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Cornered!
Promotional artwork
Promotional artwork
Directed by Daniel Maze
Produced by Alan Noel Vega
Written by Daniel Maze (story)
Darrin Grimwood (screenplay)
Starring Steve Guttenberg
James Duval
Elizabeth Nicole
Peter Story
Eduardo Antonio Garcia
Ellia English
David Jean Thomas
Music by Konstantinos Zacharopoulos
Cinematography Keith Dunkerley
Editing by Bart Winkers
Distributed by Lightning Entertainment
(US domestic)
Spotlight Pictures
(International)
Release date(s) 2008 (2008)
Running time 87 min.
Country United States
Language English

Contents

Synopsis

A serial killer with a morbid voyeur fetish is targeting and terrorizing convenience stores. He tortures and murders his victims in creative ways in front of closed-circuit television cameras, then steals the surveillance tapes as personal trophies.

With the reward upped to US$500,000, the serial killer is the hot topic at a downtown Los Angeles liquor store owned by Steve (Eduardo Garcia—No Country for Old Men (film)).

When the beer deliveryman, MORTY (Steve GuttenbergCocoon (film), Police Academy (film), Three Men and a Baby), shares his concerns about the recent killings, Steve and his motley friends fantasize about their big plans on what to do with the killer and the reward money.

Convinced the store is safe, Steve and his buddies, Jimmy (James DuvalDonnie Darko, Independence Day (1996 film), Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film)), Jess (Elizabeth Nicole—7th Heaven), Donny (Peter Story—Ugly Betty, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and Mona (Ellia EnglishGood Luck Chuck, The Jamie Foxx Show), lock themselves in and settle down for their poker game.

As the night progresses, drunken fun quickly turns into heinous murder as players begin to disappear. Their only hope for outside help is eliminated when the resident bum, Jacko (David Jean Thomas—G.I. Joe, Star Trek), is gruesomely killed.

Is there a way to stop the killer before he finds the basement filled with butcher’s tools and puts them to his demonic use?

A suspenseful “who-done-it” with a refreshing spin on the classic horror film, Cornered! will have you squirming. Be warned and watch what you say… someone may be listening!

Development and production

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Cast

Steve Guttenberg as Morty: Breakout performances in The Boys from Brazil (film) (1978) and Diner (film) (1982) propelled Steve Guttenberg to starring roles in such critical and box-office successes as Police Academy (film), Cocoon (film) and Three Men and a Little Lady Guttenberg has a stellar global box-office track record, starring in films that have grossed well over $1 billion. Known for his wit and comic timing, Steve is equally at home in action pictures The Poseidon Adventure (2005 film) and thrillers The Bedroom Window (1987). His 1983 ABC movie, The Day After, was the third-highest rated TV dramatic special ever. His holiday-themed Hallmark special, Single Santa seeks Mrs. Claus (2004), sparked the 2005 sequel, Meet the Santas—which was the highest-rated TV movie in more than two years. The "Santa" specials are the two highest-rated productions ever for the Hallmark Channel.

James Duval as Jimmy: Best known for his roles as Frank in Donnie Darko and Singh in Go (1999 film), James Duval is a veteran actor with more than 35 feature films to his credit. He has won best actor awards at numerous film festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films' prestigious Saturn Award in 1997 for his performance in Independence Day (1996 film). Duval made his film debut in director Gregg Araki’s teen angst trilogy: Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere (film). He has starred in a string of box office hits, including Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film), as well as the cult classic, SLC Punk! A constant presence on the independent film circuit, James is always busy with new groundbreaking projects.

Elizabeth Nicole as Jess: Guest-star turns on WB’s 7th Heaven and ABC’s Port Charles have established Elizabeth Nicole as an up-and-coming teen icon. A pop/alternative artist in the Los Angeles music scene, Elizabeth shows wisdom and humor beyond her years, both in her acting style as well as her music. Her blonde hair and jewel green eyes offer a striking counterpoint to her smoky voice, creating an instant—and intriguing—physical attraction, while her tongue-in-cheek personality and brilliant smile put her on anyone's best friend shortlist.

