Q&A: Marc Carreté on Barcelona-set Possession tale, “ASMODEXIA”
Following two forays in the fantasy genre with the short films MAL CUERPO (2011) and CASTIDERMIA (2012), the latter of which was co-directed with Xavi Garriga, Marc Carreté (born in Barcelona, 1970) makes his feature debut with the film ASMODEXIA; a road film concerning an evangelist grandfather, his granddaughter, exorcisms and the city of Barcelona as theatre of the events (a metropolis that has, in recent years, become the impromptu set of many horror productions: from REC [Paco Plaza & Jaume Balagueró, 2007] to LOS ÚLTIMOS DIAS [Alex Pastor & David Shepherd, 2012], Hooked Up [Paul Larcuen, 2013] and even the U.S. and Canada co-production AFFLICTED [Clif Prowse & Derek Lee, 2013], of which the initial section was also developed in Barcelona).
ASMODEXIA, wrapped in secrecy and an enigmatic title, is being shot these days in various parts of the Catalan world, including the Audiovisual Parc of Catalunya (Terrassa , Barcelona, Spain), a place we visited to witness the shoot more closely and where we were privy to a short sequence belonging to the final section of the film. A highlight of the set visit also included access into the terrifying Tórax Hospital, a common location in the production of many Spanish horror films.
With the shadow of exorcisms in its proposal, and a budget of €500,000, Carreté and his young team are faced with the last two weeks (out of four) of shooting that its director describes as “hard both physically and psychologically” given the beast confronting his protagonists, interpreted by actors such as Lluís Marco, Clàudia Pons, Irene Montalà, Marta Belmonte and Marina Duran.
ASMODEXIA will be a supernatural experience of dark tone, pure horror (as seen in the accompanying stills) and extreme possessions. We sat down with Marc Carreté to talk about the film.
FANGORIA: What is ASMODEXIA?
MARC CARRETÉ: I have this tendency (or default, I do not know) of mixing words to get diseases, so we’re in that general area. I think people should get the rest. By adding a couple of words, I think the reader will discover things…
FANG: You have Barcelona as the epicenter of events where the protagonists, a grandfather and his granddaughter, must face Evil.
CARRETÉ: Indeed. It’s a road movie, although the characters walk, and it’s true their itinerary leads them to Barcelona. The journey, because of the various people they meet, becomes very important. You will find on this road a number of characters as well as a series of events occurring. You will we see a child or teenager perform exorcisms as a result of the teachings of her grandfather, who is trying to transmit his granddaughter the talents of being an exorcist.
FANG: Within these guidelines, the enemy the grandfather and granddaughter must face becomes clear.
CARRETÉ: Because all exorcism films speak of this eternal battle between good and evil, the Devil and God, we are playing a bit of a tug of war game with these two powers.
FANG: Moving into the history of exorcisms, where the prevailing figures are of Evil, did you get into “found footage”, which is very popular with this kind of movie?
CARRETÉ: You will not see found footage. I have nothing against found footage, it works great when it’s shown to me, but there is none in this film.
FANG: What about working with the actors? You mentioned during my visit to the set that it was difficult.
CARRETÉ: First, I have to say we have a luxury cast with actors and actresses such as Lluís Marco, Claudio Pons, Irene Montalà, Marta Belmonte and Mireai Ros, who is also a filmmaker. It’s a cast I’m very happy with.
Indeed, the work is very physical. We have sequences of rituals, scuffles and a little violence. Although it’s acting, they’re always a small risk and discomfort for the actors. The day before yesterday, Patricia Mendoza, one of our actresses, broke a toe. But the passion and dedication the actors have been putting into the film is a real gift to me, despite it entailing these small risks. An actor’s job also requires a psychological effort in that they have to change personality, and in our case, these personalities all bear childhood and youth traumas, most of which are related to spiritual matters and religious beliefs .
FANG: Was the casting process complex?
CARRETÉ: It was long and difficult. Our casting director has been very important. We found very receptive actors, and they all liked the script. The work environment has been very nice and full of energy.
FANG: What about working with Mireia Ros, an important figure within the cinema of Catalonia?
CARRETÉ: It is a collaboration I am very happy with. She plays a character of the same age as the protagonist (Lluís Marcos), who somehow carries with her elements from his past. She is part of his environment, a dark and sinister character. The other day, we shot a sequence in which she is subject to spiritual ecstasy and she was wild and brimming with energy.
FANG: Going back to the city of Barcelona, do you see more in it than simple locale?
CARRETÉ: The choice of Barcelona has a lot to do with the script and the reason for the film. Of course, I cannot change it, as it is the final outcome. It could not be another city, it has to be Barcelona. Although we wandered far from the city, the outcome, the end point of this itinerary is Barcelona.
FANG: What other locations did you shoot in?
CARRETÉ: We shot in a village called Mura and in some fascinating and sinister spaces between the cities of Terrassa and Martorell. Much attention has been given to locations that can be suggestive of the action. Actors have also walked the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park where, for a moment, it seemed we were on the Mississippi.
FANG: Was location scooting difficult?
