Describing Feed the Light is difficult, so here goes nothing. A lo-fi Swedish slice of Lovecraftian horror, its black and white, in your face, industrial surrealism evokes the earliest David Lynch shorts, while still feeling like a descent into an anti-realist hell where shadow monsters can pull characters out of its universe, and naked shivering miscreants excrete sparkling fairy dust from their anuses. Writer/director Henrik Möller poured everything into this $14,000 experimental dive into grease-stained existentialism, and now InterVision Films is unleashing it unto an unsuspecting populace, who probably won’t know what the hell to do with such a blunt, bizarre work.
Luckily, we got a chance to speak with Möller about his movie, and what followed was a rather informative conversation regarding the making of this unique terror show…
BMD: Let’s begin basic – where did this come from? Watching it, I was reminded of ruddy surrealism like Eraserhead. When did the seed for Feed the Light first get planted?
Henrik Möller: To quote Dan O’Bannon when he tried to answer similar questions regarding his script for Alien – did you get this part here? where did this scene come from? – I’m a huge fan of science fiction and horror movies, plus literature, games, etc. There are so many influences, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it came from. But since you mention Eraserhead – when I was very young, Erasherhead came out on VHS in Sweden. It was the early '90s – like 1991, or something like that – and I was a big fan of that film. That might’ve had something to do with it. Who knows?
BMD: The movie’s segmented into levels that our protagonist descends through as she searches for her lost daughter in this industrial Hellscape. How did you come up with the structure for the film?
HM: The film was first written as a very detailed outline for a TV miniseries. It was very long, and all the characters had a lot of backstory. But since we couldn’t do that, we needed to keep the film at an eighty-minute, ninety-minute runtime, so we decided to focus on the journey Sara (Lina Sundén) takes – fleshing it out and making it fit for a feature instead of a sprawling mini-series. I can’t really remember how we decided to cut the movie into parts, because we ran into the problem of slowing down the pace. Every time you come to a part and a title card comes up saying “Part I”, Part II”, etc., you’re introducing the audience to a whole new segment – like mini-movies. It can be too much.
I’ve always been a fan of films with intriguing titles – so, if you have a title that says something like “Shadow Creatures” or what have you, you might intrigue the audience and keep them interested in your film. So, it was a risk, as it’s a win/lose situation whenever you introduce a new title.
BMD: There’s a “Dante’s Inferno” aspect to it – you keep delving deeper and deeper into these circles of hell with this woman.
HM: Oh yes. That was somewhere in the back of my mind – Dante’s Inferno and Heart of Darkness, as well.
While we’re on the subject – I was at a film festival in Mexico, and there was a gentleman who, through a translator, tried to have a long discussion with me about string theory. He asked me how much string theory had to do with the film and its esoteric elements. I told him that, unfortunately, I am no expert in string theory. Of course, there are elements of science to it, as it’s a science fiction film, but there’s no hard science that we’re dealing with here.
BMD: To your point, there is an element of science fiction – and I love that you bring up Dan O’Bannon, because he cited Lovecraft often when discussing Alien. The xenomorph was always that unknowable evil in the vastness of space. I was hoping you could talk about the unknowable evils you create in Feed the Light.
HM: The original idea came from Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, because we were all discussing which of his ideas we could use if we wanted to make an updated version of a Lovecraft story. It was only after the film was finished that I went to the Lovecraft Festival in Portland, Oregon, and they showed a beautiful 35mm print of Prince of Darkness, that I realized there was so much in John Carpenter’s film that was very much like ours. The unknowable evil that’d been locked up in the container for centuries. Have you seen Prince of Darkness?
BMD: Quite a few times. They also showed it on 35mm here in Austin not too long ago.
HM: I hadn’t seen that film since I was a kid, but it must’ve made an impression on me, because there are so many similarities.
BMD: Feed the Light’s definitely in the same vein, that’s for sure.
HM: I don’t have an answer to the unknowable evil, it’s simply an artistic expression of the things we fear.
BMD: The beauty of your movie is that you watch it unfold and there are always questions left hanging in the viewer’s mind, thanks to an overload of surrealist imagery. Too many movies these days are overexplained, and it’s nice to see someone embrace these mysteries in such a lo-fi fashion.
HM: I’m glad you felt that way, because I was a little worried that we were being too secretive. The loss of certain elements in the original script did explain what they were doing with this creature, but we instead opted to not answer as many questions as we did in the long draft.
BMD: Now, talk to me about the look of the film. It almost feels damaged in a way, because it’s so blown out. How did you approach the decision to shoot it in this very industrial, stark black and white?
HM: It had to do with the restrictions we had acting against us. The film was made for $14,000, and we couldn’t get a cinematographer, so I decided to shoot it myself. That resulted in using HD video with automatic focus. We did it very much like Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom, with a lot of handheld camera, though trying to hold it slightly more steady than he did. This was simply the way it had to be, because we didn’t have the resources available to give it another look. My photography isn’t as good as what a real cinematographer would bring to it, resulting in the very dirty look you describe. It's angst-ridden.
BMD: Sometimes the best aesthetics are born from necessity. I think it helps the film because it feels uneasy the entire time.
HM: It’s a lesson to be learned, because it wasn’t my first choice, but I ended up enjoying the aesthetics of the film very much. Though when we went to Cannes and other markets to try and sell it, the black and white was a big issue for a lot of potential buyers. Bigger than we thought. I tried to argue that Darren Aronofsky’s first film Pi was shot very similarly, but nobody was really wanting to hear that.
BMD: Can you talk about working with Severin Films and InterVision? How has the movie been received? And how’s the journey been getting it to audiences?
HM: There was a sneak preview in my hometown in Sweden with a few hundred people, and then the world premiere was at the HP Lovecraft Festival in Portland, Oregon, where it won the top prize for Best Feature. That was totally amazing, being a lifelong Lovecraft fan. Then it went to Portugal and Mexico, and a couple other festivals, but I met David Gregory [Head of Severin Films] in Mexico with Richard Stanley (Hardware), as he knew Richard and we’d written a script together. So, Richard Stanley sort of brought us together. David Gregory asked to see [Feed the Light] later on and decided to distribute it.
BMD: Are you working on anything now?
HM: I’m actually working on another Lovecraft film called The Crawling Chaos, which I’ve written with Richard Stanley. It’s like the comedy The Celebration, but with a Lovecraftian touch. It’s about an Iraqi woman in Sweden, who is in a detention center, and gets a chance to do a translation job on a mysterious book. They take her to an island off the coast of Sweden and a lot strange things begin to occur. There’s a tiny insect that injects venom into your vocal chords and allows you to talk to another world, and to demons. We’ve made a ten-minute promo film that we’re in post on now that we’re hoping will raise money for a feature.
BMD: Well, I hope to see it one day.
HM: Yeah, me too.
Feed the Light is out today on Blu-ray/DVD from InterVision.