Peter Story as Donny: Peter Story is not only a talented actor, but also an award-winning poet and playwright. With prime-time credits on all three major networks, Story has worked with such directors as Quentin Tarantino, Eric Stoltz, Thomas Schlamme and Jack Bender. Following Cornered! Peter starred opposite Elizabeth Perkins in the short film, LE CHAT EST MORT, and has recently returned from Sacramento’s B Street Theatre where he played the title role in Jack Goes Boating, the West Coast Premiere of the Phillip Seymour Hoffman commissioned play. A member of esteemed B Street’s Theater Acting Company as well as a Screen Actors Guild and AEA cardholder, Peter has performed in theatres across the country with well over 500 Equity performances to his credit.

Eduardo Antonio Garcia as Steve: Already a star in Mexico and across Central America for his regular series roles on Televisa via Cancun’s soap operas, Eduardo Antonio Garcia has built a fan base in the U.S. Latino community for his work in Televisa's American productions. His film credits include the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men (film). He won the 1999 Angel Award for Commercial Acting and the 2000 Mercury Award for voiceover work. After several years on the Latin Circuit, Eduardo came to Hollywood where he has guest-starred on such hit TV series as 24 and The Shield.

Ellia English as Mona: Following appearances on such hit TV shows as Empty Nest, The Sinbad Show and Martin (TV series), Ellia English jump-started her film and TV career as a series regular on The Jamie Foxx Show as Aunt Helen King, and on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Auntie Rae. Her credits include: Good Luck Chuck (Jessica Alba and Dane Cook) and Semi-Pro starring Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson and André 3000 Benjamin. She can also be seen in many TV movies, among them, The Innocent with Kelsey Grammer and The Barefoot Executive. Recently, Ellia completed work on The Hustle starring Charlie Murphy, Ashanti and Kym Whitley and is currently filming a dramatic role in the New Line feature film My Sister's Keeper (film) starring Cameron Diaz and Alec Baldwin. She is also well known for her stage roles on and off-Broadway, including stints in Ain't Misbehavin' (TV series), Dreamgirls (film) and Showboat.

David Jean Thomas as Jacko: A veteran of more than 200 feature films, commercials and TV shows, perhaps most recognizable for his roles in the theatrical hits, Fight Club (film), Buffalo Soldiers (film) and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. Thomas began his acting career in 1987, landing his first role as a police captain. Soon after, he booked series roles on The Young and the Restless and Matlock (TV series)—putting him on a fast track to stardom. With a portfolio that includes print work—both billboards and magazines—David has become a nationally recognizable face. He's also provided voiceovers for advertisements, interactive CDs and radio spots for clients including the American Heart Association and Fifth Third Bank. He has guest-starred on such hit TV shows as ER (TV series)The Shield and Point Pleasant (TV series). He appears in a trio of high profile upcoming feature films—director J.J. Abrams' highly anticipated Star Trek, writer-director Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and The Soloist, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

Crew

Daniel Maze - Director/Producer - started his professional career as a DJ in the Belgian club scene in the ’90s, and soon became one of the top DJs in Belgium, eventually making the transition to music producer. Producing his own brand of dance music, he received several gold and platinum records, including Top 10 hits like Lights from Above (1997), Born in the 70s (1998) and Scoop (dance project) (1999). After a decade of success and recognition in the music field, Daniel was ready to embrace his true love -- visual production. He founded MAZEfilms in 2004, offering complete production and post capabilities including sound mixing, DI and CG creation and compositing. As the company quickly found success, Daniel was directing music videos, commercials and corporate videos for many Belgian industry leaders. His love for directing prompted him to create MAZEcorporate, specifically to handle commercial clientele. This allowed him to focus MAZEfilms on his passion for filmmaking. He produced and directed the fantasy short film, ELI, in 2005, showcasing cutting-edge special effects and awe-inspiring production design -- with the full workflow and CGI all done in-house by MAZEfilms. The success of ELI convinced Daniel to take the next step—helming a feature-length film. Daniel’s commitment to his true love paid off in 2006, when MAZEfilms became the first Belgian production company ever to raise funds from private investors and then shoot a feature-length film in Hollywood. The resulting horror film, Cornered!, is truly a one-of-a-kind production. And, as far as Daniel is concerned, this is only the beginning.

