Pandemic psychological thriller Hall is set to premiere at FrightFest on August 30, and we talked to director Francesco Giannini about the making of his first film, his inspirations, and his future projects.
Psychological thriller/family drama Hall will have its world premiere at FrightFest on August 30, and the circumstances surrounding the film make it especially intriguing. Hall is a horror film that centers around two women in their desperate attempt to break free from their abusive partners and escape the hotel hallway they are trapped in – which also happens to be the center of a quickly spreading virus, seemingly somewhat mirroring life as we are currently living it.
We spoke with actor-turned-director Francesco Giannini on his first feature film: here’s what he told us on how these real-life conditions affected the making of Hall, what it means to him, how it might impact viewers, and more!
Hall: Bridging the Gap Between Genres
What made you want to tell this story and what made you turn to the horror genre for your debut?
Hall was interesting to me, because the premise gave me a lot to work with stylistically. It was like the perfect blend of mystery, with a touch of sci-fi, suspense and horror. Going into this, I really wanted to bridge the gap between gore, psychological family drama and jump scares in a way that wouldn’t feel predictable.
The making of the film was a different experience, which was very important to me. It touched on everything I loved about the genre. It tested my understanding and ability as a horror fan. My brother and I have been making skits in our parents’ basement since we were kids: from original content to reenactments of other films and music performances, we were artists at heart since the beginning, and a big part of that was us doing small horror skits to spook our parents. We loved portraying the Michael Myers’ character from the Halloween franchise, which is the one of the first horror films that inspired me to explore the horror genre.
Films like The Blob, Fright Night, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play, made me fall in love with cinema. The passion for directing has always been part of me, it just evolved overtime. I believe it is when I watched the movie Ghostbusters in the late 80’s that I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker. Although I do want to explore and have explored other genres over the years, such as comedy and drama, the horror genre has been my favorite since the beginning. Hall gave me the opportunity to explore the horror genre, and making it as my debut was a dream come true.
Hall‘s Hotel as An Escape Room From a World-Wide Pandemic
From what we know about Hall, the circumstances in which the film takes place seem very eerily prevalent to the world currently. How does it feel to have this film release at FrightFest during an actual pandemic?
It feels surreal and unexpected. You’d think you’d have a better chance at winning the lottery! But in a way, I didn’t expect anything less. Film reflects society and society inspires film – even more so with this movie, as when it first came to me, two years ago, it was a zombie film. I was ready for something different, so I worked with the writer and that’s when we agreed to make it about a viral outbreak. To say that the stars aligned on their own is an understatement: I never could have expected this. Getting to have the film premiere at Frightfest, in general, is an absolute dream. At the end of the day, I’m thankful for that, most of all.
We also know that the events of Hall happen to take place within the confines of a hotel. What effects are you hoping this choice will have on viewers?
This movie was always meant to be a thrill ride, aiming to keep the audience contained. We want you to feel trapped with our characters, trying to escape the grips of something outside of their control. Putting a world-wide scale problem like an outbreak, and containing it to one specific location like a hotel hallway, was something I had never seen before, and was anxious to see.
The other major effect we want to have by filming at a hotel is to create a feeling of claustrophobia. We want to put characters in a limited space so that we can show how characters feel compressed in their life, both physically and mentally. Metaphorically, the hotel is an escape room.
Hall: Fear, Trust, Family Dynamics and a “Badass Female Lead”
It’s always refreshing to see female led horror films. How important was it to tell this story from the perspective of a woman?
We don’t need a particular reason to have a female lead in the film. So many films that inspired me and the making of Hall have badass female leads, and having the opportunity to contribute to that legacy is something none of us want to pass up. More importantly, the female characters in Hall prove the point that women are empowered to face their fears and always strive for a way out of it.
Additionally, the parent and child relationship was always an aspect that we felt was crucial in telling this story. When certain aspects of our film begin to fall into place, that mother/daughter bond and the impact that comes with that, are like the natural medium for us to tell our story. Having women as leads makes the topic of maternal love more powerful in the film. There is an ingrained connection between a mother and a child, which cannot be compared to any relationship in this world. When a mother sees how a child is affected by a bad relationship between parents, she will fight not only for her own life but also for her child’s. I believe the audience will react strongly to this.
What kind of message do you hope viewers will take away from this film?
It is important that the message of our movie is relatable to a personal level. With the pandemic that we are currently going through, the idea of the film is even more relevant to us. As we have gone through different phases of the pandemic, our attitudes toward life – or, simply, the take-aways from this film – have had evolving changes. We hope that people will understand this film more than as just a pandemic horror. Our film also touches on real and personal issues like domestic abuse, family dynamics, and the government. The central theme is trust, and the fear that comes with putting our trust in someone or something.
As a creator and filmmaker, some of these ideas expressed in films come from my subconscious, and that corresponds to human history and historical events. I think our society is reflected through cinema, and cinema is a reflection of our society. Even before some of the historically catastrophic events happened, there already were films that had projected similar scenes in advance. Eventually, we hope the audience have fun and understand that the issues we touch on are real.
What’s Next for Francesco Giannini
Lastly, can you tell us a bit about your future projects?
Franky Films has a few active projects, including a possible sequel to Hall. Our plan is to always build and build on this world. We are getting to bring back Julian Richings, whose part in this movie is so powerful and villainous. On top of a potential franchise with Hall, I’m also in active pre-production on an Italian Family-Drama that is dedicated to my father. I’m developing that with Derrick Adams, who helped write Hall. We’ve been hard at work on a few exciting projects that we hope to get off the ground soon. I’m also in the midst of developing a story based on my time as a mailman: that’s a script I’ve been developing for years. We have our work cut out for us, and we’re excited to get to work on all of it, so stay tuned. Another feature film that I’d like to mention is called Limo, a film that mainly takes place in Limosine. It seems like the concept of filming in one particular location might be a trend, haha.