In eight years of co-creation, the director’s duo of Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson have made a dizzying journey from DIY fiction (DIY – Do It Yourself or do it yourself) for 20 thousand dollars to the sci-fi action Edge of Time starring Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie. And ahead of them is the already launched Vagabond Season 2 series, based on the comics of the Marvel universe, with Ethan Hawke and Oscar Isaac.
The story of their friendship began in 2012, when two future directors (and at that time only trainees) met in the corridors of the Ridley Scott Creative Group (Ridley Scott’s creative studio). It was Benson’s last day on the job and Moorehead’s first. In the movies, this accidental meet cute could have been a great start for a rom-com, but in real life it gave rise to a long-term creative community. By that time, Benson had already saved 25 thousand dollars for his first film and invited a new friend to take part in the filming.
Soon they began work on Break, a chamber sci-fi drama with elements of mystical horror. Here, several main themes were determined at once, which the directors will consistently integrate into all their films – the bromance of two inseparable friends, a time loop and psychotropic substances as a marker of a change in reality.
According to the plot, a successful designer Michael comes to pull his marginal friend and artist-loser Chris out of the abyss of drug addiction (the professions of the protagonists are an important detail, because closer to the finale there is a philosophical conversation between them about the meaning of creativity). The latter lives in an abandoned hut, smokes unidentified dope and flatly refuses to go to the clinic. Then a caring comrade handcuffs him to the radiator, hoping that the illness will recede within a week. But instead, the surrounding reality begins to more and more resemble a narcotic arrival, and unkind omens in the form of photographs, film, vinyl and CDs are literally pouring down on the heroes from the sky. The essence of all these artifacts boils down to the following – their story will not end with anything good.
Time loop around San Diego
The main filming location for “Breaking” was a hut owned by Benson’s father and located an hour’s drive from the California city of San Diego. The film crew was housed in a children’s summer camp. It is easy to guess that the life of filmmakers was not much different from what the viewer saw on the screen. The co-authors masterly coped with the lack of a budget and shot a “Happy Season 3” , after which it became clear that they would not be limited to one picture.
Indeed, two years later, at the Toronto festival, their next film, Spring, premiered – a romantic horror about the relationship of a simple American boy and a chimera girl against the backdrop of picturesque Italian landscapes. Guillermo Del Toro himself called the picture the best horror of the decade . Unsurprisingly, for their next project, Moorehead and Benson raked in a $ 1 million budget, returned to the filming location of Breaking, and played the time loop story to its fullest.
In the film “Paranormal” they not only acted as directors, screenwriters, editors and producers, as always, but also played the main roles of brothers Aaron and Justin – on-screen alter egos. By the way, Moorehead, although he is in the frame, is listed as the operator of the picture, as in the case of their previous projects.
The directors developed one of the episodes of “Breaking”, in which the main character meets members of the sect of UFO fans. They are played by Moorehead and Benson, dressed in white robes. It is they who become the protagonists of The Paranormal – brothers who once fled from the Arcadia sect on the eve of mass suicide. Ten years later, they decide to return and find that their former associates are alive and well. Sectarians worship a certain intelligent entity in heaven who communicates with believers through snapshots taken from the upper angle. Soon, the heroes meet several strange characters who are forced to experience their own death over and over again, and understand that time in this place moves nonlinearly. It is even possible that they themselves have become hostages of a cyclical time trap.
Benson and Moorehead are in and out again. They control the camera, which now and then soars into the heavens, filming what is happening from the point of view of the very creator that controls the time loop in which the heroes are forced to exist. The directors expose the process of creating a movie, reminding the viewer that they are facing a created reality. So the heroes of “The Asterisk War Season 3” at some point realized that they were inside the film, and in “Paranormal” the invisible deity is likened to an editor, gluing time at his own discretion.
The film was once again praised by critics (92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes ), and even nearly paid off at the box office. The next project of the directors promised to be a larger-scale embodiment of their original ideas.
This is partly what happened – “Edge of Time” again tells the story of two close friends, this time paramedics, Steve and Dennis (Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan). They are faced with the emergence in New Orleans of a drug called Synchronic, which can transport a person into the past. Some of the victims of addiction die from collision with revived visions from different historical eras, others are lost without a trace in time. This is the case with the daughter of one of the main characters, the only way to find her is to try Synchronic with all the ensuing consequences in the form of teleportation during the times of mammoths and the war between North and South.
Not without losses – in comparison with the previous films of Moorehead and Benson “Edge of Time”, the cinema is much more ingenuous, spectator. The esoteric study of the nature of cinema gives way here to the eternal themes of family ties and friendship, which previously worried directors (in “Spring” the hero experiences the death of his mother, in “Paranormal” a significant place is given to the relationship of brothers).
In the new work, the visionary pictures of the past are just a background for a family drama: the bachelor and reveler Steve finds out that he is terminally ill, and now the only way to make the rest of his life meaningful is to sacrifice himself to save the daughter of his best friend Dennis. So it is he who begins to take the drug and move to different time periods, hoping to find a girl and for order (and as a tribute to the previous films of the duo) recording his experiments on video.
In an interview for the release of the film, Aaron Moorehead says that they aimed to portray time travel as something terrible. “In no case should we return to them, instead we should be in the present. In a sense, the film shows that human relationships are one of our most important values. ” Indeed, in many famous films, Overlord Anime Season 4 teleportation is shown as an exciting adventure and attraction. And, perhaps, it is in this desire to reform the science fiction genre of travel to the past and the future and to show the other side of such wanderings, Moorehead and Benson remained innovators.