The Sinister Visions of Kim Sønderholm

Long time SGM readers will recognise the name Kim Sønderholm, a prolific hard working actor and director in the indie movie scene. To celebrate the release of SINISTER VISIONS our very own Indie guru Stu Willis caught up with Kim to chat about his career…

Kim Sønderholm

Stu: Hi Kim, thanks for taking the time out to talk with us here at SGM.

Kim: You’re very welcome, thanks for having me!

Stu: You’ve had quite career so far, working in radio, film, writing for magazines … Can you enlighten our readers on how you got into filmmaking?

Kim: Sure thing, well, being a huge movie geek all my life I always wanted to get into acting, and I decided to give it a go around the age of 25 when I saw an ad for a new acting school starting in Aarhus where I was born and still lived at the time, so I went to the auditions and got in, first attempt. I went there for three years and was thoroughly taught method acting by a handful of Russian actors who had moved to Denmark. I graduated in 2001 and moved to Copenhagen because that's where most of the movies coming out of Denmark are produced. Been doing pretty well since then I suppose, although I still hope for the really big roles in major productions. I've thought about moving to the UK at one time, at another to move to the US – most details were actually already in place – but something kept me in Denmark. Destiny, you name it, I don't know, I love my daily life here and I like the fact that I get to act in productions worldwide. After all, the world isn't too big to jump a flight and you can travel to anywhere in a reasonably short time for fairly few money :)

Stu: I note from your IMDb page that you’re quite a prolific actor. You often cast yourself in films you’ve directed. Which is your first love: acting, or directing?

Kim: The acting! Always has been and always will be! The directing is exciting as well but it often comes out of a need to tell a story in which I from a starting point can see myself acting in as well. Not necessarily as the leading part, but at least in some sort of capacity as an actor. Basically, I don’t think I’d ever be interested enough in directing a film if I wasn’t interested in doing any acting in it. Does that make sense?

Stu: Could you tell us a little about the 2005 film "Brutal Incasso"? It’s not one I’m familiar with; though I do know it played well on the film festival circuit.

Kim: When I went to acting school a friend of mine and I wrote an action comedy, very inspired by "Pulp Fiction" and the Danish action film "In China They Eat Dogs". It is about two antiheroes, money collectors with very bad luck who is about to get into really deep trouble because they accidently kill a client who owes their boss money. Now the boss decides to hold them personally accountable for the money and they are flat broke. The plot is pretty simple but it contains a lot of really funny scenes, I think it plays very well and the dialogue is witty and snappy. The writing took us about half a year to finish and we then shelved it. Always agreed we had to get the film made at some point when the right opportunity came. This opportunity came five years later when we presented it to an up-and-coming director I had worked with a few times who agreed to produce and direct it with us in the two lead roles. It was shot in the summer of 2004 and finally finished by the end of 2005. It was submitted to various film festivals and won a couple of awards, also distributed on DVD in the German speaking countries and Denmark. To this day I like to think it has reached a bit of cult status, I still have people write me once in a while telling me how they enjoyed the film. This sort of stuff is always nice to hear, we had a lot of fun making the film and I am happy to hear that enthusiasm shone through and still works to this day. It is a shame it never reached wider distribution but it can still be obtained on DVD if you look for it on the net.

Stu: Many readers will have first heard your name associated with the 2008 film "Craig". This must have enjoyed some success for you? Did its distribution and subsequent reputation open many doors?

Kim: Well, distribution wise it’s been a disaster due to a couple of companies messing the whole deal up tremendously. I’m quite happy about the distribution it received here in Denmark thanks to Another World Entertainment but the rest of the world it’s been a complete disaster! I’m not gonna name names here, it’s a closed chapter of my life. Yet, miraculously an amazing amount of people know and have seen the film – I don’t know if these people downloaded it illegally or whatever but in all honesty, I don’t care! Normally I would never condone such behaviour but in this particular case with my own film, I really don’t care. And I’ll tell you why - As an actor it’s been a fantastic calling card! I’ve been offered a huge amount of roles on account of that film, so in that sense it’s been great. I love "Craig" to this day, I love that fact that we went out and did it even though we had no money and I love the result. Sure some things could have been done better but considering what I had to work with at the time, I think me and my two associate producers Jan T. Jensen and Jim Pedersen really took it as far as it could be taken. It’s not a perfect film but I am still proud of it to this day. The whole distribution deal pains me not because it never really made a whole lot of money but because it inhibited a huge audience from seeing it, that’s really the only reason! I never did that film to earn money but for the love of the story, directing it, writing it and especially playing it!

Stu: You’ve been heavily involved in the "Horror Vault" series of anthologies. If this series had a manifesto, what would it be?

Kim: "Shit happens"!(???) I don’t know.. Haha!

Stu: And is this series still a going concern?

Kim: Nope it’s dead and out, it was always meant to be a trilogy and that’s it!

Kim Sønderholm

Stu: Your latest film, "Sinister Visions", is another anthology. How come it’s not called "The Horror Vault 4"?

