The arctic thriller Black Mountain Side had its Toronto premiere at the 2014 Blood in the Snow Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Cinematography. At the festival, I sat down with executive producer Samantha McDonald and talked a bit about the film.
Sean Kelly: I’ll start by asking what exactly Black Mountain Side is about.
Samantha McDonald: Black Mountain Side is a psychological horror. It’s inspired by sort of more old school horror – we get a lot of comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing. So, it’s sort of along the lines of The Thing, The Shining, that sort of vein.
Black Mountain Side is about a group of archaeologists on an isolated dig site and these men start uncovering the top of a structure. The structure is thousands of years older than anything else found in the area, there’s symbols on it, nothing about it makes any sense, so they fly in an expert to take a look at the structure. After the expert gets to the site, the communication system goes down, they stop getting their supply drops, the isolation sorts of sets in, and the psyche of these men slowly start to degenerate. They think they’ve unearthed more than they bargained for with the structure – they think they may have found an ancient bacteria, along with possibly something else. Then it’s about them dealing with that situation
Sean: What were the inspirations behind the film?
Samantha: The script and the film is by Nick Szostakiwskyj, who’s my partner – he’s the writer and director; sort of his brainchild, so I’m not 100% sure what his influences were. Obviously, the film plays great homage to The Thing, H.P. Lovecraft is a great influence for him, and I think he just sort of dreamed it up. He told me that the idea stemmed from a very frightening dream he had – Nick has night terrors – so, these ideas sort of just come to him, in the night if you will.
Sean: What was the biggest challenge about the production?
Samantha: On my side of things, I did the financing. I had no experience in that before, so the whole process was a challenge, learning about that. And I think, in the end, it sort of came down to time. We were really racing against time, getting everything together before the snow melted. The film is set in snow – it’s supposed to be set in far Northern Canada – snow is essential. So, we were sort of racing to get the money and get everything in place before the snow melted and we would have had to wait a whole another year to start the production again.
Along with other things, there’s a creature in the film. I don’t want to say too much about it, but the portrayal of that was definitely a challenge and something we thought a lot about.
Sean: What’s one thing you want people to know about the film?
Samantha: Though this film is horror, it’s got a very strong storyline. It’s got really interesting characters and I think it is a horror film that you see and you end up caring about the people and caring about the theme and the message. So, I would say that it’s a film for horror fans that want a little something more and want something to be left to think about.
Sean: What are your thoughts on the film screening at Blood in the Snow?
Samantha: This is our third screening. We screened in Montreal (Fantasia) and then in Austin last month (Austin Film Festival), so I’m really excited to be at Blood in the Snow, because I live in Toronto. I’m going to have a lot of people I know there; lots of people who have been asking about the film for a long time. So, it would to be really great to be able to show it to a lot of friends, family, fans, and co-workers.