About this project
- See article (Japanese) here: Spotlight で紹介されました
If you love one or more of the following - HIGH-QUALITY HORROR, INDIE FILM, OR PRACTICAL EFFECTS - please join us now to help Hiroshi-san make this fine (and super-scary) film.
IN A NUTSHELL ...
Gehenna - Where Death Lives - is a high-quality independent horror film, co-written, directed, and produced by longtime special makeup effects artist, acclaimed sculptor and creature-creator Hiroshi Katagiri. It is his feature film debut and it will scare the &%$^#@% out of you.
TOP: Hiroshi with Doug Jones as "the creepy old man" from Gehenna - Where Death Lives.
BOTTOM: Steven Spielberg telling Hiroshi (far left) he loves his sculpture of David (from A.I., scene where David sees the replications at the robot factory). Looking on, far right - Hiroshi's boss at the time, the legendary Stan Winston.
THE PLOT OF THE FILM
Paulina and Tyler visit Saipan to scout locations for their company's newest resort. They find a perfect location. But there's some sort of hidden cave-like structure on the property, so they decide to explore it, enlisting the help of Alan (their location coordinator) and his assistant Pepe.
The cave turns out to be a long-abandoned Japanese military installation. It dates back to WW2. As they move underground through the cave, they encounter dried up corpses. Though it shocks them, they continue undaunted - their curiosity outweighing their fear. (This would not continue for long.)
Emerging from the darkness is an elderly man, alive, barely recognizable as human, deformed, ravaged by time. His frail body, with its loose hanging skin, makes the group surmise he's been living in the cave for decades, or maybe his entire life. The old man gets too close to Alan, and Alan panics. He pushes the old man backward, sending him crashing into the wall with sufficient force to end his life.
A deafening explosion sends rocks and rubble everywhere. The intense turbulence shakes the entire cave, and knocks the group unconscious.
When they awaken, the dead body of the old man has disappeared, the dried corpses are also gone, and they ... are sealed inside.
As you might imagine, fear now sets in. The group searches for an exit. They wander in every direction, uncovering information. They cannot be sure what will prove helpful and what are just new sinister secrets. Each member of the group also finds themselves strangely confronting their own most private secret, something from each of their pasts. Strange visions (and other revelations) cause reality to blur for each of them. For the group as a whole, it's becoming a living nightmare.
With time and each experience, fear draws closer to terror. They are smart, though; and they try to reason it through. They find some clues, but are unsure how to interpret them. They start to disagree on what course to take, and soon begin to clash among themselves.
As the secrets of the cave unfold further, the group now turns its focus purely to survival. They feel they are unable to fully trust one another. And they are rapidly becoming unable to trust their own visions and thoughts. As reality blurs still further, so does the distinction between what is life ... and what is death.
Sources and clues unwind the cave’s mysteries at last, and the result leads to a most shocking conclusion to Gehenna - Where Death Lives ...
MAKING A TRULY SCARY FILM
Hiroshi speaks about the Essence of Horror: A truly great horror film should first and foremost strive to be a great film.
Too many horror films today feature one-dimensional characters, formulaic story progression, and a reliance on gore. Gehenna - Where Death Lives will rely instead on those elements which make any film great - an excellent story line, believable characters, a talented cast, and tasteful direction. Of course, to be great within the horror genre, the believable characters have to be placed in a predicament, and the depth of the predicament must grow throughout the film, so that worry and concern turn to dread, panic, and terror. Then there is the technical side of a great horror film - also hugely important - in our case, practical effects from an amazing team of effect artists (there is nothing more realistic than practical effects, and our team of artists is second to none), plus the skilled use of lighting, camera, music, and other devices.
As director, the test for my success is whether the viewers undergo transference, where they care so much about the characters, and empathize so much with their predicament, that they subconsciously transfer themselves into the story as a character or alongside a character - (think whether you identified with Shelley Duvall in The Shining, James Caan in Misery, the fabulous Cabin in the Woods [that I worked on], and of course, a lot of Hitchcock). Because when a viewer inserts themselves into the film, then their heart beat accelerates, and they think and feel alongside the characters. It blurs the distinction between the film and reality and viewers are immersed. it is from that distinction and that immersion that you get true horror, or - to put it more out there - a film that will scare the &%$^#@% out of you.