Kim: First like said, because "The Horror Vault" was a trilogy, never was meant to be anything more. That, and because it’s really not! "Sinister Visions" does indeed have the whole anthology thing in common with "The Horror Vault", but to me that's where the similarities pretty much stop – there are distinct differences. I never wanted to do a fourth "Vault" instalment, it felt like that ship had sailed and gotten boring, but the whole anthology thing still appealed to me, and that inspired me to take what I’ve learned from the "Vault", especially the mistakes, and make this one even better, louder, more coherent. I’m not saying that I don’t like the "Horror Vault" trilogy at all, mind you, but it came from another place and had a lot of bizarre elements in it, where "Sinister Visions" is a lot more "straight" if it makes sense to call it that. The plan was only a have one common theme, something that was a little more varied on the "Horror Vault" Trilogy where everything was a little more all over the place, but it didn't become clear until much later what it would be. It occurred to me after seeing the three first produced segments what the theme would be and we worked on it from there. Basically, the common theme is the horror of interaction between the two sexes - males and females - and how the females deep down have the entire control (let’s face it, whether we care to admit it or not!)

Stu: "Succubus" plays with a classic motif and brings it up to date, complete with nudity, violence and some pretty neat demon FX. It also hinted at your love of older, more classic horror films – would that be right?

Kim: Not really. I've always been more into the slashers such as "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" other than the demonic films. That's not to say it never interested me, the first film that ever really scared me was "The Exorcist", but when I was given the opportunity to do this film I didn't think twice, I dove directly into it. I've had nudity in some of my earlier work too and I like to think there's always been a reason for it, not just nudity for the sake of nudity. And when you do a film about a female demon seducing "innocent" men, I suppose the nudity is essential – plus, let's be honest, it's not bad on the eyes, is it? Haha.. The makeup was done by, in my opinion, one of the most skilled in that field here in Denmark, a guy named Anders Lerche, who worked on a lot of different projects here in Denmark and had just finished work on one of the "Harry Potter" films as well when we did that segment ("Succubus") so it was awesome that he wanted to work on our project. The makeup took him I think nearly three hours to do but I guess it's obvious why when you see the film, because he did do a marvellous piece of work. He was definitely a guy to look out for, we will see much more of his work in the future I'm sure!

Stu: "A Woman Scorned" has a scenario that made me think of "torture porn", and yet gore doesn’t seem to concern you a great deal?

Kim: Well I don’t think you can consider that torture porn, at least not from how I perceive the term. About me and gore - that’s true. Never really saw the appeal in complete gore. Some people like it and that’s fine but to me it has always worked a lot better at a more subtle level. A good example would be the old classic "Scarface" (the one with Al Pacino, I mean!) – the famous chainsaw scene in the start of the movie. Now, we never really see anything but we feel like we do because the scene makes us work with our minds instead of just having it all served on a silver plate which in my mind often dumbs it down and kills the psychological effect! I mean in some films it works fine, I’ve acted in a couple of very bloody and gory films and it’s been fun and as a director it’s not that exciting to me. As an actor it’s always fun to be covered in sticky fake blood and made up to have your brains fall out of your head, it brings out my inner child, haha.

Stu: "Mother Knows Best" is an excellent spin on serial killer conventions. Was it inspired by any true-life sources?

Kim: I think you should ask Gary Charles who wrote it, but clearly it’s heavily inspired by the old Hitchcock classic "Psycho". I think that Robert Bloch who initially wrote "Psycho" as a novel was inspired by Ed Gein, though. I’d like to think of "Mother.." as a sort of tribute to that. It’s not ripping it out in any way, but it certainly has its nods to that old classic.

Stu: Can you tell us a little about your co-directors on "Sinister Visions"?

Kim: "My Undead Girlfriend" was directed by Henric Brandt from Sweden whose feature film "Death on Arrival" I had an acting part in years ago. He was a fun guy to work with and also contributed with a brilliant segment in the second instalment of "The Horror Vault" Trilogy which was named "The Dead Chick in the Closet", which was also hilarious. He has a wonderful macabre sense of humour that I really love and I'd love to collaborate with him again any day. He really brings the fun. As for "Genital Genocide", I know actor/producer David C. Hayes, who suggested the segment and put me in the touch with the director. David also contributed to the third "Horror Vault"-instalment with the segment "Undone", in which he also stars. Two out of the three segments I directed was written by UK screenwriter Gerry Charles whom I've known for a number of years, and the third one, "Succubus", was written by a Danish writer Lars Egholm Fischmann whom I had never worked with before. He approached me and asked if I was interested in directing the short, originally meant for the Movie Battle 2012 competition here in Denmark (which is why "Succubus" was also released on the "Supernatural Tales" compilation, which, I think, is only available here in Denmark on DVD), but as the pre-production work commenced I put up the condition that it could be used for "Sinister Visions" as well and he jumped aboard immediately at the opportunity.

Stu: The film has been released on DVD in America already. Are there plans to get it distributed in other territories, such as Europe and the UK?

Kim: We have a UK deal already but something seems to have put it on hold for whatever reason. It’s being worked on.

Kim Sønderholm

Stu: Working within the horror genre in Denmark – how restrictive do you find that? Is there much of a ‘scene’ out there?

