Dark River

A cautionary tale with a touch of the supernatural…

Residents of Motoyama would be forgiven for thinking Halloween arrived early this year. Towards the end of September, their neighborhood played host to hollow-eyed women with unnerving stares, creepy porcelain dolls, and eerie goings-on in empty old apartments. However, the locals need not fear; the things going bump in the night this time round were the cast and crew of a short film being made in the area.

Dark River, a cautionary tale with a touch of the supernatural, is the latest offering from Nagoya’s Nameless Films, the people who brought you the groundbreaking web series English Teachers. Director Anthony Gilmore and the Nameless team shot Dark River in various Motoyama locations over three days in September. “As we all know Japan is a very spiritual place and there is a rich supernatural tradition that this film could reference. But the genre element is not really what attracted us to the project,” said Anthony. “At its core the story is about doing the right thing, making the right choices in life. It was those universal human challenges that drew us to the script.”

The well-oiled Nameless machine cranked into gear for pre-production, with location manager Satomi Okane securing some evocative Motoyama sites for filming. Casting quickly fell into place, with up-and-coming Matthew Thomas Lott, recently seen in Waya!, taking on the lead role of Archie. Producer Carl Bradley put together a tight but manageable schedule, and the three-day shoot started with the last scenes being shot first.

Production itself was visited by some unexplained occurrences. All went well on the first day, but on the second day things started to get a little spooky. “There is a scene where Archie presses ‘Close’ on an elevator button but it won’t shut,” says Anthony. “It happened again on location.” Writer Alec McAulay got in the elevator at the seventh floor, but the door would not close. The same thing happened again later in the day, when the elevator mysteriously stopped at the fifth floor, the very location where the crew were scheduled to film the haunted apartment exteriors. “We call our ghost Kurokawa,” says Anthony. “I think she just wanted to let us know she was on board.”

The film was shot on the RED Scarlet-X camera, state-of-the-art digital imaging technology that will give the film a rich cinematic feel. “The rushes from Dark River look fantastic, just incredibly rich and vivid,” said DoP Ryan Seale, “audiences are going to revel in the look of this film.”

The film is now in post-production and scheduled for completion by early November. Nameless are now busy editing, with the goal of submitting Dark River to the 2013 SXSW film festival. Anthony comments, “Sound design and David Freeman’s score are integral parts of this short, and with both allied to these RED images we really have high hopes for the film.”

Is Anthony not just a tad worried to be working on such material over Halloween? He dismisses the very idea. “We have Kurokawa watching over us.”

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