I will strive to deliver this, and that is a promise. (And if you have a pacemaker recently installed, please don't back this project; I suggest a comedy.)
THE MEANING OF GEHENNA
The word Gehenna dates back to the early Hebrew Bible - an evil place where children were sacrificed by fire as tribute to false idols - later expanded to mean the valley of slaughter, an accursed place, a destination of the wicked, and the final punishment of the ungodly.
In the New Testament, Gehenna took on the broader meaning of a place where punishment was endless, and was used as a metaphor for hell. In Matthew 5:29, Christ states that it is better to lose an eye than to be thrown into Gehenna. In summary ... it is a very nasty place.
THE LOCATION OF SAIPAN
Saipan is an island in the western Pacific Ocean; it is one of the Northern Mariana Islands, proximal to Guam. The Battle of Saipan took place during World War II, in 1944. It is known for some of the fiercest fighting of the war, with heavy casualties, a determination to fight "down to the last man", its many suicides, and rumors of far worse.
Top: Located in the Pacific between Japan and the Philippines, today's Saipan is idyllic and tourism is a primary industry. It's past is cloaked in mystery and not quite forgotten. Bottom: Saipan had some of the fiercest fighting in World War II, with many casualties and rumors of horrifying things.
The island periphery consists of beaches, lagoons, cliffs, and reefs, and its interior is mountainous. It has many caves, which were used during the war for hiding during the day, and making sorties at night.
Later referred to as Hell's Pocket and Death Valley, Saipan was chosen by Hiroshi for its large caves, used as bases during the war. Saipan is a place laden with superstition and folklore, and there is some real life horror embedded in its 20th Century history.
(On a lighter note, a young future film star named Lee Marvin was shot in the buttocks during the Battle of Saipan and received the Purple Heart.)
ABOUT HIROSHI KATAGIRI
Hiroshi Katagiri was born in Japan, loved film as a child, showed artistic talent, and moved to the US at age 18 to pursue a career in special makeup effects. He became a primary artist at Stan Winston Studios, mastering the art of sculpture and character creation at a high level, which led to him being a sought-after (creature) designer by Steven Spielberg (3 films - Jurassic Park, A.I., and War of the Worlds), as well as Rob Marshal, Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, and others. His 39 film credits in special effects, and 11 in makeup effects also include such titles as Wolverine, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien v Predator Requiem, Cabin in the Woods, and The Hunger Games. His TV credits include being part of an Emmy winning team for The X-Files. He is a true fan of the horror genre, and has written and directed several acclaimed horror shorts.
Hiroshi is dedicated to his craft, loves to work, and also loves to teach. His sculpture seminars are widely attended in both the US and Japan. He is a longtime student of Aikido - a Japanese martial art that teaches one to "unify their life energy".
It has been his ultimate dream to now produce and direct a full length feature film that will scare the pants off its audience, and he is thankful for all interest and support.
below: Hiroshi speaks on his personal love of film, horror, and practical effects.
ABOUT "PRACTICAL EFFECTS"
Practical Effects are special effects that are produced physically, without use of post-production techniques like photographic manipulation and computer generation. Practical Effects involve the use of sculpture, prosthetic makeup, animatronics, puppetry, suitmation, and other techniques that most realistically create the appearance of living creatures.
Other Practical Effects include the use of scale models (Miniature Effects), aerial rigging (Mechanical Effects), pyrotechnics (for fire and explosions), and squibs (for gunshot wounds). Gehenna - Where Death Lives will feature many Practical Effects of the highest order, created by Hiroshi Katagiri and his All-star team of true makeup and special effects masters.
