As many genre fans already know, the root of horror can be traced back to the struggle of good vs. evil. Whether it be physically interpreted as a battle between a villain and a hero or spiritually translated into the battle over ones soul and behavior, the horror of our darkest impulses are consistently being kept at bay by our better judgment and moral determination, and largely horror films use this schadenfreude as a cathartic means of creatively battling those demons. However, the fear behind what may come, should we fall victim to those impulses or the impulses of others, is fuel to the imagination and keeps the horror genre thriving to this day.
But in terms of what lies beyond our world, this struggle becomes an even more fascinating variable, as our brain interprets what we don’t understand as an inherent threat. Yet the horror genre rarely considers this struggle as a gateway for those threats to take form, in the same way that an animal trainer rarely considers those he cares for and domesticates as the eventual cause of their demise. It’s this manipulation of those concepts that the horror short, Reflections, draws its inspiration, telling the story of a young girl and her grandfather as evil seeps into this world through a vessel we cannot avoid: ourselves. Directed by Christopher Bryant and starring genre icon Ray Wise, as well as up-and-coming child actresses the D’Ambrosio Twins, Reflections re-imagines these classic concepts of good fighting evil, and offers a fresh new take on the Jekyll-and-Hyde mechanics to match a villainous entity with much more terrifying intentions.
In an exclusive first look with Diabolique Magazine, the short film’s writer, Chris Frank, and co-stars Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio sat down with Diabolique and shared their experience within the wicked world of Reflections…
DIABOLIQUE: So, how exactly did Reflections come about?
CHRIS FRANK: Reflections is my modern interpretation of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, ultimately. It’s about how evil enters this world. In the ‘50s, it entered through pods so that aliens could enter our universe and replicate us, and we know that’s really not going to happen, but theoretically, what if aliens or somebody wanted to take over our bodies and wanted to replace us could enter [our universe] through our reflections in a mirror? What if that was the dimension in which aliens could come into our world and then take over the world? That was my premise behind it.
DIABOLIQUE: Well, that’s a fascinating take on that particular story. I don’t think that mechanism has been used before for an extraterrestrial story; it’s normally reserved for the supernatural or demonic versions of evil.
FRANK: Well, how does evil enter our world? Why couldn’t it enter through reflections? I’ve always been fascinating by the concept of the duality of nature, going back to High School with my readings of Nietzsche with The Birth of Tragedy, and then going into Herman Hesse with Narcissus and Goldmund. Although, if you really want to know what I loved that [showed that duality] was Val Kilmer’s version of Batman [in Batman Forever], where he had that little doll that had the evil and good side, much like Batman has somewhat of an evil and good side.
That’s what really made me turn towards twins. I love the D’Ambrosio Twins; I’d seen them in a bunch of different things. But I thought, “How could twins be involved in a concept like this?” And that’s when I said, “Why not through a mirror, through their reflection?”
DIABOLIQUE: Does the evil that is being portrayed in Reflections have any supernatural element to it or is it merely a physical sort of evil?
FRANK: “Evil” is a difficult word to deal with, because in a society full of criminals, the only true criminal is the one who is caught. So, I’m not really sure what “evil” is. I think that it’s the duality that we fight so hard with, in terms of what is good and what is bad. I think what the mirror allows us to do is that it allows us to look within ourselves and even though we see what we see and we fight so hard to be morally right, there exists these two planes that allow you to see what you want to see.
There’s something in [the mirrors], and why wouldn’t that something want to come out? The only thing stopping it is a piece of glass. But what if that piece of glass was really just a means by which it could transport? What if it could reach through that glass, take what’s good and allow evil to come out? It’s a metaphor for what we’re fighting every day when we control our impulses and do what society accepts as morally right.
DIABOLIQUE: I had been told that the role that Ray Wise plays in the film was written specifically for him. What inspired you to write for his performance, specifically? Had you been inspired by his previous take on duality in Twin Peaks?
