Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Numbing the pain with Christian Viel

The D.B. Clarke theatre space is hidden away in the basement of the downtown Concordia University campus in Montreal. While it normally plays home to student productions of varied results, on July 14, 2007, it opened its doors to the North American premiere of DEADEN, by Montreal filmmaker, Christian Viel. Playing as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, the premiere brought out the director himself as well as the screenwriter/star, John Fallon. Taking the stage before the film, each gentleman took a turn to say a few words. Fallon began by announcing how drunk he was. The crowd, mostly male, erupted in cheers. He went on to say how fucking amazing it was for this fucking movie to finally be getting its fucking North American premiere and how fucking difficult it is to get any fucking funding in Canada. This was peppered with bursts of cheers throughout, mostly after each usage of the word, “fucking.” Viel then took the mic. Meek in comparison although similar in stature, Viel forewarned that the first ten minutes of DEADEN have made people leave the theatre in previous screenings. He wanted to make sure we knew he would not be offended if we felt we needed to do the same. I couldn’t understand how these two polar opposite forces managed to collaborate on a film, let alone remain actual friends.

I had already been warned about the potentially horrifying opening scene in DEADEN by Viel himself when we met for coffee shortly before the premiere. Without going into too much detail, more so to save you from bringing up your lunch than giving away too much about the film, DEADEN opens with its hero, Rane (Fallon), tied up in his living room and about to be beaten and killed by three other men and one woman. His pregnant fiancée is brought in and Rane is subsequently forced to watch as she is raped and killed, along with her unborn fetus. When Rane is finally able to break free to fight back, he too is killed … or so we think. I’ve only given you the bare minimum here. The details are much more horrific. And even though his neighbours reported domestic disturbances when he was editing the sequence, Viel is surprised by the reaction …

“It’s probably the most harrowing scene in the whole film.
It caused us a few problems at screenings because it really
freaks people out. We knew it was a tough scene but we
didn’t expect the organic reactions of the people. It’s funny
because it’s all very suggestive. We didn’t have that much
money so everything is suggested. It seems though that
when it’s suggested it feels even stronger. People see
what they want but it’s all editing.” - Viel

As far as I could tell, no one walked out of this particular screening. (I've since learned that two people left.)

Fallon and Viel were inspired to make DEADEN after watching 2004’s interpretation of the Marvel comic, THE PUNISHER. The two were so disappointed with the film, (“The only thing they got right was the T-shirt.”) they originally wished they could remake it. As the rights for Marvel comics tend to be costly, they decided to make a straightforward revenge flick. The rest of DEADEN follows Rane as he snorts obscene amounts of cocaine and avenges the memory of his fiancée and unborn child, one bad guy at a time. With more and more kills to his name, who is the bad guy really? Each scene attempts to out do the one before by upping the violence and gore factor each time. Although, DEADEN walks into clichés from time to time (ie. spitting at the feet of a statue of Jesus), Fallon’s Rane has plenty of charisma to get you rooting for him at each turn of his killing spree, making it a solid addition to the revenge film sub-genre.

Another sub-genre of film DEADEN flirts with is the horror offshoot, torture porn. The idea behind the term is a film that gets its kicks and gives you yours by twistedly torturing its characters for viewing pleasure. When you have a contemporary pioneer of the genre like SAW 2 & 3 director, Darren Bousman, referring to DEADEN as “not only raw and brutal but unforgiving,” you’ve got to wonder if maybe you’ve gone too far. Viel thinks not …

“There are elements of torture porn in the opening sequence
but at the same time, it’s not something we tried to do on
purpose. It has its own purpose; it’s the motivation. It’s vital
to the story. It’s not just for shock value. I don’t like that.
Good drama involves pain and sometimes torture because
you need the motivation for the characters to move on or
an actual reason for things to happen. There may be a primal
pleasure to be derived from that but beyond that, there’s
nothing." - Viel

Regardless of or perhaps thanks to the film’s violent nature, DEADEN has found an American distribution deal which will likely see the film rolling onto DVD this fall. This success, as well as the international success of Viel’s RECON trilogy, are great signs for the Montreal film community and their development and production should serve as models for future generations of local filmmakers. Ever since the Canadian government became involved in the decision making process for funding film projects, it has become increasingly more difficult to get mainstream or even excessive yet accessibly violent films made. The emphasis is placed on more experimental or supposedly artistic fare. At the other extreme, Hollywood is busy recycling ideas and cannibalizing themselves to make the most money possible in the least amount of time. In response to this, Viel founded Movie Seals Productions. Movie Seals Productions does not wait for funding to come its way. Their logic is to make the movie any way you can but make it well. Then, get it seen and start generating revenue with it in any market that will take it so you can get to work on your next movie. In the world of home movie libraries and pay downloading, each movie made has the potential for a long life ahead. More importantly, Movie Seals Productions makes movies that Viel wants to see.

“It’s starting to feel like a sausage factory. That’s why
I want to make movies that I would want to watch. More
and more, the movies I want to watch, I don’t see anymore.
Maybe it’s old school, maybe I’m getting older but I know
what pleases a certain portion of the population and it
makes us enough money to keep making more so why not?”

Judging from the cheers DEADEN got every time Rane crushed someone’s head or lit someone on fire, Viel is not just making movies for himself anymore.

For more information regarding DEADEN, Movie Seals Productions or Christian Viel, please visit the following websites:


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