Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Horror’s in Fashion: Everlasting

I’m thrilled to bring you a second installment of “Horror’s in Fashion” (for the record, the title means “horror is in fashion,” not “horrors in fashion” with a random apostrophe, in case anyone was confused). I’m even more thrilled to have gotten a chance to see Everlasting, an indie horror that’s been making the festival rounds, and email with the writer/director, Anthony Stabley, about his vision for the aesthetics of the film.

Everlasting tells the story of Jessie (Valentina de Angelis) and Matt (Adam David), a couple of kids who are deeply in love, but doomed from the start.  Hoping to escape her lackluster life and dysfunctional home, Jessie asks Matt to help her move to Los Angeles, where she hopes to realize her dream of becoming a model. Matt does so begrudgingly, worried about what could happen to Jessie living out there on her own – and rightfully so, as Jessie quickly becomes enmeshed with a somewhat unseemly bunch of fetish photographers. His worst fears come true when Jessie is brutally murdered, and Matt does the only thing he can – he decides to search for her murderer.

Everlasting is a beautiful film, both story-wise and visually. More a love story tinged with genuine horror than anything else, the film is carried by the chemistry of the two leads and the striking visuals used to tell their story. It’s clear that the filmmakers were passionate about every aspect of storytelling, from colors and lighting to makeup and fashion. According to Stabley, his creative team was vital in creating a final product: “When we talk about ‘style’ in cinema then we must highlight all the creatives. My background is in production design and that certainly helps, but… without [my creative team] we couldn't have done it.

Stabley went on to explain that the film employs multiple color schemes to help viewers follow the non-linear narrative, and that his team spent months adding texture, tinting colors, and digitally enhancing the film in After Effects. That work clearly allowed the film to achieve different visual tones and moods for the various timelines, and provided the story with another layer of emotional depth the viewer can both see and feel on a visceral level.

Then there are the costumes, which are nothing short of horror heaven. Case in point – a gorgeous, goth gown (okay, it's a dress, but I like alliteration) designed by Jerell Scott, of Project Runway fame:

“Alycia [Belle] put together a wonderful ‘look book’ and had strong ideas for Jessie and the overall film. She lives in Hollywood and completely understands the vibe,” said Stabley. I won’t pretend to know oodles about fetish photography, but that “vibe” did indeed seem authentic to the gritty scenes depicted in Everlasting. Stabley said Helmut Newton was a big inspiration, which makes sense – it’s hardly a leap from Newton’s erotically charged photographs to the world Jessie inhabits.

Yes, that is Bai Ling front and center. Everlasting also features a welcome Pat Healy as a photographer who has Terry Richardson influences written all over him, lending the film an even more unsettling atmosphere. Healy constantly straddles the line between mere sleaze and potential danger, infusing photo shoots with unspoken dread. The resulting photos are often sinister in a way that's all too true to life.

In short, Everlasting did quite a job of melding together different styles to create something uniquely evocative and quietly unnerving. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the film was a feast for the eyes as well as the soul. I definitely recommend checking it out when you can (and thank you to Anthony Stabley and everyone involved for giving me an inside look at the making of this film).

Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention Jessie’s friends from Colorado, who looked like they could have been plucked from my own high school:

They think they're hard. They don't know what hard is yet, man.