‘L’Inhumain’ Director on Crafting Authentic Indigenous HorrorOctober 6, 2023 By Go Back
Every Shocktober, Hollywood Suite aims to up its spooky season game, seeking out the most memorable and groundbreaking genre flicks to shock and surprise our viewers. This year, in addition to bringing you forever favourites like The Exorcist and The Lost Boys, we have a hearty collection of new movies and series to share. One of these titles is L’Inhumain from writer/director Jason Brennan.
L’Inhumain follows Anishinaabe man Mathieu, who is in the midst of multiple personal crises, as he returns to his ancestral community following the death of his dad. While attempting to spread his father’s ashes, he comes up against a well-known, but often poorly depicted monster: the Wendigo.
In anticipation of L’Inhumain‘s broadcast premiere on Tuesday, October 10, Brennan took some time out to talk to Hollywood Suite about the making of his Indigenous horror story and the anatomy of a good on-screen scare.
I understand that this is one of the only Indigenous films that incorporates the French language. How did the lack of representation for that part of the Indigenous experience inform making this, especially given your own personal history?
The film is not the first film that uses the French language, but rather it is one of the first films that combines English, French and the Anishinaabe language in the same film. I didn’t go into it saying that I wanted to use the three languages particularly. Above all, I wanted above all to tell the story the way I desired with memories from my childhood, which combine all these languages. I wrote the film in bits and pieces, thinking to myself that certain scenes would make more sense in one of those languages.
This film tackles a familiar creature from horror history, the Wendigo. How do you feel this film is different from previous takes on the legend, especially those made by settlers?
I think for the first time the Wendigo is represented in a way it was explained by actual Indigenous elders. The creature that we see is exactly what was described to me in my own community.
I think authenticity counts for a whole lot and we’ve seen the Wendigo through a bunch of different interpretations, but often times it’s just an adaptation designed to look cool. To me, the fact that it remains very humanistic, and the teeth that it possesses, makes the creature what it is. We’ve seen antlers, hooves, wolf faces and whatever — all of these things for me aren’t really the Wendigo.
Continuing on the topic of legacy, which horror movies or creators from the past inspire you and why?
This might sound funny, but I’m not a big horror gore film fan. I am more of a psychological thriller fan, or a fan of movies that mess around with your head. I am thinking of Jacob’s Ladder, Flatliners, Vanilla Sky, just to name a few.
I love movies that try to bring you in a certain direction and then all of a sudden you realize you’re not where you thought you would be, or that leave a lasting impression on you long after you’ve seen it.
I’m always curious about how what scares a filmmaker informs how they design a scare on screen. What do you think is essential to crafting a genuinely scary scene?
Jump scares always seem to work if they’re timed right, or scenes where your main character is in danger or being hunted. But I think for us, as humans, anything that can push you to second-guess yourself, or to question what you’re seeing or believing, is enough.
In my movie, just the fact that our main character, Mathieu, finds himself alone in the forest is scary. Because if you’ve ever been alone in the bush when it’s dark, it doesn’t take long for your mind to wander. You start hearing all the different sounds and you always second-guess what you’re hearing and what’s going on around you because you can’t see and think your brain is playing tricks on you.
Which film — horror, or otherwise — do you think would make a perfect double bill with L’Inhumain?
Obviously, it would be an honour to be doubled up with one of Jeff Barnaby’s films, just because he’s the first to make an Indigenous genre film.
What do you hope audiences get out of L’Inhumain this Shocktober?
I hope that people enjoy it for what it is: an Indigenous film that doesn’t fit into a specific type and that they dig into the authentic stories about the Wendigo that come from our communities.