Let me take my hat off: Hi there. I’m a former kid writer who, back in the year 2000, authored an encyclopedia of horror and thyriller films in Italy entitled "Spaghetti Nightmares", considered by fans of the genre to be one of the leading works of its kind. And then, after being astounded by the great Richard Stanley’s masterpiece "Hardware", I realized that a new era of post-modern horror films had dawned, and so I decided to study directing at the Los Angeles Film School, before returning to my native Italy to do my thesis film The Eve.
At first, I planned to film a bizarre tale that I had received as a gift from the great Alejandro Jodorowsky when he came to Italy to hold one of his psycho-magic events. He’s a madman, and I adore madness. But while working on the screenplay, I just couldn’t come up with a satisfactory ending, so I switched to a subject of a friend of mine, the writer Nicola Lombardi. This intense subject won me over right away with its witty, macabre tone, very much in the style of Robert Bloch. The plot, which revolves around the ironic encounter between Santa Claus and the child, worked on paper, but I feared it would be too predictable on film, so I added to the screenplay (spoiler alert) the story of the child being sold, after which his real, unbalanced mother tries to steal him away from the parents, a plot twist meant to keep the attention level of the viewers high, and I believe it works.
It took two weeks of work, with a crew of thirty, just like a full-length feature film. We shot at my family’s villa in Rome, and then the post-production work stretched out for four whole years. It wound up involving no fewer than 130 digital procedures, because, what with the fact that, back then, 3D graphics were not nearly as developed as today, we had to start all over again at least twice, and that took a lot more time than we had imagined.
Then a test screening of finished version showed that it was not being understood, so I had to add a number of sequences. There were no particular problems with the cast, apart from (SPOIKER ALERT) a little girl who started crying in terror because a beheaded head scared her.
So far it has won 395 awards, most of them for the experimental work, the directing or the editing. It was very well received in America, maybe perhaps my international style is quite similar to that of American and Canadian film-makers. To my great surprise, it also did very well in Indonesia and India. Those are countries with little connection to the Christmas tradition, but their spirituality helped them understand the film. The reception in Europe was subdued but positive, especially once the number of awards won by the film topped 300. Reactions in Italy were disappointing, probably because the realistic bent of the Italian cinema is at odds with my international, experimental approach, which has little or nothing to with Italy.
Actually, I was certain that the film, with its less than frenetic pace, would prove more successful in Europe than in America, where they’re used to movies whose action-packed scenes make you jump in your seat, sending your popcorn flying, so that came as surprise.
It received all sorts of comments, the way any film does. There were some who criticised the cartoon sequence, but that wasn’t meant to be anything more than a series of child’s drawings, not a full-fledged work of animation. Others let me know that they found the film very sincere. The director of an American film event – if memory serves me, the 2015 Steam house coffee Co, Independent Film Awards – wrote to say that it was the best short film he had seen for years, and that it reminded him of the work of Kubrick or Bergman. He couldn’t imagine how any festival would not want to show it. And he gave it his Best Horror Film award, the most heartfelt compliment I’ve received for a while.
I want to experiment with mixing different genres in a horror film, but even more importantly, I want to do works that address issues of social relevance, the way the great film-maker George Romero did. I feel the genre has a lot of untapped potential in that area.