FRANK: I can’t tell you the number of things that Ray has done that has influenced me. The last thing I’ve seen Ray in, which I’m an enormous fan of, was when he played the priest on Psych. I’m a huge Psych fan, and I love the whole James Roday – Dulé Hill dynamic, between their camaraderie when their solving mysteries and the nonsense when they’re really paying attention to things. In a couple of episodes, I believe, Ray played a priest that they’re both friends with.
Ray’s ability to adapt from playing a normal guy to an evil guy to a good guy really shows that he’s a tour-de-force, as an actor. He can really play anything. So, when I was coming up with the idea for Reflections, and I was wondering who we’d pick for the grandfather to the girls who we’d never know would be either good or evil. It had to be Ray Wise. It wasn’t much of a stretch, for me.
DIABOLIQUE: While putting together and eventually making Reflections, did anything change drastically from your initial concept of the piece to the final film?
FRANK: I believe that we live constantly in a beta-test. We never really get to the point where we can think everything is set. Life constantly evolves and we’re always changing and adapting. The only things that I knew was that I loved Ray Wise, and I knew that no matter what I wrote for him, he could do. I also know the only way I could get the feeling of people traveling through a mirror as twins. What ultimately gets produced and what ultimately gets seen by the public is constantly a work-in-progress.
DIABOLIQUE: Reflections is a short film, correct?
FRANK: For now. The current run time is 9 minutes and 30 seconds long, since many of the festivals require short films to be under 10 minutes. I’d like to turn Reflections into a feature length film. I don’t know, at the end of the day, if Reflections is going to be more of a focus on the twins, Ray or the statement on how the world is taken over by these aliens through the mirrors and if good can succeed by finding a way to send this evil back.
DIABOLIQUE: In how the market currently exists today, how do you expect Reflections in its form now to make it out into the world after it’s festival run? Are you looking at digital distribution, or a compilation home media release?
FRANK: We’re going to try to get into the short film competitions; we’re going to start with that. I’m hoping that with the talent we have accumulated, especially with the D’Ambrosio twins and Ray, through what we produced, someone will see the potential for this and might pick it up and produce it as a full-length feature. If that does not happen, we could go the private route or we could turn to crowdfunding to fund the feature film and then seek distribution through the festival route. We could also release it digitally, but again, we’re beta-testing. I’m not going to close any doors; rather, I’d like to keep our options open and see what happens.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any other projects that you’re working on? Do you have anything genre-related in development?
FRANK: I’ve written two books about a detective in Los Angeles by the name of Jim Jovian. They’re both available on Amazon and they’re the first two books of a trilogy. I’m currently in the middle of the third book. The first book is called 12 Days, and it’s about a serial killer who kills people according to the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas”. The follow-up book is called The Colony, in which that same detective tries to discover the root of this series of mysterious deaths that occur behind the gate of the Malibu Movie Colony. The culmination of the series will be the final book in which Jovian comes to grasps with all of his demons and all of his discrepancies and indiscretions of the past on a beach resort in Costa Rica. The next project after that is to go to film with this series. I’ll be writing the screenplays and they’ll be going to the screen.
DIABOLIQUE: Many of your projects seem to focus on the reflexive nature of behavior and the moral unrest behind the human condition. What is it about those concepts that has grasped your focus?
FRANK: Well, do you have an hour and a half? [laughs] I think if we don’t question who we are or what we do constantly, we’re going to fall into a rut and we’re not going to leave any kind of imprint on this world. I’m not going to be the guy who goes on Family Feud and wins the money because he thinks like the people think. Like, if 70% of the people think THIS way, I’m not going to be that guy. I’m going to go on Family Feud and be the guy who says something that nobody else thought of.
If I don’t challenge myself, what have I done? What have I learned? Nothing. That’s really it. I need to constantly push myself. At some point, I’m going to be misunderstood, and I’ll get death calls, death threats and questions as to who I am, but at the end of the day, I know I’m alive and that I’m doing something that I can value.
