The director of the horror-themed zombie game “Post Mortem” talks his upcoming project. He shares stories from making YouTube videos for their IndieGoGo campaign, how they came up with some of the ideas and gameplay mechanics in Post Mortem, and what he thinks about video games as a whole.
Péter Bergendy, the director of Post Mortem, a horror movie that was released in 2020. He talks about how he got into filmmaking and his inspirations for making this film.
INTERVIEW – We recently saw Post Mortem, which we felt was a really well-made, atmospheric, and adequately terrifying picture that is also worth watching in a theater for its visual universe. We met down with the filmmaker, Peter Bergendy, after the screening to discuss a variety of topics relevant to the film and the horror genre.
: Although horror films have been created in Hungary in the past, it is a largely “forgotten” genre in our nation. Why have we had to wait so long for a vital and major horror picture to be filmed in our country?
Péter Bergendy (Péter Bergendy): Hungary isn’t exactly known for its expertise in the horror genre. There were two silent films in this genre, one of which was more science fiction and the other of which is gone, so we don’t know much about it. Although independent filmmaking has been attempted, no horror films of this magnitude have been produced. One explanation for this is because before the government shift, horror was designated a bourgeois genre, and movies were prohibited from theaters. This reputation had persisted to the point that, when we began production, the jury remarked, “And now we can’t create a horror picture in Hungary.” We eventually persuaded them that we would make a good film, but it was not an easy task. Following the test and the popularity of Trezor, I decided it was time to produce a horror film, since I’ve always been interested in the genre. Then, because of that and our desire to produce a good picture, we were able to overcome the first reluctance. The choice to say yes was made unanimously in the end. It was undoubtedly a difficult journey. They said yes as a result of my prior films.
tG: What is it about this genre that draws you in?
B.P. : I was fortunate enough to be able to see horror movies as a kid. Big Hollywood pictures were released in Super 8 format before the government transition, such as The Exorcist, The Omen, and other horror films I had previously seen. Of course, this does not imply that I exclusively like films in this genre; for example, I went to the movies to see Bud Spencer in the day and Ingmar Bergman’s The Pass in the evening. Then, my movie-watching habits were a little different. Then, as a psychologist, I prepared a thesis on horror film psychology. I dealt with the symbolism in it as well as the personalities of horror movie fans, so I stayed close to the flames. After a few years, I returned to the genre when I finally got the opportunity to produce a picture like this.
tG: What about the cinema age fascinates you the most?
B.P. : I like historical dramas. Creating a universe that doesn’t exist is both a challenge and a fun game for the filmmaker. Then you may get caught up in the minutiae of whether that phonograph is a genuine phonograph or how old the camera is. I’ll tell you that everything in the movie is authentic and accurate for the time period in which these technologies were created.
tG: However, on one website, it said that the camera’s top is made of plastic…
B.P.: They did write one, but it’s not made of plastic; it’s made of metal that’s been painted black. In one setting, the gleaming metal behind the paint wear may be seen. Whoever wrote that didn’t take to the trouble of pointing out that it’s not plastic; they couldn’t see that it’s authentic. It’s fantastic to do a historical picture like this, which is why I felt it was an appropriate location for a film like this. The decade after 1918, on the other hand, was the darkest, most severe, most tragic in Hungarian history. It’s no coincidence that we placed our film at this time period, since this is when the spirits come to life. Not to mention the Spanish flu outbreak that swept the nation at the time. My colleague Gábor Hellebrandt and I felt it would be fascinating to compare post-mortem photos to ghost tales since there may be some intriguing parallels. I’ve discovered that people are drawn to these post-mortem photographs because they seem disturbing and odd to us. And my fascination with ghost tales stems from the fact that they terrify me, but other horrors do not. In this period, we sought to mix the two.
tG: The main character strikes me as a likeable individual who isn’t gifted with significant character features, but rather a character through whose eyes we observe events. Like Willard in Apocalypse Now, he’s a ‘neutral’ figure. How deliberate was that decision?
B.P. : It was a deliberate choice since Viktor Klem was cast in the starring part for a reason. He is well-liked by the crowd and might serve as a terrific spark in the picture. He becomes engrossed in the occurrences; he travels to the hereafter and encounters the spirits in their true form. He must take action in this regard. He meets a little girl who has also seen the hereafter, and via the channel of an otherworldly experience, they form a father-daughter bond.
tG:What horror films from Europe, America, or Asia do you like, and which ones have influenced you?