Alan Noel Vega - Producer - has worked on motion pictures and video games since 1989, primarily as a producer, line producer, 2nd unit action director/choreographer and stunt coordinator. He started as a film development executive with Alex Ho and Oliver Stone, eventually moving to physical production, where he had the opportunity to work with American and international directors, including Stone, Kathryn Bigelow, Doug Liman, Hong Kong’s Tsui Hark and Sammo Hung, even Germany’s ‘notorious’ Uwe Boll. He has shot films in the U.S. as well as internationally, and has worked with such stars as Faye Dunaway, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sir Ben Kingsley and Anupam Kher. In addition to films, Noel works on stunt action and directing for video games. His video game credits include Spider-Man 3 (video game), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game), James Bond, Fight Club (video game), Start Wars, Soldier of Fortune (video game), Dancing with the Stars and Call of Duty. Noel managed the first-ever U.S./China Film Industry Conference and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival for Actor Edward James Olmos, and served as U.S. liaison for the Shanghai International Film Festival and China Star Entertainment Group.

Saskia Boedt - Executive Producer - the kind of financial wizard every company needs. A career in the financial world prepared her for the job of executive producer. She not only brings first-rate money management expertise to MAZEfilms but also shares a passion for movies with the rest of the team. Her excellent communication skills are used to the fullest extent to help all the MAZEfilms departments function as one well-oiled machine.

Darrin Grimwood - Screenwriter - has been a science fiction and horror film fanatic ever since he was a child, making his own movies on Super 8 film. He made the transition from fan to professional six years ago when he was commissioned by The Film Consortium to write Soul Hunters, a human cloning sci-fi thriller. Since then he's made a living as a screenwriter with over 15 screenplays under his belt, including his latest horror-comedy, Houston we have a problem! that is currently being developed by Hammer Film Productions. Darrin is also a playwright and his psychological thriller Black Aspirins was produced for the London stage in 2004 and was nominated for the Verity Bargate award.

Keith Dunkerley - Director of Photography - Dunkerley's interest in filmmaking was clear from early childhood. At age 11, he attended Cinekyd, a film school for kids in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By 13 he was teaching at Cinekyd during weekends and summer breaks. He continued to teach and produce an award-winning weekly television show. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where he majored in cinematography and fine-tuned his skills shooting other students' films every chance he got. In March of 2001, Keith was chosen by two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan) to intern for him on Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (film). During the three-month shoot, Keith stood side by side with Kaminski -- learning his craft from one of the most highly acclaimed cinematographers of our time. Keith was then hired by Kaminski to work in the camera department on Catch Me If You Can. He also worked in the camera department on Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men (film).

Shooting various features, commercials and music videos, Keith has worked with some of Hollywood's most sought-after talent, as well as up-and-coming directors. He has several projects awaiting final cut and is set to shoot more features and commercials in the near future.

Konstantinos Zacharopoulos - Composer - born in Greece in 1980. He is a composer/musicologist and Ph.D. candidate of the Department of Music Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. In addition to numerous awards and scholarships in Greece, he was awarded the Jerry Goldsmith Award for Best Music for Short Film at the International Film Music Conference in Spain in 2008. He previously had two nominations at this festival in 2006 and 2007. His credits include a Greek documentary, the Greek short film, Doves, and the upcoming American supernatural drama, A time for the heart, as well as the new horror-suspense film Cornered!

