It’s nighttime inside a large country house. The camera moves from golden, candle-lit rooms to dark moonlit shadows as the suspense cranks up into spine-tingling horror. Occurring at the beginning of forthcoming feature Fox Trap, this scene is a favourite of the production’s DP Beatriz Delgado Mena.
“Many horror films are shot with harsh colours, but we deliberately went for a low-key light with warmer colours for inside and blue imagery for external shots,” she explains. “I also liked the last day of the shoot when we lit the inside of the house through a window with a 2K Fresnel to capture the look of sunset and shadows beautifully.”
Fox Trap sees a group of school friends reunite in a remote manor house, although they are targeted by a masked maniac hell-bent on revenge. Harking back to the low-budget slasher pics of the 1980s, such as Curtains (1983) and House On Sorority Row (1983), British indie-house Proportion Productions sought the high quality and expressionistic production values of films such as Dario Argento’s classic Inferno (1980) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
Debut director Jamie Weston and his DP sought to give the piece a distinct look and rhythm by mixing handheld camera work with smooth tracking shots on dollies and tripods.
“Jamie and I both come from artistic backgrounds and wanted to give this an elegance rather than the harsh and direct look that is common to the genre,” explains Delgado Mena. “We felt that tracking would allow us cover lots of scenes with one take, showing the whole of the action and making the story more immersive for the audience.”
The producers elected to shoot with a Sony PMW-F5, a camera Delgado Mena was very familiar with having used it to lens her previous feature, Rancour – coincidentally also a horror. “The F5 was a perfect choice for this type of film,” she explains. “It is efficient and versatile, giving me a wide lens choice.”
Delgado Mena had her pick from a set of six lightweight Zeiss Compact Primes (ranging from 18mm T.3.6 to 21mm 35mm 50mm 28mm and 85mm). Recording was made in S-Log2/3 to SxS Pro cards and backed up on set.
“It may not be an Alexa but it is still a very good camera,” she says. “VMI did a great job securing a whole package for us at a very good price and supporting us for the whole month of shooting.”
The package included dollies, tracks and shoulder rig as well as 5.6” TV Logic viewfinder monitor, an ND filter and four Pro-Mist filters, which provided the dominant aesthetic. Two HMI 1.2Ks and a 2K Fresnel plus three 150W Dedolights and a 800W Redhead lamp were on Delgado Mena’s lighting cart.
“On a low budget production the schedule is tight and you have to be prepared to do multiple jobs,” she says. “On Fox Trap we mostly worked nights from 5pm to 5am giving us little time to see rushes. An audience won’t be aware of any of this. They won’t know how tight the schedule was, nor that I was both camera operator and focus puller. But I was very satisfied with what we achieved. With the resources we had, we made it work and I don’t think it could look any better.”
Principal photography took place in January on location in Somerset with the picture timed for a May 2016 theatrical release.