B.P. : Oddly enough, I’m not a fan of Asian horror films, yet my picture may perform well there since ghost tales are popular there. The Exorcist, a period picture, and Halloween, which I saw in a Munich theater in 1979, are two of my favorites. Perhaps The Shining – with the exception of the final 10-15 minutes. A total misunderstanding of the original work since the protagonist cannot freeze to death. He needs to blow out, exactly as he did in the story. It’s also one of the scariest and most well-known horror flicks ever made.
tG: Have you watched Doctor Sleep, the most recent sequel?
B.P. : It was difficult for me to see the whole thing; I could only read half of the book. I’m not sure why the whole sect thing was necessary. Everything went horribly wrong.
tG: What were the most difficult and thrilling filming moments?
B.P. : They’re all of them. When we first estimated how many days we needed to film, it came out to 55, but our budget only allowed us to acquire 41 days. That meant we had to speed through the shoot and do everything in a hurry. We just filmed the sequences one or times before moving on. Unfortunately, such is the nature of Hungarian cinema, but the same could be said of Trezor or The Exam. However, there are more time-consuming aspects of a film like this, such as stunt work. Hungarian stuntmen are accustomed to having lots of time for everything in American films, so they take their time. We don’t have the time to shoot, therefore none of this will work here. We had some issues with it at first, but we eventually came to terms with it. What was challenging was that you can’t produce an action-packed picture in a short amount of time, and this film had a lot going on. My original goal was that if a spectator paid a high-priced movie ticket, they would receive a lot of value for their money. We made every effort to add as much enjoyment, excitement, and even comedy as possible. All of this, I hope, will be appreciated by the audience.
tG: Three of your favorite movies were mentioned: The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Shining… All three have kid characters, and they’re all horror films that aren’t intended for children, like Post Mortem. I’ve seen interviews and articles about how these films pay special attention to the youngsters so that they don’t have to deal with the horrific components themselves. The issue arises as to how Fruzsina may have been shielded from the most traumatic horror moments, given that she had several sequences with dead corpses, for example. Isn’t it possible that she was insulated from the horrors?
B.P. : It didn’t seem that bad on the set. Fruzsi dealt with a psychologist on a regular basis. By the way, Fruzsi like scary movies. It’s about the age of 12 that individuals begin to watch horror films. When you scream and hide under the covers while watching a horror movie on TV with a buddy or lover. Making horror movies, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. In some ways, it’s a game. We used to act like we were playing it. We told him everything and went through everything with him. One of the kid performers was unaware that he would be joined by a figure wearing a mask on his face at one point. He needed to be informed it was a mask and shown who was behind it since he was terrified. We went through everything with him. We didn’t leave him alone with the incident; instead, we helped him digest it. By the way, the presence of children in these films is no accident since adults may remember childhood experiences shown in horror films, allowing them to revisit and process them. Not simply through viewing the movie, but also by discussing it afterwards.
tG: By the way, Fruzsi, have you watched the movie?
B.P.: Yes, we held a showing of the film with four or five of us after it was finished, and we invited him.
tG: And you weren’t scared at all?
B.P.: You’d have to ask her that. I hope she was terrified, since that’s the entire purpose of a horror film, right? That’s different, however, since we’re in a movie. If we’re afraid, it’s not in the same manner that everyone else is.
In the first part of tG: Post Mortem, there are slow-building psychological aspects, while in the second half, there are more standard, popular answers. Was there a certain path the movie intended to take?
B.P. : These sluggish, tense passages aren’t particularly in trend in today’s horror flicks. Young people nowadays are used to fast-paced entertainment. When you look at films with comparable themes, you’ll notice that the lengthier, tense parts aren’t as lengthy. But, because I’m creating this film and like that genre, I figured I could afford to include some of the more traditional horror sequences at the start. Like in movies when the protagonist spends a long period in a terrifying location and nothing occurs. Those are fantastic.
tG: It’s the Hitchcock school, yes…
B.P. : That’s right. As a result, when we wait for something to happen, it either occurs or does not happen. However, at the conclusion of the film, you must spice up the events in order to hold the audience’s attention. Yes, there are… You may call them “cliches,” but I wouldn’t call them that, since is kissing a cliché in a love film? It’s cliched, but a decent romance film isn’t complete without a kiss. Similarly, there are situations in this one that we may have seen before, but they are still necessary. So, although a scenario in which the monster races towards us and attempts to capture us is cliched, it is nevertheless a necessary part in a horror picture. At the same time, I believe our film has unique aspects, such as fatalities or other frightening scenes that I have not seen before.
tG: By the way, I’m curious as to what it is about American horror films that makes them no longer terrifying enough. (I like Post Mortem for the same reason.) Now I’m thinking of the latest horror film The Conjuring, which was a terrible letdown… So, why is horror filmmaking in America moving in this direction? Why are they struggling to maintain the appropriate degree of fear mongering? Is our arousal threshold so high?
