FrightFest 2023 - Interview with Quarxx director of Pandemonium

A chat with the creative behind one of the very best of the fest

James Whittington
August 26, 2023

One of the strongest and most rewarding movies showing at FrightFest 2023 is showing today, Pandemonium from director Quarxx. We chatted to him about this incredible movie.

NYX: Where did the idea for Pandemonium come from?

Q: The idea came from a personal story. 20 years ago, I had an accident, I drowned while I was surfing in Bali. I got caught in a stream and in a few seconds drifted hundreds of meters from the shore, then huge waves arrived and quickly submerged me. To make a long story short, I woke up three days later in a white room not knowing where I was. For a few seconds I really thought I was dead and woke up in another dimension! Happy ending, I quickly found out that I was in an hospital and a few days later I was back on my feet. It was a close call. But that’s how the idea originally started. What if you wake up to find out that you’re dead…

NYX: Did it take long to write, and did you have a cast in mind?

Q: The reason why I started writing PANDEMONIUM was that at that time I was working on a script project for over 2 years, and I was stuck with constant debates between the producers concerning the direction we should take. So, I thought I needed a break, and I wanted to write a fully independent project. I wanted to go back to the roots of what made me want to become a filmmaker in the first place. So, the writing of the script didn’t take too long, I’d say a few months. I had the creative freedom I was looking for and therefore everything went quicker. I didn’t have a cast in mind when I was writing the script but as soon as the last page was written I started with Romeo Calenda my casting director and a huge search for the right actors.

NYX: The location for the first 25 minutes is stunning, where was that piece shot?

Q: For those aware of French geography, the beginning of the film was shot in Auvergne, in a village called Saint-Paul-de-Salers at about 100km south of Clermont Ferrand. We wanted to have vast spaces and spectacular landscapes that look a bit like a No-Man’s land to recreate that feeling of being between life and death.

NYX: Logistically how difficult was it to shoot there?

Q: It was extremely difficult because what you see on screen was not planned to be shot under such extreme conditions. It was at the beginning of spring and all of a sudden, the temperature dropped from plus 15 to minus 13 degrees with the biggest snowstorm locals had ever seen. We were not prepared nor dressed for shooting in a such drastic environment. At some point firefighters had to come to rescue the team since they were blocked by the snow on top of the mountain without being able to get back to base. So, it’s rather fair to say it was an extremely difficult shoot and because everything was taking twice as much time, I had to sacrifice a lot of shots I wanted to do. But in the end, the raw cold and the bad weather gave a very pure and stylistic environment so we can say that overall we were lucky!  

NYX: Did the cast have long to rehearse as they all deliver incredibly natural, heartfelt, and chilling performances?

Q: Yes, we took the necessary time with the actors to rehearse as we knew with our small budget that we had to go as fast as possible once on the set in order to be able to finish the film in the desired time frame.

NYX: One of the most impactful shots is the young girl (an incredible performance from Manon Maindivide) in her bedroom with the shadow of the rain on her face looking as if she’s crying is beautiful yet darkly sinister, was that shot planned or a happy accident on set?

Q: Glad you’ve noticed. Yes it was a planned shot and as we didn’t use CGI but practical effect to do it, it was actually a bit difficult to make it work. But I wanted to have a natural feeling with that rain drop shadow that turns into a tear.

NYX: Special effects are subtle and beautifully realised, did it take long to decide on the make up for the creatures involved?

Q: I had a very specific idea about what I wanted regarding the character of Tony the monster. So I gave a mood board to Olivier Afonso from CLSFX Atelier 69 and in a few days we had a clay model of the deformed face of the creature. As I wanted Carl Laforet, the comedian behind the mask, to be able to express feeling and emotion, we had to create a prothesis that was flexible enough to reproduce those emotions. For the creatures from hell we worked with THE BASEMENT FX, a US based effects studio that provided us with the right designs.

NYX: Where Nathan finds the lost souls looks reminded me of Fulci’s The Beyond, was this deliberate?

Q: Yes absolutely. As I said before, when I started writing PANDEMONIUM I wanted to get back to what made me want to become a filmmaker. When I first watched Fulci’s The Beyond I was 7yrs old and it totally blew my mind. I said to myself, one day I want to do the same and tell those kinds of stories on screen. So that was my tribute to Lucio Fulci who was one of the inspirations that made me want to make movies.

NYX: Will the brilliant score get a release at all?

Q: Thank you on behalf of the composer, Benjamin Leray. I’ve worked with Benjamin for years now and I absolutely love our collaborations. We’ve learned to understand each other and he can very quickly grasp what I want with the score and his work is outstanding. Yes absolutely, you’ll be able to listen to it on Spotify soon.

NYX: Do you believe in an afterlife and the concept of heaven and hell?

Q: I don’t believe in the concept of heaven and hell particularly when its depicted through  a moralistic  prism but I think the imagery and the fantasy attached to it makes a great setting for a story! As for a possible after life, I’m not too much in a hurry to find out so in the meantime, I’m doubting.

NYX: What is the film industry like in France at the moment?

Q: The film industry in France right now is suffering from a lack of diversity. You see mostly the same films over and over again being produced. When original scripts are being presented , stories that are out of the ordinary, it becomes very difficult to push things until production. Covid left some traces also. People are more and more used to ‘consume’ films on platforms and unfortunately less inclined to go to the movie theatre. But at the same time, I’m not fully pessimistic and we still have some producers that are willing to take some risks and defend what should be a movie. Original, out of the box and emotional.  

NYX: So, what are you working on at the moment?

Q: I’m now working on two different feature films projects. One is called THAT THING INSIDE OF ME and the pitch will be presented at SITGES in October at the FanLab section. It’s a dark coming of age love drama and the other one is called BODY AND SOUL and will be a brutally violent crazy genre film that I’ve adapted from a book by a brilliant author, Frederic Soulier.

NYX: Quarxx, thank you very much.

Q: Thank you!