With V/H/S: Viral now out on Blu-ray, many people have finally been getting their first look at director Todd Lincoln‘s bonus segment, Gorgeous Vortex. Aesthetically, this piece is unlike anything in the V/H/S canon, but it makes for an incredibly stylish and moody palate cleanser following the kinetic anarchy of what precedes it on the disc. I recently spoke with Lincoln via email about the segment, what went wrong with The Apparition (his feature debut), and what his plans were for the reboot of The Fly he was attached to at Fox Searchlight.
Check out the interview below. V/H/S: Viral is now on Blu-ray and also features work from directors Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Nacho Vigalondo, Justin Benson, and Aaron Moorhead. Lincoln’s segment plays directly after the end credits.
I’m excited about Gorgeous Vortex and really proud of my cast and crew’s work on it. This film is a good representation of my style and vision. The response has been fantastic, very gratifying. I intended Gorgeous Vortex to be purposely disruptive and divisive… but it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that it’s not quite as divisive as I thought. It’s a reminder to me to trust my gut and to trust that audiences are ready for more.
How did you approach the producers about adding a segment that wasn’t found footage?
From the start I told the producers that I was interested in taking the V/H/S franchise in a different direction both tonally and stylistically. I pitched Gorgeous Vortex as a No-Dialogue, Experimental, High Fashion Horror Film. It was not going to be “found footage”… or at least not what audiences consider “found footage.” I suppose it could be viewed as a more sophisticated, futuristic take on “found footage.” Perhaps it’s an assemblage of memories, dreams, simulations and surveillance. Or maybe it’s ominous transmissions from another time or dimension. It’s best left up to individual interpretation. My skilled editor, Ed Cardenas and I took a kind of Dadaist or Burroughs-esque cut-up approach to the narrative drive. While shooting Gorgeous Vortex I kept thinking of Walter Murch’s quote about working with George Lucas on THX-1138. Murch said, “What we were interested in doing was making a film from the future rather than about the future.”
Thank you. It was difficult. A V/H/S shoot definitely changes your creative approach due to budget and time limitations. But it makes you a stronger, better filmmaker. In some ways Gorgeous Vortex was a return to my short film and commercial / music video roots, but it also pushed me way beyond into uncharted territory.
My plan for the look of the Gorgeous Vortex was always to smash together elements of Fashion Photography and Horror Films. I also drew inspiration from avante-garde video artists and the writings of J.G. Ballard and Jean Baudrillard. I wanted to create a visceral, visual onslaught served up in a post-human way. Something pure and immersive. The action is set primarily in non-places and abandoned places. These are locations with either not much history or not much future.
Morgan Susser, my Director Of Photography, did beautiful next-level work on this. And Jeremy Lamberton, my 2nd Unit Director Of Photography, and I worked together capturing more abstract moments and details.
Joseph Bishara (The Conjuring, Insidious, Annabelle), my composer, elevated and enhanced the short with his haunting original score. He recently released the “Gorgeous Vortex” soundtrack on vinyl and digital download. And I was able to persuade Vincent Guastini and his power team at V.G.P. Effects & Design Studio to join the project. They went above and beyond on the creature design and did it entirely practical. They’re on a roll right now.
The total budget of Gorgeous Vortex is probably comparable to the cost of three days of catering on The Apparition. But Gorgeous Vortex is a cooler, more efficient, more effective film. While its running time is only 15 minutes…. it felt like the same amount of work as a feature… but in a really good way. I had creative freedom and great support from the V/H/S producers.
The circumstances on The Apparition were not favorable, to say the least. My hands were tied in ways that people wouldn’t believe. The cast and crew and I were all on the same page and they did excellent work. The execs at Warner Bros were awesome. I loved working on the Warner’s lot and shooting at Studio Babelsberg just outside Berlin. But unfortunately the film was compromised and watered down every step of the way by a few fearful nano-managers. These specific powers that be, lost sight of what they liked about the original concept and it destroyed the film. They even cut the Apparition out of The Appariton. Spectral Motion created a terrifying, inhuman, full-body apparition… using completely practical effects.
None of The Apparition was re-shot. There were a few days of additional shooting that we did in Los Angeles, but those were always planned and budgeted for. I only wish audiences could have seen my version of the film. With distance now… it feels like maybe all that stuff needed to happen to The Apparition. It burned my forest for regrowth and pushed me to new places creatively.
I’m unable to share the concept art at this time. My work on the reimagining of The Fly was so long ago. I had fun developing it at Fox Searchlight. The execs there were really cool. I’m a huge fan of all five Fly films. Especially the original The Fly (1958) and the lesser-known third film, Curse Of The Fly (1965). My version was way outside the box conceptually and visually. Not at all what people would be expecting. It was a strange mix of influences such as Val Lewton, Neal Stephenson, Alan Pakula, Todd Haynes, Chris Cunningham, Michael Crichton, various Horror Manga and a touch of something you might find in The Animatrix. I also brought on top bioengineers and entomologists as consultants. We took it deadly seriously and got so into it that we were damn close to turning someone into a fly ourselves. The film would have been done almost entirely with practical effects. My story had very little in common with Kurt Neumann’s original The Fly or David Cronenberg’s remake. Both of those are classics so there’s no point in touching them. You have to go a completely new direction while still making it feel like a Fly story at its core and respecting the history of the franchise. Who becomes a fly… how they become a fly…. and what happens… was all completely different in my take. Ultimately, I don’t think it was the right time for it to be made. The script was not all the way there and audiences were not ready for where we were headed. I would approach it differently now. And while I’d certainly be open to revisiting The Fly someday, I’d also love to see Fox let Cronenberg make the sequel that he scripted. If you love movies, why would you not green light that??
What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing a new feature script. It’s a Psychosexual Sci-Fi Thriller. I’m also exploring new forms of storytelling and world-building in other mediums such as real-time mobile augmented reality. In the meantime, everyone should keep checking here for new side-story micro-films that tie in with Gorgeous Vortex.