“It so happens that this slackening, this confusion, this fragility express themselves in an infinite number of ways and correspond to an infinite number of new impressions and sensations, the most characteristic of which is a kind of disappearance or disintegration or collapse of first assumptions which even causes me to wonder why, for example, red (the color) is considered red and affects me as red, why a judgment affects me as a judgment and not as a pain, why I feel a pain, and why this particular pain, which I feel without understanding it and which I must continue to suffer so violently and so bitterly that I struggle to analyze it in an attempt to pry it loose from me… “ —Antonin Artaud in a letter to his doctor, February 19, 1932.
As a starting point for any filmmaker, Alice in Wonderland‘s surreal, dream-like sequences imbued with allegory and rich fantasy lore make it a compelling palette for painting notions of fear and the subconscious. That explains in part why Hollywood has latched onto fairy tale structures for dark reimaginings of characters and fictional landscapes that have connected us since childhood. It’s a built-in audience for filmmakers, but these stories are truly timeless.
Red Kingdom Rising writer-director Navin Dev has put his own stamp on this revisionist exploration. In an interview last year, the filmmaker shared that “Red Kingdom Rising, along with keeping to Lewis Carroll’s themes of reality and dreams, divine mathematics and psychological evolution, does adhere to traditional mythology. It tells the coming of age journey of a woman coming to terms with her past through this dark journey in her wonderland.”
Mary Ann (Emily Stride) has been troubled and tormented her entire life by dark dreams and disturbing childhood memories. After the death of her father, she returns to her family home where visions of a sinister figure, the Red King — a character her father once described in storybook fables — are awakened. Soon, Mary Ann is propelled through the dark hallways of the old house, and her mind, where she must confront the ghosts of the past — including her confused mother (Silvana Maimone), whose foray into black magic wraps a disquieting cloak around the decrepit estate. Haunting flashbacks of Mary Ann’s father (David Caron) seem to hold the key to deciphering the riddles of her unsettling journey.
Dev does a fine job at submerging us in Mary Ann’s world, thanks to his beautifully shot frames that look like pages torn from a Grimms’ fairy tale. The talents of special makeup effects supervisor Mike Peel (The Descent) and his crew, and a haunting, original score from Martin Thornton successfully complete Dev’s vision. A creepily impressive turn from actor Caron is striking, but the filmmaker’s largely unknown cast are engaging in their own right. Fans of fantasy-based horror films will appreciate Dev’s darkly atmospheric twist on the Alice in Wonderland mythology. Well-crafted and eerie, Dev’s first feature-length film is hopefully one of many independent movies we’ll be seeing from the talented director.
Visit the filmmaker’s website for more information.