Sequel to award winning director Drew Casson’s cult hit Hungerford, The Darkest Dawn is released digitally today. The Unheard Nerd got to catch up with the stars and director at the VIP screening at Waterloo Vaults.
When I got the invite through to attend the screening to this new film I must admit to being a mix of sceptical but also oddly interested, as found footage or even horror in general isn’t my thing. However,when the film was billed as ‘a new dawn in film making, where traditional avenues of distribution and exhibition are abandoned. Exhibitors are bypassed, big ad campaigns abandoned, box office names replaced with vlogger stars.‘ I thought I had to check it out.
I don’t want to give much of the film away as I do think you should see it for yourselves but in short, the film to me is more of a sci-fi fantasy thriller that follows two teenage sisters as they fight to survive an alien apocalypse in the UK, with the main character “Chloe Murdock”, documenting the whole thing on the video camera she gets for her 16th birthday.
The main actors are all big YouTube names, Bethan Leadley , better known as MusicalBethan, Cherry Wallis, known for her vlogs and make up tutorials and Stuart Ashen “Ashens” who has a huge following for his comedic review videos and they all star alongside the director, Drew Cassons himself.
Chatting to Drew afterwards I asked him about the use of YouTubers and whether that’s something he would want to do again:
Drew: “Yeah I guess I would. The thing is about using the YouTubers for this film was it made total sense. What appealed to me about this film, was something I had never seen before, which was taking all these genres that I love, alien invasion, post apocalyptic, survival, brutality vs humanity, growing up, you know childhood into manhood or womanhood but then doing that through the eyes of a 16 year old vlogger, I’ve never seen that and that’s a tricky film to make and I thought if I pull that off, I’ll kinda be impressed with myself because I’m surprised no ones done that yet. So the concept then was ‘why don’t we cast a real set of YouTubers?’ because they can bring their sensibilities to it. Yes, we can use trained actors which is great, but watching Bethan switch on the camera and talk to her dead mother even I was like shit. You feel that, you care.”
Whilst it isn’t something the girls have done before they are both keen to do more acting:
Bethan: “I’ll continue doing presenting, continue doing YouTube, I’m writing an album at the moment, and I would love to get back [to acting], as one thing this has done, has reignited my love for acting which I haven’t thought I could be any good at since school. I would love to do theatre really but trying to find time and find opportunities is hard. We’ll see.”
Cherry: “I’d love to do more acting, either with Wildseed or without but I don’t know, you never really know what’s round the corner. We didn’t know this was gonna happen and here we are.”
Stuart, better known as “Ashens”, has previous acting experience, notably in “Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child” but as he points out, that is a very different film, so I asked what was it about this film that made him want to be involved?
Stuart: “It came about oddly organically, actually, I had a meeting with the Wildseed people for another project and they mentioned ‘we’re making a sequel to this film, ‘Hungerford’, it’s a found footage horror.’ and that sets off bells in my head because I DO like a good low budget horror and I’ve got a thing for found footage. So they said ‘would you like to be in it…we’ll send you a screener of the first one, oh and the director was only 20 years old’ – so at this stage I start thinking up my list of excuses ‘I’m busy, I’m on fire, I’ve eaten a building’, you know all the usual. So I watched it and it was actually one of the better found footage films I’ve seen. Drew obviously knows how to excite an audience I think is a good way of putting it. There’s obviously a lot of passion in the project so I thought “yeah, alright, count me in for that. Which I’m very glad I did because we’ve ended up with a film, which for the budget is quite frankly astonishing.”
The passion in this project is clear to see, whether from the buzz it was generating from all the people there to see it or from the enthusiasm that everyone I spoke with had about what they had achieved together.
This was the culmination of 2 ½ years work and with the financial backing from Pinewood Studios, this film and the creation of Wildseed Movies represents an encouraging new move to get young and upcoming directors realising their dreams with access to a budget they may not have had previously and in the process enable them to connect with the younger audience on a bigger level.
Producers Miles Bullough and Jesse Cleverly certainly see it that way:
Jesse: “We think there’s a massive hole in the market because the British film industry is not, for various reasons, very culturally connected to young audiences and what they do, so absolutely this is what Wildseed movies is for.”
Miles: “Something like 25% of British films made are dramas and they account for 7% of the box office. We think that’s slightly out of kilter and we wanted to do our bit to address that balance.”
Whilst this movie is only the start for Wildseed Movies, the fact it is has been in the top 20 pre-order chart on iTunes in amongst films like Suicide Squad, Dr Strange and Independence Day Resurgence, shows they are off to a strong start and they aren’t wasting any time in getting more films done.
Jesse: “We’ve got lots cooking, another project with our beloved Paul Neafcy who did ‘Phillip Human’ with us, we’ve got a project which with Westworld out feels very much of the moment with synthetic humans in it, we’ve got tonnes going on and obviously with the partnership with Pinewood Studios we now have the financing pipeline. We’re so impressed that they’ve got the vision to do that.”
So there you have Wildseed Movies and “The Darkest Dawn” – a found footage horror directed by an award winning young director, starring YouTube stars, made on a small budget that will hopefully lead to bigger and better things for all concerned.
I know I’ve given very little of the film away so you’re probably wondering ‘why should I see this film?’ which is a good question and I’ll leave that to horror and found footage guru Stuart Ashen to answer:
Stuart: “You will very rarely see a film with such heart and with something that keeps moving so effectively. There’s always something interesting going on and it moves from one point to the next and uses found footage in a way it should be used in that you’ve got great vignettes and points that give you something interesting to watch but also keep the story moving and the characters going at the same time.”
The Darkest Dawn is out today and you can order the film here.