Roger C Ambrose - Production Designer

Director's notes

by Daniel Maze - Director

It was a little more than 10 years ago when a book about serial killers fell into the hands of Saskia Boedt, my wife and the executive producer of "Cornered!" While waiting for a friend, she met a stranger in a café in Ostend, a popular coast town in Belgium. He introduced himself as a future lawyer and they began talking, eventually leading to the topic of serial killers. Before leaving, the man gave Saskia a book, "Whoever Fights Monsters," written by Robert Ressler and Tom Shachtman. “To give you insight into what drives people,” he said, “meet me back here in two weeks so we can discuss it.” The weeks passed and Saskia returned to the café, but the stranger never did. She never saw or heard from him again. One night, in 2006, she stumbled upon the old book, and not much later, Saskia and I began discussing serial killers and what could possibly bring a person to the brink of insanity. Instantly the idea for "Cornered!" was born. To this day Saskia still wonders if it was all a coincidence or destiny. I wanted to make an entertaining movie that retained the intellectual layers of a gritty independent production. First and foremost, viewers must be able to enjoy a movie, regardless of gore or dark undertones. That’s why we added lots of unexpected humor to "Cornered!" and married it with a strong plot. The relationship between the characters also helped to create the layers of the script. After the concept for "Cornered!" was solidified, the search for a writer began. I spent a lot of time digging through submissions and sample work of potential writers before finally finding the perfect man to do the job: an Englishman named Darrin Grimwood. He understood the inner workings of a horror movie but also recognized the importance of incorporating a good sense of humor. He understood the beast that is “horror.” For many months we worked together in London to develop the script until it was perfect. With a promising script in one hand and a solid business plan in the other, Saskia and I were able to find enough private investors to meet our budget and commence preproduction. Our company, MAZEfilms, is the first Belgian production company to raise funds from private investors and then use the foreign money to shoot a feature-length film in the United States. With funds in hand, Saskia and I began scheduling appointments and searching for potential crew, rental houses and lodging in Los Angeles. During our visit, we took multiple meetings a day, leaving no time to enjoy the California sun. But at least we were able to soak up a little bit of the LA vibe.

Prep

The most memorable meeting I had was with Noel Vega. Instead of telling me stories about all the famous people he knew in the business, he surprised me with his candor and assured me he could help with the whole process, from prep to post. I hired him on the spot! He jumped on board as a producer, and thanks to our experience on "Cornered!," we have developed a long-lasting relationship.

What struck me on my search for a director of photography was the professionalism of Keith Dunkerley. From the first interview, Keith and I clicked. We were immediately on the same wavelength in terms of color and atmosphere. The first choice we made was to shoot the film on 35mm. Shooting on film gave the story the flavor and value we were looking for. Keith is really a pleasure to work with, as he understands the nature of filmmaking and his exquisite style served the story well. He is dedicated and a fast worker who’s always striving to keep the quality high.

I knew this production was going to need a very experienced visuals effects supervisor. Lucky I met William T. Mings, because he is definitely the kid with all the toys. With a wealth of knowledge spanning the whole FX/CG process -- from optical printers to digital compositing -- William had the ability to turn all my ideas into reality. All of his knowledge and expertise, mixed with the hard work and efforts of MAZEfx, MAZEfilms’ post department, resulted in some amazing and realistic CGI.

A lot of time was spent in search of a production designer willing to take on the challenge of translating the dark atmosphere of the script into a “real” set. Roger C. Ambrose is definitely a man who knows his craft. Even at our first production meeting, I was intrigued by his architectural and historical insight. Roger drafted all the plans for the sets and we discussed color and textures with piles of color swatches in front of us. Building a realistic, dirty, run-down convenience store from scratch is not an easy task, but Roger made it happen.

Of course, there is no substitute for a practical location, and Roger also found us the perfect gritty and run-down 1920s art deco building for which Los Angeles is known. It was as if the store in the script had materialized right in front of my eyes. (Of course, little did I know how difficult it would be to shoot during the weekend in the middle of busy downtown LA.)

Another main goal of mine was to have great acting performances, which is why the casting process was so important. Thanks to the help of our casting director, Marie Rowe, we were able to build a cast with the right mix of talents. The synergy between the actors was so high that nobody could have been able to write what the actors brought to their characters and each other.

You would not have expected it, but it was two girls that created the gruesome designs for all the killing scenes. Makeup and special effect artists Dania Simental and Kate Gnetesky really did an amazing job with the blood and gore effects and succeeded in making a number of crew members nauseated during the shoot! And last but not least Costume Designer Erica Howard jumped on board and added even more "character" to the personalities through their wardrobe.