DIABOLIQUE: So, Bianca and Chiara, how did you join Reflections?
BIANCA D’AMBROSIO: Well, we had heard about the project, and we had a huge audition. We booked it, and that’s how we joined Reflections.
FRANK: I’d also seen the girls on Jimmy Fallon’s pilot, Guys with Kids. After seeing them on that, I saw that they were on Youtube and even though they auditioned, they’re being humble here because I knew that I wanted them to be involved. So it was an audition but they kind of had an inside track. As long as they were able to do what I knew that they could do, they were golden.
DIABOLIQUE: Did either of you have any hesitation to be in a project that had a horror element to it?
CHIARA D’AMBROSIO: No. We’ve worked on projects before that were scary. We know that it’s just acting.
BIANCA: Although some lines would freak me out.
CHIARA: We were on Criminal Minds, in this season’s premiere, and in that role, we were strapped to a chair. It was a pretty intense episode.
FRANK: I think the hardest person to convince was their mother, because she saw them going into Disney and that kind of stuff, and I’m here trying to create something that’s a little on the edge. But ultimately, acting is just skill, and I knew that they had in them the ability to act in this role, so that was really it.
BIANCA: Yeah, and there was a moment towards the end that I really liked filming involving a swimming pool.
FRANK: Just don’t spoil the ending! [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: Both of you girls also come from a singing background. Do you approach your acting roles differently than your singing opportunities?
CHIARA: We both love singing, but when we act, we’re playing other people but when we sing, we get to be ourselves.
BIANCA: Singing is also another way to express ourselves, so it’s another way to let people know who we are.
DIABOLIQUE: How was your experience working with Ray Wise on this project?
BIANCA: It was fun! He was a very nice guy, and he acted very well in Reflections.
CHIARA: Yeah, he was amazing.
FRANK: I’ve worked with a lot of actors but Ray is really an actors’ actor. He’s such a professional and is a really, really cool dude. He definitely made it comfortable as a professional actor working with two eight-year-olds. He made the set comfortable, especially with something that’s not happy-go-lucky. He definitely lent a calming presence to the entire set, which especially worked for the twins because they were comfortable in typically uncomfortable circumstances. Ray really stepped up and was fantastic.
DIABOLIQUE: Even though you both were involved in this dark horror film, at the same time you had been doing good in the real world by launching your own anti-bullying campaign. What can you tell us about this endeavor?
CHIARA: We released a T-shirt, with a design where it has the word “Bully”, with a pink slash going through it, and that was released alongside our single, “Let Your Light Shine”, both of which you can get at www.Dambrosiotwins.com.
BIANCA: Yes. The video for “Let Your Light Shine” has had almost 1.5 million views, and we actually won a Gracie award for “Outstanding Viral Music Video” because of it.
DIABOLIQUE: Well, congratulations! That’s great to hear. Well, where do you see your careers heading more towards: singing or acting?
CHIARA: We’d actually like to see a balance between the two. We’d also like to come back to Reflections if the film is made into a feature, and we also have a TV show on the Nickelodeon Channel coming out in the fall.
FRANK: They’re also in a film some friends of ours made called Feeding Mr. Baldwin as girl scouts who get scared. And they’re huge fans of the twins from The Shining as well.
BIANCA: Yes! We saw them at the Stanley Kubrick exhibit!
DIABOLIQUE: Do you both like horror as a genre at all, even at your age?
CHIARA: Well, we saw and enjoyed Halloween, so I think we can handle it.
Reflections is currently on the festival circuit, so keep a keen eye out for this chiller if it’s playing at a fest near you! Chris Frank’s “Jim Jovian” series, 12 Days and The Colony, are available as e-books on Amazon.com, with the third title coming soon. You can follow the D’Ambrosio Twins at their official Facebook page here and on Twitter: @Dambrosiotwins. You can also visit their official website for more information on their career and their anti-bullying campaign. For more on Reflections, including an upcoming exclusive interview with Ray Wise himself, check back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.