If you thought that you’d seen it all in the world of the unexplained, you’d better think again. Abduct, a new movie starring William B. Davis and directed by Ilyas Kaduji, promises to bring a new take into the world of supernatural stories and more.
The movie, still in post-production, is a fictional, supernatural, horror thriller set in Texas. The story is based on Crystal, a mysterious Texas orphan with a horrible and tragic history. Her parents ritually abuse her. One night, strange lights and sounds appear outside their home. Crystal blacks out and awakens to find them murdered. The girl is haunted by their deaths. Years pass. Now a young adult, Crystal flees her orphanage in a paranoid belief that otherworldly forces are after her, a supernatural terror that has stalked her since childhood and that follows her no matter where she flees.
Meanwhile, charismatic paranormal radio host Ridley Kay, is passionate about exploring the nature of phenomena like this. For some paranoid groups, the fate of the Earth depends on humanity exposing occult secrets to the light: UFO's and alien abductions, demons and spirit possession, the Shadow People and sleep paralysis, government conspiracy, mind control, and time travel. These dark subjects plague thousands of people across the world. For Kay it’s all fun and games until Crystal enters his life.
People get hurt as mysterious government agents seek to take Crystal into custody. No matter how far the young woman flees, sinister people in black hunt her… but why?
We talked to William B. Davis and Ilyas Kaduji about the experience creating and producing this Sci-Fi film.
Kaduji, a veteran visual effect artist and computer game designer from titles such as the Harry Potter Franchise, Sweeny Todd, and Doctor Who - to name a few, has just recently ventured into writing, directing, and producing his own feature films, Abduct being the first one fully completed. But, we ask, what drove him to these themes?
“Since I can remember, I was always fascinated by all things unexplained and mysterious, conspiratorial and freaky basically,” says Kaduji, these ideas coming together three years ago when he decided to bring them to film format.
For him, he wanted to combine Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy: the supernatural, UFO and alien abductions, combined with a good measure of conspiracy theories. To bring this mix to fans of these genres, but also to people that are new to them and could enjoy it without a need to agree or disagree with it; opening up room for debate. Kaduji wants to expose people to the themes that The X-Files was so good at popularizing, “that was my main reason, plus I’ve also been very interested in spirituality and religion, and I’ve always had this feeling that they all have something to teach us if we just read between the lines.”
More specifically, he wanted to explore the nature of “demonic possession” - finding the common ground interpretation between different religions and beliefs that have defined similar beings as multidimensional, including their resemblance and similarity to the concept of alien abductions: “Maybe they’re from here, just from another dimension, as ancient scriptures talked about. As I began my research, I found that other experts had reached the same conclusions and that’s one of the things I really wanted to explore in this story.”
The movie was written in collaboration with Philip Daay, a self-professed skeptic until Kaduji and he embarked on the task of creating the screenplay for Abduct. The whole process left the writer with a new perspective about the unknown, including situations hidden under the veil of government conspiracies and supernatural events. The whole collaboration experience was an enriching one for Kaduji.
Abduct was a production on the lower side of the budget scale but it comes with hefty aspirations. While there are a lot of moving parts, including a fair amount of post-production work still on it’s way, the highest priority for the director from the start was to put together a cast that would serve the story just right.
“Getting the cast to believe what they were portraying and become real and believable characters was the biggest challenge,” Ilyas claims in terms of casting and working with the actors. “Obviously the whole story, plot and characters are sort of unbelievable and otherworldly, if you wanna say that, and you need to sell this to the audience.” This is where William B. Davis comes into play.
While dreaming of being able to afford such a consummate actor, it was a draw of luck and logistics around Davis’ schedule that made it possible: He was commuting between Vancouver and France, visiting his wife that at the time lived in France, and that closeness allowed for him to travel to England easier than he would be able to in regular conditions.
Picture courtesy of Mathew Hodgkin.
“One of the things that really attracted me to the role is that I’m playing kind of a cowboy, a rancher really, though I don’t get on a horse,” Davis says as he laughs. “It was a different kind of part for me; at first when I saw the script, I thought he was a bad guy, but as the script evolved, the character got nicer and nicer and I think it’s because Ilyas got to know me.”
William continues to laugh throughout the interview, remembering the time on set. “He’s really quite a charming guy,” he says referring to the character, ”he really cares about the people around him who are in trouble, and is willing to fight for them. I have a big scene that I have a face off with the real bad guy, it’s a standoff, kind of a western, you know?”
Working with a new director, in a different country, and with an unknown crew could be daunting, but the veteran actor was unfazed by it. “Ilyas is a very thoughtful director, very responsive,” Davis tells us about his experience working with Kaduji. “We had a number of questions about the script when we looked at it closer and he was very open to changing and making adjustments, or accommodating actor’s needs.” Even when production challenges stood between them and their goals, the crew had a tremendous willingness to make things work for the best.