B.P. : There are two reasons… One is that it is difficult to do. Creating something amazing is a man’s job. I’m not sure how to go about doing it… I believe there are some terrifying bits or situations in this film. I’m very certain there is at least one, which is quite an accomplishment given that I have no idea how to produce a horror picture. I’ve seen a number of these, but they’re not simple to make.
On the other hand, today’s films are becoming more fast-paced, which I believe makes being terrifying counterproductive. As a result, I imagine things occurring rapidly and then moving on. In a horror picture, there needs to be a certain amount of slowness… which we didn’t dare to do until in the first third. Unfortunately, today’s youth are used to quick results, and they, in my view, do not function in today’s horror flicks.
I’d also add that in order for anything to be sufficiently ill, it need a creator with the right personality. So I believe Andy Muschietti, who directed Mama and IT, and James Wan, who helmed the first two The Conjuring films, share a certain “disease” in their works. I don’t believe I have that illness. I have the fun that is required in horror films, but they have a quality about them that shines through in their work. Post Mortem includes some of that, but the creator must be ill in order for it to be even more sickening.
tG: Let’s just say that Wan’s most recent picture, Malignant, was more sickly than fantastic.
B.P. : It’s also worth noting that he’s a gifted individual, thus while being a fast-paced horror film, the original Among Demons has some extremely brilliant answers. However, his most recent picture, Eleven Diseases, is a complete disaster. Why? How? This one was created by him… What makes you think that’s a good idea? What happened to the other one? As a result, it demonstrates how difficult it is to determine what makes a horror picture succeed. In the case of Post Mortem, we’ve absolutely captured the mood and milieu, and there are both frightening and hilarious elements. It’s also a viable horror picture, as shown by the fact that it’s gone to so many festivals and won so many accolades.
tG: Video games are growing more popular these days, and they are even catching up to the world of movies in terms of storyline. Post Mortem, by the way, reminded me a lot of the Silent Hill series, particularly Silent Hill 2. By the way, how acquainted are you with that?
B.P. : I’m not very acquainted with that series of games, but I own a few.
tG: Here’s another example: The Medium, which uses a very exciting solution, as we see the real world and the afterlife in parallel, and in which we play a young girl who investigates ghosts and the souls of the dead in a ruined Polish SZOT resort, and in which we play a young girl who investigates ghosts and the souls of the dead in a ruined Polish SZOT resort. It’s definitely worth taking a look at.
B.P.: Okay, I’ll look into this one since I’ve never heard of it before, but there are a lot of survival horror games out there. I don’t like most of them since they take a lot of time, and I don’t enjoy games that demand a lot of time. In real life, you have to accomplish a lot of things on time, but in the game, you don’t have to – that’s why I don’t enjoy such kinds of games. However, back in the day (the games were launched in 2000), the Blair Witch Project was made into a trilogy, and one of the games has a similar vibe to Post Mortem. It is set in a community after the American Civil War. This “village horror” subject has been used in films, and terrific films have been created, but the games are unquestionably the best in the category.
tG: Resident Evil Village, the most recent installment in the Resident Evil series, is set in a village (as the title indicates) and in Transylvania, therefore it’s the game that everyone linked with Post Mortem when it was revealed.
B.P.: That’s exactly why this picture may go well in other countries, since it’s Hungarian, which conjures up images of Transylvania and Dracula – it sounds intriguing.
tG: Is there going to be a sequel? This is what the finale appears to imply…
B.P. : We got eleven prizes in Toronto, one of which was for “The picture we most want to see a sequel to.” So that’s something I can bring up, that it’s time to start the sequel. During the production of the film, we had a number of ideas that we decided were better suited for a sequel. In a little Hungarian village in the 1920s, there is already a tram, and it would be interesting to do something more seancey and esoteric with our two characters. We’ll check to see whether it’s doable.
tG: Can we expect another horror film from you if the sequel to Post Mortem fails?
B.P. : I’ve got more horror in the bag; for example, I’d want to produce a teen horror about attractive young people murdering one other. Then there’s a ghost tale concept that takes place one night in an abandoned home when a group of university students studying parapsychology – five or six individuals, including the professor – go, and strange things happen to them. It’s a different thing because Hungary may not become a horror power after Post Mortem, so we can’t say if we’ll get the chance to do so. I’d be delighted to do it; if not, I’d continue to do historical films.
tG: What is it, by the way, that prevents producers from producing Hungarian horror films?
B.P. Says That it “still does not belong to the category of good pictures.” Despite its international success, the genre is regarded as a layer film.
-BadSector- conducted the interview.