Production

One of my favorite scenes to shoot was the one where Mona picks an ice cream cone out of the fridge. I really wanted the audience to feel the grimy atmosphere of the movie in this scene, so we placed the camera behind the cooler so as Mona lifted the cooler door the camera was shooting directly through the glass. The filthy door served as a filter, successfully blocking the audience’s vision of the background elements, increasing the suspense of something about to happen. Another scene I enjoyed was the one where Jess enters the stockroom looking for Mona. In this shot, we manipulated the camera movement, causing the alcohol bottles on the shelf in the foreground to appear as though they were shifting when in fact they were not. By adding this movement we were able to obscure the audience’s view of Jess, and the liquid in the glass bottles delivered the spooky anticipation we were aiming for.

However, none of this would have been possible without my assistant director Alexander Yurchikov. I fully trusted him and could focus on the art of the film as well as the actor’s performance.

Post

The one person who always surprised me with his work was Bart Winckers. He was in charge of the whole post-production process and knew exactly what I wanted; he would even bring the results beyond what I had envisioned.

Throughout the post-production process it is very important to keep track of every version of every frame in the movie. In order to store all of this information, tens of terabytes of disk space were allocated to the film. It is crucial that you have the ability to go back and forth between frames at any desired moment; a flexibility that is necessary when holding yourself to a high standard of creativity. Due to our various post companies being located in both the United States and Europe, most of the communication had to be done by voiceover IP and the files had to be transferred over ftp connections. With this technology, we are able to keep the lines of communication open at all times.

MAZEfx Belgium serves as its own DI (digital intermediate) facility, overseeing the whole process. The color grading, conform and graphics were all done in-house while the 2K scan was made in the United States. The cutting of the negatives was also done in LA, by Richard Flores, whose credits include "The Grudge 2." And to answer your question, no, we didn’t train the roaches. They wouldn’t listen. So we came up with another option: Make them all CG! No matter how many times we tell this to people, they still don’t believe us.

A good composer must be able to write recognizable music that is still original. It requires a lot of talent and experience to be able to do this, for there is nothing more difficult then making a simple melody. Finding a composer was not an easy task, even with my own musical background. I went through more than 200 applications, listening to every track submitted. Many of the composers were talented, but Konstantinos Zacharopoulos brought something new and original into the mix. There is no doubt in my mind that he will become the next John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. While Konstantinos created the overall feeling on the film, we still needed to get someone who understood the local flavor of Los Angeles. Tommy Coster came on board at the last minute to give "Cornered!" its finishing touches. He really captured the atmosphere of LA with his songs, adding his music to the final edit gave "Cornered!" its icing on the cake.

From start to finish "Cornered!" was a meeting of the minds, a platform on which film collided with digital to create a new spin on the classic horror genre. The crew was filled with industry veterans as well as up-and-coming geniuses. Everyone was not only a pleasure to work with but also a valuable talent. The cast and crew truly believe in this film, and worked in harmony, and that shines through in the final product.

Producer's notes

by Alan Noel Vega - Producer

Coming from Belgium, director Daniel Maze and executive producer Saskia Boedt specifically chose Los Angeles to shoot their feature film. They were convinced the city would provide them with the best people for the project. When I saw the gleam of determined enthusiasm in their eyes, I knew Cornered! was going to be something special.

Writer Darrin Grimwood did a wonderful job of turning Daniel’s ideas into a screenplay. After reading the script, I was convinced this was going to be a great project. It had the right amount of humor and gore to get me interested. The best part was that it only needed very minor pacing and dialog tweaks.

Our sets called for stages with large, ample spaces. With the recent WGA strike looming, it was difficult locating stages that had enough space and time for our needs. Just when we were about to push back the start date, Apache Stages came through as our production home. With two fairly large stages, we were able to build and light our sets without any compromise. The result was amazing as all of our sets gave off an eerie vibe.