“It’s funny because when we began working together, he’s such a consummate professional, so serious, but after the third day he started to relax into the character and we all became like a big family, and he started to joke around and improvise, and I always love when actors do that, because they bring more into the performance,” Kaduji tells us about the experience with Davis on set. He goes on to tell of a few creative collaborations between the actor and him. “There was one scene where one character tries to find an implant in a person using an App. WBD approached him that he’d like to add something to the scene, he turns to the camera and says ‘Why don’t you look in the back of the neck, the skull?’ When they find it, and the other character queries about how did he know it would be there, WBD asks ‘Have you never watched The X-Files? Implants are always in the back of the neck.’”
Kaduji was very thankful for the wit, chemistry and selfless collaboration that the actor and the rest of the cast brought to the production. “(Davis) was always making comments, he was almost like a technical advisor. It was great having him there He was so humble, even when there were a few autograph hunters. Even the catering woman, an old woman from the community, recognized him, and WBD was kind to grace her with a picture and autograph for her candor.”
“We were so very lucky to get that cast,” Kaduji says, thankful. “So many people have commented on the chemistry and it shows on camera as well.”
The production took place in the English countryside, on Tintagel Farm; a location that would prove to make the difference, allowing the production team to make the best of their reduced budget. This experience might have made the movie even more special, as Kaduji says, even though he was nervous about bringing a group of professionals that hadn’t worked together in the past to such a remote location.
Picture courtesy of Mathew Hodgkin.
“It was very rural and probably a very appropriate location to get people into the mood, to do some proper method acting as well. Literally, within two days of work, the cast and crew had bonded really well.” Even with the twelve-hour long working days, and the challenging script that they were tackling, everyone made the best of the experience. The cast had bonded within the first day of rehearsals. “It was as if we had been working together for weeks and weeks, which was quite refreshing and good.”
They shot in the middle of the night, in a hippy commune filled with trailers and handmade shacks. “The location was a godsend, because if we hadn’t found that particular location, it would have been a lot less ambitious. Everything was there. The crew went camping there, so we were able to stay there at night. There was a lot of bonding, and sitting by campfires and eating marshmallows; there was obviously still stress but that’s all part of the dynamic.”
The movie was shot in digital format, something that Kaduji finds liberating as a filmmaker. ”You’re able to do all the work yourself, whereas in the old days you’d have to sit with an editor and things would be diluted, and they would put a little bit of their own personality into the work and sometimes that would enhance it or sometimes it wouldn’t work. This is the closest that I’ve been to plugging the computer into my head and seeing what’s in my mind on the screen.” He laughs, and there’s certainly a list of advantages to that method of creation nowadays. With the ever-growing developments in new types of cameras and different filmmaking equipment, the craft is a more affordable operation that doesn’t have to depend on studio budgets, without necessarily sacrificing quality. “Technology is just a tool, don’t resist it.”
So, what’s next for these two professionals and Abduct?
With a projected release date by the end of 2014 or the first trimester of 2015, the team at Sunset Studios is aiming to close a distribution deal in the US soon, that would hopefully include a theatrical release in selected markets. Other territories would follow and then on to other View-on-Demand platforms such as Netflix or iTunes.
There is also the chance that the story may stem to other productions, past the single release of the film and onto a serialized format.
Ilyas Kudaji also has other projects on his slate, the most pressing one being After Frankenstein; a film focussing on the times after the death of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Set in 1850s England, with the industrial revolution in full swing, the influences of Frankenstein’s scientific explorations become part of the tendencies, as people turn into victims of a mysterious assassin that could be using the bodies for his own sinister revolution. The film presents itself as a dark one, drawing from horror and mystery influences, with a thriller twist. Likewise, according to Kaduji, the film will delve into the steampunk world, with a dark ambiance similar to productions such as Penny Dreadful.
Casting is well underway for the project and many important names have been tapped for it, including William B. Davis who has also signed on to be part of this production.
Davis, who prefers making his choices based on the quality of the roles offered, will be playing Larsen Creery II, a wealthy member of a secret order with an ulterior motive. The actor has also been busy with his theater career, directing and teaching in Vancouver, and writing a few works that he hopes to get published next year. William has been venturing into the fan experiences lately, attending a few conventions and being very active through social media. He finds the experience very rewarding. And while he admits he doesn’t have the need to actively pursue roles, he doesn’t see himself winding down anytime soon, he’s just a little bit choosier about what he does. He doesn’t use the “R” word.
Retirement is a distant dot on the horizon for this man.
Stay tuned for more news about Abduct and After Frankenstein soon!
Thank you to Mr. Davis, Mr. Kaduji, Mafalda Sá, and the production crew at Abduct Films and US associates and sales team at Sunset Studios for their collaboration on this article. Visit the movie's website for more materials and news.
Photos courtesy of Ilyas Kaduji unless stated.