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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [August 29, 2012]





[]  Horror tales often provide metaphors for subjects that people would rather avoid, such as child sexuality. There's the adolescent girl in The Company of Wolves, dreaming of hungry and horny werewolves. The young boy in Parents, repressing and re-imagining the shock of seeing his parents "do it." The repressed governess in The Turn of the Screw, trying to save the "contaminated" children.

While writer/director Navin Dev's Red Kingdom Rising most obviously borrows from Alice in Wonderland, it also evokes all three of those films. (I mean the 1992 Turn of the Screw, with its vibrantly colored core tale sandwiched between a dreary London prologue and epilogue).

In Red Kingdom Rising, Mary Ann (Emily Stride) returns home to check on her ailing mother, whereupon she is ensnared into a nightmarish realm of torture and sexual abuse, a fantasy world inhabited by a Red King and an Alice figure. (Are they for real or a Mary Ann's dream?)

While Alice in Wonderland offers the characters, Red Kingdom's visuals (the bright primary colors of a blood-red cloak, a lush-green forest -- soon to turn menacingly dark -- and canary-yellow dress -- best evokes The Company of Wolves.

Part of Red Kingdom Rising also parodies 1950s' domestic bliss, suggesting that its culture hid a myriad of sins. That's hardly an original theme. The 1950s have often been parodied, in comedies and in horror -- notably in Parents.

"The Company of Wolves was indeed one of the visual references for Red Kingdom Rising," Dev confirms, "but the main inspiration was Jaromil Jires's Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. That film not only had beautiful imagery, but was also embedded with key symbolism that mirrored that of Red Kingdom Rising's.

"My objective was to narrate the journey of a survivor of child abuse, and how she finally gains closure. It's a horrendous ordeal and something that never does leave your life. I wanted to put the audience directly into that subjective space, the character's own personal horrific journey. The only way to do that was to objectify all of the horrific elements in a symbolic, visual way.

"The survival of our fears and growth from them is one of the main themes of fairytales [which] lends itself to the fantasy horror genre in film."

Dev won't say whether Mary Ann's "Alice nightmare" is real or not."It's open to interpretation," he says. "We often find the resolutions in life within ourselves. The dream world for Mary Ann is a battlefield. The key thing is that when she wakes up at the end, you see the sense of peace overwhelming her, whether she physically battled her fears within a dreamscape or real realm."

Alice in Wonderland is a controversial source for pedophile metaphors. Critics have speculated that author Lewis Carroll's interest in the young Alice Liddell was ... unhealthy. But Dev sides with those who dispute that Carroll had pedophilic urges.

"In regards to Carroll’s private life, there was no inclination toward that," says Dev, who researched the author's life.



"I was fascinated by Carroll's study of divine mathematics and psychology, and the execution of them through occultism," says Dev. "Red Kingdom Rising plays on his themes of time and space, and how one can utilize them within a higher consciousness state. That’s what Alice does in her Wonderland, particularly in the Through the Looking Glass.

"I needed Mary Ann to face her deepest fears in that manner, to journey within her memories, within a symbolic and higher consciousness state, and to master them. That's visually demonstrated in the dream world of the Red Kingdom.

"Alice in Wonderland is such a recognizable story in, unfortunately at times, a superficial manner. I wanted to expand upon its themes and to truthfully show their complexity in Red Kingdom Rising."




In an era when most indie filmmakers are shooting on digital video, Dev shot Red Kingdom Rising on super-16mm film, with an Arri camera. It was digitally edited. "It was a year in post due to budget," he says, "but more importantly, I could fine-tune and emphasize the film’s fairytale characteristic.

"The film was completely self-funded out of my own pocket -- the power of the day job! I raised the money over a course of two years while making my shorts. We had a press screening of an earlier cut in London last year. We've just begun the festival circuit with a screening at the 16th Portobello Film Festival in London." Red Kingdom Rising is still seeking a distributor.



Dev trained as a Method actor at Drama Centre London, "but always had the intention of being a director. Drama Centre instilled a great ability to interpret character in an analytical and organic manner. I never went to film school, but just taught and up-skilled myself through my short films."

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