MEET OUR TEAM
Yes, he was the Silver Surfer. He was also in Hocus Pocus, Pan's Labyrinth, both Helboy films, and the list goes on. Well known to fans of science fiction, fantasy, and horror alike, actor Doug Jones began his career as a contortionist, and his lithe malleable frame had made him ideal for playing characters that are non-human (or barely human). Says Hiroshi: "Schedule permitting, Doug Jones will be perfect as the creepy old man. Yet in real life he is not old, and definitely not creepy. This is because he is such an excellent actor."
Top, L to R: Mike Elizalde working on Jones, Jones and Hiroshi after a long day, and Hiroshi with Jones as the creepy old man. Bottom - a few of the many non-human characters embodied by the amazing Jones.
Spectral Motion is an award-winning and Oscar-nominated effects house helmed by Mike Elizalde whose mission is "to elevate the art and science of practical visual effects by tirelessly striving to build a better creature". Says Hiroshi: "They have been so helpful to me in my career, and it is an honor to have them aboard Gehenna - Where Death Lives."
Award-winning sculptor, painter, and creature creator, worked on Godzilla, created Grommash Hellscream (from Warcraft), and was concept artist and coordinator on Predator. Co-owner of Alliance Studio. Says Hiroshi: "When Steve came aboard, I knew I now had one of the top all-star makeup and effects teams ever assembled for an indie horror film."
Joey is a master sculptor and painter. His work has been featured in many gigantic films, including Avatar, Superman (Man of Steel), and all 3 Jurassic Park films. He also designs fine art. Says Hiroshi: "Joey is an amazing talent and a good friend, it is like working with my brother."
Artist, businessman, and - Hiroshi says: "guy who has helped me a lot". Supreme boss at Spectral Motion, and a huge proponent of practical effects; honored to have him personally involved as an artist, in addition to his company and all the talent it brings with it.
Young, talented concept artist, based in Singapore, expert at 3-D modeling, worked on Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Godzilla, Transcendence, many others. His Gehenna poster will rock.
Tim is an innovator with a 30 year track record (even though he doesn't look old enough for that). His diverse styling has been seen in Passion of the Christ, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Chronicles of Riddick, both Hellboy films, and lots of TV. Says Hiroshi - "a talented guy, knows all about teamwork".
An experienced effects guy and top--notch painter. Films include Fantastic Four, Pacific Rim, and Hansel and Gretel. His sketches, digital and oil paintings are also masterful. Says Hiroshi: "a true artist with an artist's heart".
TIMELINE, BUDGET, & USE OF PROCEEDS
- PRE-PRODUCTION: MAY, 2015
- SHOOTING: SEPTEMBER, 2015
- POST-PRODUCTION: OCTOBER, 2015 - MARCH, 2016
- PROJECTED RELEASE - HALLOWEEN, OF COURSE
HIROSHI'S COMMENTS: The pre-production period for Gehenna - Where Death Lives commences soon after the conclusion of the Kickstarter campaign; the shooting commences 4 months later (entirely in Los Angeles), and post-production is projected to be a 4 to 6 month process. Obviously, we will be able to fulfill rewards earlier than October, 2016 - BUT - we cannot realistically send out DVD's and downloads for a film that we want to release to art cinemas and other locations near Halloween. However, many rewards, like sculptures, t-shirts, and posters WILL go out much earlier.
BUDGET/USE OF PROCEEDS:
After Kickstarter fees, credit card processing fees, and the fulfillment of all Rewards, the balance of the budget will be spent as follows:
35% on Pre-Production: props, costumes, set building, and special makeup and other practical effects.
35% on Shooting: cast and crew (talent and staff); camera and lighting and sound; and misc (location fees, food and amenities, etc. ).
15% on Post-Production: mostly (sound and video) editing.
15% on Pre-Marketing and Pre-Distribution efforts
HIROSHI'S COMMENTS: Obviously, $220,000 for a full-length feature film with world-class effects seems ambitious. However, consider that the film shoots entirely in Los Angeles, and within that, takes place almost entirely in a cave/bunker, thus limiting the expense of set creation. Consider that the primary characters who enter the cave/bunker get sealed in, so the number of overall characters in this film is limited; this also adds efficiency to the production. Consider that the special makeup and other practical effects used in this film, will be largely engineered and executed from my friends and associates of my many years in this business, who will deliver masterful results, partly as a labor of love. And consider that my post-production team are also longtime friends and associates. In summary, if the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, the film Gehenna - Where Death Lives, will be made, it will be awesome and scary, and all rewards will be delivered fully and on a timely basis, perhaps even sooner than projected.