We also needed a practical corner store location exterior and Daniel had a clear vision of what he wanted. Daniel and production designer Roger C. Ambrose put on their scouting shoes and found the perfect spot in downtown L.A. This location was ideal for the film as it had the grim rundown look of a building way past its prime.

We are all lucky and honored to have had the opportunity to work with our talented cast. It was a pleasure watching Steve Guttenberg strongly deliver a role that he’s never been seen in before. James Duval wowed us with his tremendous thespian range. Peter Story was simply brilliant. Ellia English’s comedic timing was superb. Eduardo Garcia’s stellar performance draws anyone in. Newcomer Elizabeth Nicole convincingly held her own. The entire cast performed wonderfully and truly brought their characters to life. Casting director Marie Rowe did a phenomenal job assembling such a diverse cast with great chemistry on and off camera. The audience will definitely enjoy the performances of very familiar faces.

SFX supervisor Bill Mings clearly understood what we needed. He delivered exactly what Daniel envisioned in cockroach performances. Not only did the cockroaches look incredibly real but they also looked especially creepy. In addition to all of our computer generated effects, the makeup team did a phenomenal job with the blood and gore effects. The molds of various body parts, amount of blood, and concoctions of fake guts we had on set were enough to make anyone squeamish.

Moving into post-production, the artist in Daniel stayed true to form. He deliberately took the time to cut and re-cut to get the best pace and flow, slowing down to analyze the emotions involved in every scene thereby delivering the best possible performance in each. Yes, even from the cockroaches.

After months of watching and re-cutting, we all finally agreed on picture lock. We decided to shoot on 35mm because our goal was to bring in the audience as close to our film as possible, to have them experience our movie up-close rather than just be spectators. I feel we accomplished this visual goal as we got the organic look, feel and ‘closeness’ we set out for.

Daniel was just as particular when it came to music and scoring. He wanted to pull from different styles of music and thus collaborated with two very talented musicians. Award-winning Greek composer Konstantinos Zacharopoulos created the film score, while Californian Tommy Coster composed all the original songs in the movie. With this, the final polish was done.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this movie as much as we enjoyed making it.

Production design

by Roger C. Ambrose – Production designer

To fully understand the story behind the production design on Cornered! you have to start with the day I was hired. Our director, Daniel Maze, handed me two things: a script and a picture, or better put, the story and the inspiration for the corner store. The only problem was that the picture was of a store (circa 1940) in Los Angeles that no longer existed. So I had one strike against me. I saw what Daniel was going for, but where was it to take place?

Once I read the script, I knew why that corner store was so important. It was a major character in the story with its years of history, its location on skid row, its particulars in layout and the smell of something musty, something just not right. Drawn to the challenge, I took it upon myself to not only provide Daniel with an ideal interior but also an exterior that would do justice to the script’s corner store.

All the locations found prior to my first day on the job were stock units, uninspiring and spoke nothing to me. So I left on my mission to find my inspiration with nothing more than a P.A., a camera and word of mouth from friends. I knew this location was the cornerstone to the film’s design. I took three days over a long weekend and drove 318 miles back and forth on every street in LA, hoping to find that perfect corner store. I found many a store in a city with such a rich history, but even after 72 hours I found none that fit.

I knew what I was looking for. I could see it in my mind’s eye. Then, there it was! A two-story brick building; a liquor store with an apartment upstairs. Windows with bars on them, an alley on the side and a flickering “Liquor Store” sign in front. It was as if it leapt right out of my film noir memory of old Los Angeles. With the shell of our character found, I discussed with the director and director of photography what the pallet of colors should be to visually capture the musty smells and layers of dust in this derelict of a store. Locks and bars and few exits from which to escape, it took on the green-gray color of mold and rust on the floor, with layers of peeling, cracked paint from 30 years of neglect.

Upstairs in the apartment, we kept the neglect of the building, but warmed up the environment to a water-stained, nicotine-caked excuse for a faux-painted and wallpapered living quarters of a bygone era. Once we were done, you could feel the layers of smoke and soot that mixed with the original paint of the 1930s. Now, how to dress the set and keep it real to the downtown atmosphere? How to fill the numerous shelves with un-purchased and outdated products? Ones to be sold or stolen from this centerpiece of convenience, this store of liquor and vice. To really preserve the gritty feel of downtown we ventured onto the streets, into the poorest run-down thrift stores and liquidation centers, which market discarded refuse as new goods. We wanted items that spoke history and character in a place located in the underbelly of society.

