By JORDAN VON NETZER
Horror fans have a lot to look forward to this month with films such as Firestarter, Monstrous, Hatching, The Innocents, and Men being released. Another title worth paying attention to is Shudder’s THE TWIN, starring Teresa Palmer (A Discovery of Witches, Warm Bodies) and Steven Cree (Terminator: Dark Fate, Outlander). THE TWIN very much has the same vibes as classics such as The Omen, Midsommer, and Orphan. Here’s Shudder‘s official synopsis:
“Following the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, Rachel (Palmer) and husband Anthony (Cree) relocate to the other side of the world with their surviving son in the hopes of building a new life. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces attempting to take a hold of him.”
There are many elements that stand out about this film – the cinematography by Daniel Lindholm being one of them. Lindholm does a great job of elevating the eeriness through his camera work and use of framing, especially when the family is interacting in their new house. We wanted to learn more about the film’s cinematography, so RUE MORGUE sat down with Daniel Lindholm and had him dissect the look of THE TWIN.
What about THE TWIN appealed to you and made you want to be part of it?
When I read the multilayered, psychological script about a mother’s struggle [with] losing her child, packed with a lot of suspense and drama, I just knew that this will be a visually intriguing film. It has many interesting twists, but I still felt there was room to build strong atmosphere and imagery to elevate the story. I was also inspired by my earlier experiences working with director Taneli Mustonen and knowing that the stakes were going to be high.
What did preproduction look like for you on the film? Did you storyboard scenes?
We often met and talked about the look and feel of the movie and how to create suspense and keep the viewers on their toes. Also, we felt strongly about giving room for the brilliant cast and their performances to heighten the drama. We traveled and saw locations frequently and planned according to their possibilities and also a few restrictions. I made visual mood boards that I shared with department heads and my technical crew. We had a shot list and storyboarded the bigger, more complicated scenes with action and the ones which had lots of actors and extras as well. I shot some camera and lens tests and made lightning plans together with my gaffer.
How would you describe the look of THE TWIN?
I personally think THE TWIN is a cinematic and visually stylish film. It´s crafted with a lot of passion and strives to control the image in every aspect, from the technical side to the color palette and textures that are well planned and executed in my opinion. It´s a horror movie, but we feel it´s elevated horror with high tension in the air. It´s basically also shot like a high-end drama, with a lot of haunting suspense emphasized in the camera work and lighting. Naturally, it also gives the audience the really scary twists true to the genre. I shot it widescreen anamorphic on a large format camera. We wanted to show carefully composed, really wide views and also go really close on details.
There are night scenes in THE TWIN that take place in the woods. What is key to lighting those types of shots?
This time, I actually really pushed to also shoot some stuff in the magic blue hour. We had to go back to those scenes on a few separate occasions to make it work in the limited available light. Then, there, of course, are the complicated night exteriors in nature. This is a kind of indie movie although it had big set-ups. The key is to plan the main light source and work with it. Usually, it’s a really big moonlight, very high up, mixed with smoke and other light sources like fires to motivate the lighting. Plus, a little fill and ambient light so we can read the actors. I really wanted to achieve some realism and not make it feel too forced and effective lighting-wise.
Were there any horror movies that you pulled inspiration from for THE TWIN?
Yes. We bowed to classics like Rosemary´s Baby and The Shining. For the more modern masters, we, for instance, looked at James Wan’s work like The Conjuring and Insidious.
What was the most complicated scene in THE TWIN to shoot? Why?
Probably the “Black mass” scene. Because we only had one night to pull it off with two cameras in a complex location with lots of people and a huge lightning set-up. But we made it. Editing and sound also contributed to the final result. The town hall was also shot in one day with the “Wedding swing” part that I really like. We rigged the cameras onto the swing, and I love how the scene goes into Rachel’s head. Naturally, Teresa Palmer’s amazing acting is still my favorite thing to watch.
You have worked on other horror projects before. Do you think that horror films have a different set of guidelines when it comes to cinematography?
Basically, yes. There are some different guidelines. The audience needs to be scared in the right places and have their guard up. Still, every interesting project has its own magic, and I want to bring my cinematic approach to each project no matter the genre.
Is lighting or shadows more important in horror?
This is a good question. When watching Se7en, directed by David Fincher and shot by Daruis Khondji, back in film school, I realized that shadows and darkness can sometimes be more interesting than what we see. In horror, it´s always good to let the audience imagine things as well. Was there something there in the shadows? What is behind that door or window and did the character notice what we just saw as an audience? At the same time, we also need to see emotions and have the actors in the right light at the right time. Still, I always enjoy a great silhouette.
You have worked with director Taneli Mustonen on many films. What would you say are his strengths as a director?
He can be very inspiring and always pushes me to do the best I can in terms of cinematography. He is a great storyteller and a visual director, but he also manages to get the best out of the actors as well. As we have known each other for a long time, we can sometimes go a bit crazy in a good way; One or the other finds something in the moment while working on a scene, and we just go for it spontaneously. It can tend to become some of the best stuff visually in the film.
What are you working on next?
I´m hoping to work next on an inspiring script with an interesting director. It could be a captivating genre movie, but it could also be a touching drama. The budget is not necessarily the main thing either – making a great film is. Fortunately, I also have the possibility of shooting commercials internationally while I´m looking into the next longer movie or tv-series project. I feel excited at the moment, and things tend to eventually go the right way. Nothing is locked yet.
THE TWIN is now in select theaters and streaming on Shudder. You can learn more about Daniel Lindholm at https://daniellindholm.com/.