This project has come to Kickstarter for several reasons, mostly so that Gehenna: Where Death Lives can be an independent film, true to the vision of its creator. Hiroshi's visions are specific - especially in terms of what constitutes great horror, and how the use of practical effects is best and most realistic - and he believes that the Kickstarter community is his best option for ensuring support of these visions, which he believes will add to the impact and success of the film. In his own words:
HIROSHI'S COMMENTS: I am big fan of Kickstarter and have seen how many creative visions have remained independent because the community believes in respect of its artists, more than to use formulas from big corporations. I have done much work on big budget and small budget films, and I love them both and understand how the process is different. Over years, I have planned this film, from idea to script to building team. Everything so far is from my sweat and my head and my own limited funds. Gehenna: Where Death Lives is a horror film where there are plausible characters in a confusing situation at first, that becomes more strange and finally terrifying. The building of suspense will be with both steady and sudden events, and the way the cast of characters reacts to clues, this character development is a little different than typical Hollywood horror. I think everyone will like this difference, and they will find it delivers. I am glad to live in the time of Kickstarter so that this campaign is possible. Arigato!
SOME NOTES ABOUT THE REWARDS
Our goal was to make the Rewards desirable at all levels. Every backing counts, and we are all part of the same kickstarter community.
For only $15, you get a digital download of the film, for only $28 ($20 if you act early) you get downloads of the film, script, and cool artwork. Beginning at the $60 level, you get thanked in the film credits. The crew t-shirt is beautifully designed, and the poster (by Kouji Tajima) will be an item you'll cherish.
Higher levels in the hundreds include hanging with Hiroshi and talking film, touring Spectral Motion (amazing place; just what's on the shelves will blow you away ...), tickets to Premiers and After Parties (LA, Tokyo), and then - beginning at $410 - awesome fine art sculpture busts of creepy Gehenna characters.
For those seeking a truly special experience (and a great gift idea) - you can play a dead guy (or an extra) in the film, be involved as an Associate Producer, or even be an Executive Producer with territorial rights(subject to discussion).
And finally, for those seeking valuable, cool, amazing, and - did I say valuable - collectibles, there are uniforms and props, Hiroshi will sculpt your face (you can proudly call it "Creepy Me"), there are life-sized creepy bust sculptures by Hiroshi, or you can choose one of the two coolest, most one-of-a-kind items - Steve Wang's Creepy Guy on Floor, or the full body puppet of Creepy Old Man worn by Doug Jones.
Risks and challenges
Hiroshi says: Making a full length feature film is a challenge, for me and for anyone, even for a major studio. It is a substantial endeavor, with many moving parts. I have done my best to minimize risk and maximize use of funds without the slightest compromise to quality, and I have done this in several ways:
1. The lion's share of the film takes place in the cave/bunker, and so there are a limited number of sets. This adds efficiency to the production, and also creates an eerie environment to serve as a justifiable basis for the terrifying experiences of the characters.
2. The characters who enter the cave/bunker get sealed in, and although there are a few additional characters (and specters representing their personal nightmares,) there is a limited number of overall characters in this film, which also adds efficiency to the production, and makes the viewer more likely to identify with one in particular. Watch out who you pick.
3. The special makeup and other practical effects used in this film, will be largely engineered and executed from my friends and associates of my many years in this business. This also adds efficiency to the production, while delivering the most masterful effects from the most top-level talent imaginable.
4. I have substantial experience and great understanding of the film making process and have detailed a realistic schedule of scope of work, time frames, and budgets.
In summary, if the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, the film Gehenna - Where Death Lives, will be made and all rewards will be delivered fully and on a timely basis.
Thank you. - HKLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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