Kim: Horror culture in Denmark is not as big as I would hope for. Horror is still considered a bit of a subgenre here even though everybody loves a good scare. It's just not considered "classy" enough I suppose so a lot of people tend to have a stiff upper lip about it, even though I'm quite sure everybody has one of two scary movies that they love. A lot of people tend to be a little snobby about it I think, ha-ha. Then, of course, we also have the total opposite here, people who live and breathe horror – complete diehard fans who will accept nothing that isn't horror. We've produced a couple of quite good horror genre films here in Denmark, but compared to the overall number of films produced here it's barely represented. Things are getting better though and people are starting to take an interest in the genre, which to me, of course is awesome. Of course most people know Ole Bornedal's "Nattevagten"/"Night Watch" and Lars von Trier's "Antichrist". A little overlooked is Shaky Gonzalez' "Nattens engel"/"Angel of the Night" which was good fun as well.

Stu: You mentioned in a recent conversation that you were working for a few weeks in France. Is that towards anything you’re able to share with our readers today?

Kim: Sure, I just finished a horror comedy in the south of France named "The Winedancers" about a group of people coming together and meeting up, in what to begin with looks very coincidentally, at a wine chateau in the South of France. it won't take long until a lot of very peculiar incidents start taking place; odd Pagan rituals, chateau hosts very far from the ordinary, people slowly going off the deep and end one by one - and most importantly: bloody murder! It offers real suspense that can almost be described as a classic game of whodunit with a lot of twists and turns!

I have the privilege of playing John, a very emotionally bottled-up guy who basically doesn’t like to take about feelings, much less admit his own shortcomings neither to himself or anyone else. John is married to Samantha and they are having great difficulty getting pregnant. Although the wish to become parents is definitely more Sam's than John's, they visit a fertility clinic and after a great argument breaking out during the consultation, the doctor advices them to first work on their marriage before anything else - and what better place to do that "in a secret place, where nobody knows who you are", as she recommends a very disclosed wine chateau in the alps of South France.

The film is very clever and witty and contains a lot of hilarious moments of dark humour as the madness unfolds, but it is also a very dark, bizarre and haunting story that I am very sure all fans of horror will absolutely adore. In fact, I even experienced going to sleep some nights after a day of shooting and having several of the scenarios continue out over my dreams, sometimes making me wake up in the middle of the night in a haze. Something like that has never happened to me before, very weird experience.

Stu: Your IMDb page lists favourite films of yours as including the likes of "Lost Highway", "Natural Born Killers", "Requiem for a Dream" … However, you’re clearly a huge fan of horror cinema. What are your favourite horror films?

Kim: I think you forgot "American History X" and "Se7en"? I also adore comedies, sometimes the sillier the better... The thing is, I don’t really wish to limit myself as to be "that horror guy" although I can see why people would think that. I basically love any sort of film that can grab me, I’m also a huge fan of "The Crow", but to me my favourite horror films – like mentioned earlier - was probably made in the 80ies, such as "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street". However to be fair, there has been made quite a few really awesome horror flicks in the recent ten years too. I’m a big fan of James Wan and Alexandre Aja (I'm a sucker for "Haute Tension"), both who I think are probably the best in the field these days. There are other great horror directors but these two somehow manage to grab my immediate attention every time!

Stu: The soundtracks to your films are often rock-orientated. Music is obviously another passion of yours – care to discuss that here?

Kim: "Hey rock rules, bra!" Haha! I’m especially a huge fan of industrial rock, Nine Inch Nails in particular. For me, their album "The Downward Spiral" is probably ‘the’ masterpiece ever for me – and a huge inspiration source for my first feature film "Craig" as well. In fact, probably an even bigger inspiration that I am aware of!

Stu: Finally, what else can we expect in the near future from Kim Sønderholm?

Kim: I'm in the very early mind-set of creating a new horror anthology. Not Sinister Visions 2 but something else. I've been approached by a filmmaker I've collaborated with before on some of the anthologies who has something up his sleeve... But hell, Sinister Visions took me 3½ years on/off to put together while I was finishing Little Big Boy, so it's not gonna be anything out this year, that's for sure. I’m also currently playing a role in a new Danish zombie flick named "Escaping the Dead" which is inspired by the incident last year when the homeless Ronald Poppo was attacked in Miami and had his face eaten by a drugged-up lunatic. He survived, and the film isn't about that, but the incident inspired it. So when I call it a zombie flick it obviously shouldn't be taken literally. In general there are good zombie stuff out there these days such as "World War Z" and "The Walking Dead", not forgetting the awesome "Shaun of the Dead" as few years ago – there are other great zombie films out there, but there is also a lot of utter garbage. I have to admit I was kinda fed up with the whole zombie thing but this project intrigued me because of the source of inspiration. Also, of course, it's always fun to be chased by zombies – you never get too old for stuff like that, haha!

Stu: Thanks a lot for your time, Kim, and good luck with SINISTER VISIONS!

Kim: Thank you very much, was a pleasure!

Special thanks to Kim Sønderholm and Apotheosis Film

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