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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.21.22] horror action war

Movies about WWII and the Nazi's creating some sort of supernatural entity/soldier/curse to help them win the war have become quite common over the past few years and while the staying power and quality of these varies wildly, once in a while one comes along that surpasses expectation. WarHunt is definitely one of those.

Written and directed by Mauro Borrelli, WarHunt stars Robert Knepper as Sergeant Brewer, a seasoned veteran who leads a group of soldiers into Germany's Black forest to secure the top-secret cargo that was lost when a US military cargo plane crashed. Among his soldiers is Walsh (Jackson Rathbone), a soldier with specialized training that will prove helpful to this particular mission.

It's clear from early on that WarHunt is going to be more than your average rescue mission but it's also not the typical horror movie you might expect. Borrelli is clearly a director who appreciates the slow-burn and WarHunt unfolds with a care and purpose that isn't always present in these types of movies. There are few jump scares and little in the way of gore instead, Borrelli uses the overpowering creepiness of the location to create tension and its hugely effective - as is Borelli's attention to detail and overall quality of the visuals; something which I expect can be attributed to the director's background as an illustrator and concept artist.

We recently had a chance to speak with Jackson Rathbone about WarHunt, his first experience with a horror movie, working with Knepper, and what it was like to shoot on location in Latvia.

WarHunt is available in theatres, on demand, and digital on January 21.

Quiet Earth: What appealed to you about WarHunt?

Jackson Rathbone: Well, they were smart and sent me an offer that had a cast list attached! The other factors were the supernatural and the historical fiction elements.

I've been looking to do horror for a few years now and I've turned down many, many horror projects for one reason or another, but this one really appealed to me.

How did you go about preparing for the role? There is a bit of backstory to your character that's alluded to but we don't really fully learn about.

I think there are a couple of cuts in the final piece that we added that suggest a larger backstory that didn't quite make the final cut. I don't want to give too much away right now but Walsh is a mysterious character. He's special forces and maybe "special" is supernatural - or maybe it's not. We have to watch the movie to know but he certainly knows more than he lets on.

Over the course of your career you've worked with a number of directors who are artists and have strong artistic vision. I'm curious about your experience working with Mauro Borrelli who has a background as an illustrator and a concept artist.

Directors create the energy onset. 99 times out of 100 whatever that energy is, it becomes contagious. It's not always just about their vision but it's about how they go about affecting their vision and to have an illustrator or someone with the background of illustration, you're able to see a lot more of what the end vision is going to be.

When I saw the drawings for the supernatural elements and then to see the set pieces come to life at the end of the film, especially in the third act... I thought they did an incredible job of designing and then bringing to life these designs from the mind of a mad Italian director.

You shot on location in Latvia. Can you talk a bit about that experience?

You know, there's a blessing and a curse to being on location as opposed to a stage. I've done them all from multi-million dollar productions shooting on sound stages to shooting in a producer's mother's house. I've run the gamut and the filming in Latvia was wonderful. They have an incredible film industry there and the stages were amazing. The artisans from makeup and wardrobe to the set designers and builders were fantastic. And then the natural elements of the film are so stunning.

The forests are so beautiful and they look like they do in the film. There were many scary aspects to the woods which really come through.

It was fantastic except when the pandemic started. Things started to get bad all over the world but we were in the middle of this smaller nation but in the end, we were affected too and ended up having to shut down filming and went on hiatus for two months.

Was it difficult to ease back into the role of Walsh after being away from production for two months?

Honestly, it wasn't too difficult to get back into the character. I say the main difficulty was putting the weight of the world away. I've always been very good about coming in and out of character. I'm not quite a method actor, but I believe in method in the moment and truly being prepared between action and cut and so I'm good at letting go between takes.

COVID was just one of those things that was all you could talk about and there was so much more uncertainty back then, but there was also a lot of camaraderie. I think the pandemic did make us more of a unit and really brought us together.

You mentioned how some of your fellow actors were part of the reason you took the role. What was it like for you working with actors that you admire?

Well, getting to work with Robert Knepper was a joy. I always get nervous when I work with people I look up to because you know what they say: don't meet your heroes, right? He couldn't have been more of a gentleman. Just a lovely guy. It's funny because his screen presence is so different than his true nature and sense of humor. Being able to work with him is a lesson in character acting.

The great sadness for me about WarHunt is that because of the pandemic, I wasn't able to film with Mickey Rourke. We had to film our scenes without each other. He filmed his side with a stand-in for me and I filmed my side with a stand-in for him.

But you know, the editors and producers did an incredible job splicing us together seamlessly. Even my wife who was there with me during filming was surprised that we didn't shoot together.

You learn something new from every job. What was the one thing that you take away from making WarHunt?

There's definitely a sense of trusting your instincts and also not being afraid to take chances. The thing I love about Robert's performance is that he just goes all out and he really puts it on the line and if you do that truthfully, it looks great. He's not forcing it. He's a master of doing and making it true and so to watch him bring that level of intensity and having it come from a natural place… it's very commanding.

And I love his voice. I love the way his voice carries such power. It's fascinating. I want to go to his voice coach or start working with his voice coach!

WarHunt is available in theatres, on demand, and digital on January 21.

Recommended Release: WarHunt

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Digger (1 year ago) Reply

Aside from Mr. Rourke being horribly miscast in this roll, the film was pretty good!


HIGHLANDGHOUL (1 year ago) Reply

I currently live in Latvia and met someone from the the production who said that Rourke was a nightmare to work with. Required the crew to not look at him (really), did not learn any lines, so read off cue cards, went out of his way to make everyone's life a living hell. I'm curious to see this movie more now after this interview.

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