natural fit and Canary Wharf especially because its very much an island onto its own, nothing like the rest of London, which could add another level of displacement, not just to the lead character, but the world of the film.

lag3UKHS – What kind of Horror movie is ‘Lost A Girl’ and will you be submitting it to any Film Festivals throughout the UK?

NW – ‘Lost a girl’ is very psychological, there’s no blood and gore – its very much up to the audience and their imagination – as to what they believe is happening. There is a world outside the story of the film which is carefully constructed to leave people doubting what they see. Some of the characterisation is purposely ambiguous and the use of language hits a grey area so the audience question the intentions of everyone we encounter during the course of the story.

I’ve started the submission process for a few festivals, so that’s always an ongoing thing.

UKHS – I did enjoy the trailer and the London locations, did you shoot the entire movie in London and how difficult was it actually filming there?

NW – I’d say 95% of the finished film was shot in London, around a few different offices in the Canary Wharf / Poplar area of London, with a few other offices in Liverpool st. Other locations were exteriors for a prologue sequence in Bedfordshire, an interior dark setting in Surrey and then an exterior of a desolate landscape in Huelva, Spain.

The offices were a bit of a challenge. Logistically, getting people in and out of the buildings, along with our equipment, was a bit of a pain. Canary Wharf being fairly hot on security and generally set up for the name-tag brigade of folk who go in and out for work everyday, was not conducive to swift moves from place to place. We also had severe time constraints and were working a standard day from eight till six, rather than a normal film day, which would tend to be longer.

Luckily, shooting in the winter allowed me to get the night interiors from about 4pm onwards, so we’d be finished and out by six, which was bizarre.

The office staff were great and we were very respectful to the other tenants – especially the ones on the same floor as us – the 33rd! Everyone was interested in what we were doing. Our make-up artist had bright pink hair – so everyone knew we were coming a mile away. The locations added the essential level of realism you need for this type of story, so it was well worth the effort.

lag4UKHS – I was impressed with the performance from your leading actress, Natasha James. Can you tell us about the cast and was Natasha your first choice for the role of Saskia Johannessen ?

NW – Natasha was always the number one choice for the role. We’d met on a previous film and so I asked her if she’d read the script. I think initially the role was different to what she had previously been asked to do, that there was an immediate challenge set. The thing about ‘Lost a Girl’ is that the entire narrative is from Saskia’s point of view, not once do we, as the audience, know more than she does. All of the films tension is derived from that device, so subsequently I knew I needed an actress who could hold the screen for 90 minutes! To add to that, you need someone who will go the extra mile for you, so you can push them into dark areas. Natasha delivers an exceptional performance, which of course makes me look good, whereas in reality I’m just saying things like, ‘faster, slower, better, less, even less, a bit more’ – and other very unhelpful adjectives 😉

I’m always fascinated to see how different actors work and this film was no exception, all the cast have very different approaches to their characterisation and their techniques are different too.

I’m lucky enough to work on films also as a cinematographer so I meet a lot of actors, so some of the cast were earmarked from previous films I’d worked on, some from the previous feature film ‘Breathe’ and also new actors from two short casting sessions I did in the run up to the film. The London location did me a big favour in that sense, as it tends to be one of the best places to source your actors.

New actors keep you on your toes, stop you getting complacent, so I’d say the cast is a fifty fifty mix of old and new.

UKHS- What was the most challenging experience during the shoot and did you find this movie easier to shoot considering it was your second feature?

NW – Every film presents you with new challenges, but on the whole this film was easier than ‘Breathe’ both in terms of execution, logistically and working method, now I have a little more experience. It was designed from the get go to be very insular to mirror the behaviours of the main character. Also most of the scenes are two or three handers, which makes things easier. Some scenes in ‘Breathe’ have twelve characters interacting, with cross cut parallel action, so most of the time on that film I was making it up as I went along.

Most of the challenges were thankfully addressed beforehand, during long discussions with the actors as well as time of day planning of the scene order within the office, so the production order of the scenes was quite complicated and this meant lots of costume changes, but the scenes all happen in only a few rooms, so the filming of them was pretty standard.

Most challenging for me was a sequence that happens in the flat, which had a complicated order of in and out of one room, into another, back into the other room and then finally out of a bathroom and into a corridor, sequence, while other action happening with two other actors and quite a lot of intense acting moments and final pieces of exposition too.

lag5UKHS – Finally, will the film be released on DVD or just as a download?

NW – I’ve got all sorts up in the air, putting together some of the special features and the online behind the scenes video (now online http://www.lostagirlmovie.co.uk ). There’s some commentary to be recorded and some more behind the scenes to be collated before the DVD and possible Blu Ray can be finalised.

We set up some audience test screenings in the Cinema to test the film on the big screen with our surround mix and the 2k master, so the film is of the highest spec you need it to be for exhibition. In terms of release I expect the download will be the first in a long line of options open to the film. I’m excited to start getting people’s reaction to the film and hope they enjoy it.

UKHS – Thank you for your time Nicholas and good luck with your movie. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.

Image courtesy: Porcelain Film Ltd

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