CARRETÉ: Xavi Garriga and I started working on locations months before the shooting. We went on trips, looking for these spaces as they were to be of vital importance in the film. We wanted to shoot at the Seminari Conciliar in Barcelona, but the church collapsed and we weren’t able to shoot. We had to make a change and move on.
FANG: How is the shoot at the Audiovisual Park of Catalunya, formerly the Tórax Hospital, going? It’s a place filled with such a mysterious aura and such a focal point for fans of the occult and of parapsychology.
CARRETÉ: The first day of shooting there was in the underground part of the Tórax Hospital and the camera down there did not work, nor did the second unit we had brought. We inspected the camera outside, and then would enter the space and it wouldn’t work. Outside, it would work. Returning inside, it did not work. We decided to change the camera body, yet the same occurred. We chose to start shooting outside and walk in shooting. The first dark spell of the shoot.
FANG: Have you had more paranormal experiences?
CARRETÉ: The truth is no, but whatever is happening, you can’t help but look for a cause, considering the place is sinister and fascinating. When shooting CASTIDERMIA here last year, I was already fascinated.
FANG: Aside from these anecdotes, I imagine that shooting in the same creepy place where filmmakers such as Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza or Eugenio Mira have worked must be quite a satisfying experience.
CARRETÉ: Professionally, I am delighted to be working in this space with my first feature film. Per example, the day we were coming in coincided with Balagueró’s last day on REC 4: Apocalypse. Eugenio Mira also shot parts of AGNOSIA here. And last year, as we were shooting CASTIDERMIA, he was filming GRAND PIANO. Part of our crew has also been involved in these productions. Actually I’m happy to be part of this group. I feel privileged and plan to enjoy it.
FANG: We saw that the Ugamuri FX team was on set with you, who were in charge of the special effects for your previous two films. Are you counting on the same team as your previous films?
CARRETÉ: I respect a lot of the people that have worked with me in the past. Mónica of Ugamuri FX has been with me from the beginning, and will continue to do so. Llorenç Mas, my art director, and Xavi Garriga, director of photography are very important players in the making of this film. Like others in the technical departments, they are back at my side.
FANG: I gather this is a small but tight-knit and passionate group?
CARRETÉ: Exactly, we are a little family, a team of 35-40 people. As far as shooting a feature, it’s small, but it’s a solid and talented team. It makes it so that every day, we can achieve every goal, and get every sequence and shot we need.
FANG: What films might have served of reference points when it was time to conceptualize ASMODEXIA?
CARRETÉ: My references are unquestionably the films I saw in my youth and adolescence, those that have had the most impact. THE EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY could be two clear examples. And then more commercial films, like those of Wes Craven or John Carpenter films, films that have had an impact on me.
FANG: Following the two short films MAL CUERPO and CASTIDERMIA, how is the leap to feature filmmaking?
CARRETÉ: Originally it was a bit of shock… Shooting a short film is an exercise between friends, even though you spend many hours on it. The feature involves a high degree of demands far exceeding those of the short film: setting daily and weekly goals is one of the biggest challenges, as every team member has to respect the order established, and adapt to it.
FANG: The film was written by you and co-written by Mike Hostench, deputy director of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. How has it been working with him?
CARRETÉ: I had a good original idea. I shared it with Mike, perhaps one of the people who have read the most horror scripts on the planet. He liked the idea and we started working on the script together. We wrote separately, then put the ideas together, and commented on all the points together, but the impact of Mike in the final version of the script is very important. It is undisputed that Mike’s hand is very present. It was a pleasure to work with him, and I am very happy with the end result.
FANG: Last year, we saw a preview for an upcoming series related to paranormal phenomena, as part of the Coming Soon section of the SITGES International Film Festival.
CARRETÉ: Right. It’s called SHEOL, THE REALM OF THE DEAD. It is a project I have written and developed with Xavi Garriga and I hope to get back to it after this film. It’s an interesting project on which we have worked hard.
FANG: Perhaps some of these stories have to do with ASMODEXIA?
CARRETÉ: No. The story of the film is completely independent.
FANG: For Ms Entertainment, the producer of ASMODEXIA, it is a debut within the film world. Was it complicated to negotiate the finances of a horror title?
CARRETÉ: Emili Pons, president of Ms Entertainment, and I talked about starting a project based on illusions, of doing something together and trying to make films in a different and viable way. Then came the idea of writing a screenplay with Mike.
Once completed, we tested it with various national and international experts, and got some very positive data, which is vital for producers. I also know that Ms Entertainment commissioned a market study on the horror genre. The move by the producer is well studied, but the risk in these times is self evident, and more so for a feature film debut. It’s been a very professional job, and a producing partnership on a medium and long term, ASMODEXIA being the first production. At this moment I have other scripts on the table they are studying.
FANG: Does Ms Entertainment intend to continue within the parameters of the genre?
CARRETÉ: Exactly. It is a continuing project, with the philosophy of producing media content at low cost, but with a high quality standard, and horror content in film or series form. Different formats, but always in this way.
[Translation: Ariel Esteban Cayer]