As our production timetable tightened and principal photography approached, the junk of today’s city became the treasures of our set. It spoke of lost dreams and desolation, of addictions in many forms. It stood out not just as a backdrop for the characters of our film, but as a character itself that stood silently in the shadows of the night as the events unfolded and horrors were unleashed.

The cinematography

by Keith Dunkerley – Director of photography

Shooting the feature film Cornered! was a relatively difficult challenge, but one I was eager to accept. The clear directive I received from director Daniel Maze during the first of our many meetings was that the movie needed to be dark. This was fully acceptable to me given the film’s genre and nature. I soon met with our production designer, Roger C. Ambrose, and requested that he incorporate as much practical lighting on the sets as possible and paint the set walls dark with texture. I really wanted to have a dirty, gritty feeling to this film, so I decided to shoot on Fuji Eterna 500 35mm film stock to help with this look.

There were four different looks I wanted to accomplish on our main set: First was a sunny Los Angeles afternoon, achieved by using large tungsten lights with half straw gel on them, pushing though our set windows. I over-exposed this light to around three stops.

Second was a night interior with the store lights on. To achieve this look, my rigging crew hung twenty 4x4 kinos above the set, and then we made the outside look dark with a street light FX coming in. Street light played a big role in the lighting of the night scenes in the film.

This takes us to the third look—a night interior store with no lights on, except for the street light coming in from outside. The only lights I used inside were the practical lights that the art department rigged into the deli counter and freezers.

The fourth look was dawn, and to achieve this I used half blue on the lights and turned off the street light we were using outside. The best part about shooting Cornered! was that our director trusted me and gave me the freedom to experiment with the lighting and camera work. I believe that this trust really brought out the creative look of Cornered!

Creating the cockroaches

by William T Mings – Visual effects supervisor

The script for Cornered! called for cockroaches to do many specific things and it was clear from the beginning that CGI work would provide the perfect end result. One of the first decisions was whether to use real cockroaches in some of the shots or to use CGI for everything. Since cockroaches tend not to be very cooperative, we decided to do all the cockroaches digitally.

To make a CGI cockroach, we needed a computer model. I started with a 3D laser scan of an actual cockroach and then modified and adjusted for our purposes. Necessary joints and rigging were added to facilitate its animation, while textures were created based on photographs of actual cockroaches. After some initial tests to verify that everything was moving correctly and the inverse kinematics were working properly, I was ready to begin animating. To ensure that the cockroaches moved naturally, it was necessary to do a little research on cockroach locomotion. Surprisingly, there have been many studies performed on cockroaches, and in fact many universities have done research the subject. In some cases, robots have been built to simulate how cockroaches walk and I was able to find some excellent video footage of cockroaches walking, running and climbing.

After studying the cockroaches, I created a “walk cycle” based on the movements. I found that when the CGI cockroach walked in a straight line, it tended to look a little too robotic, so it became necessary to add a certain amount of directional randomness to the walk to make it look a little more “organic.”

American cockroaches are also very fast. One university study found that they can run up to 50 times their body length in one second -- one of the reasons why they haven’t traditionally been used in motion pictures, because it can be quite difficult to photograph them at that speed. In the past, filmmakers have often used Madagascar cockroaches rather than American, because they move much slower. We were able to avoid this by using CGI cockroaches since we could make them move at whatever speed we wanted. In fact, for this movie, we found that it was actually better to have them move a little slower than normal, making them appear more deliberate and calculating.

All of the shots involving cockroaches were carefully planned and executed, so we had no surprises when it came time to add the CGI cockroaches to the background plates. With proper lighting and shadows, it makes for a very convincing cockroach.

Scoring the movie

by Konstantinos Zacharopoulos - Composer

As soon I saw Cornered! I knew I wanted to tackle the musical component because I saw it as a great challenge for me as composer.

