HELLIONS: Bruce McDonald Shares The First Bloody Still And Discusses Shooting In Infra Red

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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HELLIONS: Bruce McDonald Shares The First Bloody Still And Discusses Shooting In Infra Red
Last week I found myself driving through the countryside outside Hamilton, Ontario, where I eventually rolled up to a small working farm populated by very small horses, regular sized horses, and ten or so llamas who were not even remotely interested in my presence. Well fine, llamas, I wasn't there for you anyway.

The point of the drive was inside the house where iconic Canadian director Bruce McDonald was making his return to the horror genre, his first foray into this territory since Pontypool. Working with a nimble crew and just a pair of cast members on this particular day - leading lady Chloe Rose and genre staple Robert Patrick - McDonald et al were in the home stretch of production on the upcoming Hellions. Here's the official synopsis of the film so far:

A pregnant teenager must survive a Halloween night from Hell when three malevolent trick-or-treaters come knocking.
Now, I'm not going to tip anything more than that in terms of plot but McDonald was happy to share one very interesting bit of news: Hellions is very likely the first film ever to be shot dominantly in infra red. The final proportion won't really be known accurately until the edit is complete but it appears quite likely that somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty percent of the film will be shot using infra red technology and here's what McDonald has to say about that:

In the script it's a red moon, kind of a spooky supernatural night. Halloween night. So there were two elements in the script that triggered us to this. The red moon and the fact that time moves very strangely.

We thought we could shoot this all night with some kind of red filter but then we thought because of the time factor maybe it's more of a parallel dimension like a Wizard of Oz sort of thing. At the emotional peak of the story things just flip. The switch is thrown.

It was kind of a big production decision. Once you go there there's no, "Oh, I don't like that anymore." You're committed to it. It's like making the choice between shooting on color film or black and white film. There's no, "Oh, we'll make it black and white in post." It's there, you are committed to it. I like it. The infra red looks really great in interiors, It can be very dark, very moody. Kind of scary, horror movie darkness. It's all black and white and red.

We knew we could shoot it at night but we would get half the setups because of night things just move slower. And not only night, cold night. You just move slower then, so you're just going to get less setups. It would take more people to get less. So we thought we want to do that or have more setups using the small team that we have? It was an ingenious notion.

I don't know if I would've been brave enough but Norayr [cinematographer Norayr Kasper] really convinced us all. At first it was just, "Are you fucking out of your mind? Are you serious? No. It's not going to happen." But then we thought, "Well, let's do a test." And then we thought, "Oh, this is kind of interesting."

I think the big thing for me is the fact that we're not trying to make it look like night. We're literally crossing into a parallel world.

Twitch is happy to share the first (non infra red) image from the film. That's Chloe Rose bathing in blood to your left and if you click the image below you can see a much larger version.
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bruce mcdonaldchloe rosehellionsinfra redrobert patrick

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Mr. CavinNovember 28, 2013 6:41 PM

Fantastic! I can't wait to see how this turns out. Typically I think infrared is kind of a gimmick when used in still photography; but the gimmicks of other media tend to manage as solid artistic expression in film, where the picture is just part of the recipe. Seems like a great experiment to me.

KurtNovember 28, 2013 11:55 PM

Well said. I'm excited. REALLY EXCITED for this.

Todd BrownNovember 29, 2013 9:16 AM

It's important to note the space in the word 'Infra Red'. Bruce was very clear that this is NOT being shot infrared (i.e. we're not seeing heat signatures) but IS being shot using the infra red end of the light spectrum.

Ard VijnNovember 29, 2013 10:52 AM

You have to explain this to me. Preferably in terms that can be understood by a four-year-old.

Mr. CavinNovember 29, 2013 11:02 AM

If you mean hes using infrared film, like this, then that's what I thought he was saying (and there's still no space, by the way):


If he means something else, then I think he's using the terminology wrong. I do see that there could be some confusion between this and the type of thermographic imaging that relies on infrared radiation (and is usually captured on regular film, frankly); but that's not all that new (great swaths of Blue Thunder and Hardware did that already, right) nor would be all that compelling to look at for so long.

Todd BrownNovember 29, 2013 11:02 AM

'Infrared' generally means that you're using heat signatures, and things like that. Think back to how the creature saw things in Predator. That's infrared. Infra Red, however, is a totally different part of the light spectrum, it's on the opposite end to ultra violet.

So, I suppose the analog would be to think of things bathed in black light (which is ultra violet). It's kind of like that, except they're not actually adding any extra infra red to things, they're just setting the camera to register the infra red part of the spectrum rather than the typical part of the spectrum.

Like he says, it'll look black, white and red, though it'll be a weird red.

Todd BrownNovember 29, 2013 11:05 AM

Yes, this is correct. Though they're shooting digital, so there's no actual film at all.

Mr. CavinNovember 29, 2013 11:07 AM

Right. Only pretend film!

Mr. CavinNovember 29, 2013 11:10 AM

Frequently the red spectrum filter will produce all sorts of strange coloration, actually. To get black and white you actually have to desaturated it. One side effect of using red shifted light is that it leaches green out completely, leaving foliage that looks like it's made out of snow and ice. Check the examples I posted nearby, Ard.

KurtNovember 29, 2013 3:25 PM

Oddly enough, I actually knew this....Several cellphone cameras can shoot in infrared if you used a filter to take out much of the visual spectrum.

limeyninjaNovember 30, 2013 11:19 PM

The camera's they're shooting on get converted when they're shooting IR. It looks pretty cool.