French Frights: Cold Ground
Ever heard of this French found footage shot in the snowy Alps?
This French Fright wasn’t planned and yet it’ll definitely be a nice follow up to the last one, which was about Lost Bullet. There are at least five wild movies being made in France each year. What producers call a wild movie is a guerilla one, a full-length feature shot outside the system. It means no help from the government, no money, no distribution scheme.
A wild movie is a suicide mission. I’d know, I worked on a few!
But let’s get back to the beginning, because if Cold Ground was a wild movie, Fabien Delage, its filmmaker, had a plan.
French Frights: BlackAria
Never heard of this French giallo with its awesome retrowave soundtrack made by Double Dragon?
Fabien Delage is a filmmaker and a photographer. From what I gathered around the web, he also writes for Rue Morgue. And that’s nice, I love when a fellow dreamer got a job that enables him to pursue his dream.
Having graduated from audiovisual studies circa 2011, Delage decides to write a ghost hunting show. The idea stemmed from a family vacation he once had and the exploration of a house rumoured haunted by the folks of the town he resided in. From this surreal experience, Delage got a thirst for French folklore. Certainly, if such rumours existed here, there might be other places deemed haunted in France.
And so Dead Crossroads was born, with little money and a distributor as a producer, Delage decides to explore haunted houses in the French countryside. In this endeavour he was followed by Geoffrey Blandin (who would soon get a role in Cold Ground) and his friend Julien Mattizeeli.
Problem is, and Delage thought of this from the very beginning, haunted house shows are quite boring. A bunch of people in a dark house listening to every noises isn’t what’s gonna build up the tension, what’s gonna deliver a good scare. The small team starts to cheat a bit, as much as the budget enables them which is not much.
Nonetheless, the series will get released on DVD here in France and in webisodes format and sold in certain foreign territories.
This closet success is what enables Delage to try and do something grander for his second try Fury of the Demon, a mockumentary about a Georges Méliès’ movie turning every spectator crazy. For this new piece, Delage has a financer, a bit of money coming from a national tv. In the trailer, you can see some grand figures such as Christophe Gans and Alexandre Aja. Fury of the Demon would also be screened in Fright Fest.
This is what the history of the release date would tell you, but the truth was that in between his tv series and Fury of the Demon is when Cold Ground was actually shot.
According to Delage, the budget of the movie was a bit less than 30,000€ (35,000$). Seeing the IndieGogo page for the movie asked for 10k and received only 2k, it’s nothing short of a miracle the movie actually got made.
Still, one has to know that when I stated Dead Crossroads was certainly what bought Delage a bunch of US investors, it’s also where the idea for Cold Ground stemmed from. When they were location scooting for season 1 of his ghost hunting show, the trio stumbled upon this part of the Alps in which Delage really wanted to shoot.
Add to this a sincere love for the Legend of Boggy Creek and you’ll soon have a small film on your hands where a bunch of scientists try to investigate cattle mutilation in the Alps during the 70s.
US investors meant the team could order a creature suit from Carrie Thompson/ Midnight Studio Effects. Still, having a bit more money than on his first endeavour didn’t prevent another type of problem. Watching the making of, you can see the cheerness of everyone involved, yet Delage always reminisces about the snowstorm the team had to go through.
According to him, during their ten days of shoot, a storm came in, first drowning the practical props of David Scherer (the lead SFX on set) before engulfing the whole set. Soon, the crew couldn’t find their bearings. Production had to cease and to make matters even worse the truck refused to start. The whole team marched through the snow in the night two kilometers to find a motel and be able to call a cab to drive them back to camp. Dinner was delayed until 3AM on that night.
French Frights: Dead Shadows
Imagine being an aspiring filmmaker and deciding your first self produced movie would be about an alien invasion.
Delage also states that in order to shoot the final scene, they decide to literally throw the camera after having it tied to a rope. An endeavour through which they almost lost the damned thing, before Geoffrey (who was both an actor and the director of photography) climbed down the mountain side in order to retrieve it.
It’s funny watching the Indiegogo campaign and reading that the shipment of the bonuses was delayed because Delage had to work on his other endeavours. First was a second season of Dead Crossroads, and Fury of the Demon which in France got released at least one year prior to Cold Ground.
Despite its lack of visibility (it was released by a tiny distributor here in France, with The Legend of Boggy Creek as a bonus which certainly made its filmmaker smile), Delage would go on, and soon produce the horror found footage anthology 3:15 AM. I’ve heard him state that when he decided to shoot what he considers a French V/H/S style anthology, he didn’t even bother to find a French distributor since he knew no one would help him. You can still watch some of his work on Vimeo if you’d like to help.
As of recently, it seems Delage has written a Jurassic Park book, and even though the pandemy seems to have been hard on his work, only time will tell what he has in store for us.