Instead of going the electronic route, I wanted to go more traditional by way of symphonic instruments, but using them in an untraditional manner. Hence the scratches of unpitched percussion instruments, staggering woodwind, strings and brass notes -- even using musical tools less familiar to the ear, like the tam-tam, spring drums, gongs and the contrabass clarinet.

The score, as a whole, represents instruments being pushed to the extremes of their possibilities -- all coming together to create the atonal sound of the film. The music creates both an ambient and claustrophobic environment, portraying either the inner feelings of the characters or the larger feeling of the scene -- whether it is fear, tension or agony. Keeping in mind director Daniel Maze’s advice that "less is more," I aimed to complement the plot with sounds that enhance, and not overpower, the viewer’s experience.

Reception

“Cornered!” is a uniquely structured horror movie that manages to build suspense through a series of unfortunate events that transpire during a night of murder. Upon the initial viewing, it may seem that certain scenes are random time fillers for an 80-minute feature, but like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece connects to crucial plot points and defining the characters. Nothing in the film is what it appears to be, and for that, the element of suspense (along with some exceptional performances) is evident throughout.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Los Angeles as the crew of a local convince store discusses the ransom money offered for the killer. Each has an elaborate plan on what they would do if they ever came across the killer. These characters may seem stereotypical at first glance, but they eventually become an interesting array of people to watch as they get ready to play poker in an apartment above the convince store. These people are so different that it is hard to imagine how they became friends.

Slowly, we discover that many of their cell phones are not working, and that portly worker Donny (Peter Story) accidentally bordered up a door blocking one major exit to the store. Steve (Eduardo Antonio Garcia) is trying to keep his nephew Jimmy (James Duval) off drugs, so he has locked all the doors to the store with his keys, which eventually go missing. With their cell-phone service slowly diminishing and being locked in, the characters are cornered by a serial killer.

On top of that, the serial killer manages to kill them all in the ways they described they would kill him. So it is up to the audience to place their bets on who the killer might be.

Director Daniel Maze has taken elements from past slasher films and updated them for a modern audience in a horror movie that is a cut above the rest. It asks everybody in the audience to draw their own conclusions and emotions for the array of eccentric and unusual characters while sending chills down your back. The pace of the film keeps you in that frame of suspense. A large part of that is due to the great cast, which keeps you glued to screen even if you have a sinking feeling that you may know who the killer is.

Duval is nothing short of amazing in his performance as the drug-addicted cashier suffering from withdrawals. His performance ranges from comedy to drama while allowing the audience to empathize with his needs. During his withdrawals, he exhibits a fear of cockroaches that will leave your flesh in goose bumps. The scene where roaches seem to be crawling all over the store is both funny and frightening due to Duval’s conviction on selling it to the audience. He exhibits that raw, early charisma that Keanu Reeves once thrived upon.

Story portrays the lovesick, donut-loving Donny to perfection. He convincingly exposes us to a man who is shy, but head-over-heels for the luscious Jess (Elizabeth Nicole), who has a ton of personal problems. Their interaction adds another dimension to the picture, as well as two strong characters to be the main protagonists.

A special mention must be made of Steve Guttenberg’s work in a horror picture, which is nothing like what we’ve seen from him in the past. In a few short scenes, he reminds us of the charm that was present in movies such as The Chicken Chronicles, Diner (film) and Police Academy (film).

The cinematography is done so well that we are instantly trapped in the drab lifestyles of the main characters, and are caught up in their hopeless struggle. It is a universe that draws you in, but allows you to be glad to leave it all behind at the end. This is some grim, dark, edgy filmmaking that manages to keep a sense of humor, which helps balance the grimy feeling created by the cinematography.

The work put into the murder scenes is also a major highlight to this independent treat.

“Cornered” is nothing at all what you’d expect it to be, and is constantly stating that with the fresh voice from Maze. You are not watching the usual gaggle of teenage victims being hacked up, but rather an interesting cast of characters that are easy to sympathize with.

References

External links


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