Interview: Director Patricio Valladares Talks How Black Metal + Found Footage Horror Came Together In ‘Invoking Yell’

Photographer credit : Vittorio Farfan Barria
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How does one create truly evil black metal? To create art that is haunting, disturbing, and that embodies terror? This is the goal of an all-female Chilean black metal band in the new and upcoming found footage horror movie, Invoking Yell.

Written by Barry Keating and Patricio Valladares, and directed by Valladares, Invoking Yell is set in the 1990s and follows three young women who head into the woods to create a cursed black metal demo. The two members of Invoking Yell (also the name of the band) Andrea (played by María Jesús Marcone) and Tania (Macarena Carrere), are accompanied by Ruth (Andrea Ozuljevich), who brings her camera with her to record the band’s creative process. While in the woods, the band hopes to record the screams and wails of spirits, using their voices to bring a genuine element of horror to their music. However, what starts out as a relatively innocent creative adventure turns into something much more sinister.

Not only is Invoking Yell a gripping work of found footage horror, but its inclusion of black metal is far from surface level. Set in the ’90s, Invoking Yell plays into the controversial theatricality that took place during the second wave of black metal – an exploration that writer-director Patricio Valladares tells us was intentional.

We had the opportunity to talk with Valladares and learn about how the film came to be. He shares with us his creative vision that shaped Invoking Yell into a found footage flick, what drew him to explore the ’90s black metal scene, and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Pit: What inspired you to create Invoking Yell in the form of found footage horror? What is it about the genre that you are a fan of and what do you think makes found footage scary?

Patricio Valladares: I’ll start with how the idea was born. I was drawing one night; I create some comic books alongside working in film. I was listening to Spotify on shuffle and suddenly I came across a very strange band. It had this eerie, atmospheric vibe. I glanced at my phone and the band was called Aghast. I quickly looked up the band and listened to all of their albums. That’s when the idea of making a film about an all-female black metal band was born. I realized I had to shoot this quickly because autumn is just a month away, and the forest would look amazing on camera. If I didn’t hurry, I’d have to wait another year to film. That’s when it hit me – the found footage style would fit this project perfectly. It would also give it a documentary-like and vintage feel.

Now, why did I choose the found footage style? It was due to budget constraints and aesthetics. Nowadays, we see a lot of analog horror trends on TikTok. It adds a sense of realism. So, for this project set in 1997, shooting it as if it were captured on a VHS camera at 30 frames per second felt like going back in time. I’m really pleased with the outcome.

When it comes to your taste in metal, what are you into? What inspired the decision to incorporate “suicidal depressive black metal” in the movie? Was there something specific about black metal you thought would work well for the narrative?

PV: I’ve been into metal since my adolescence. I started like most people with Metallica or Megadeth. Then I discovered Slayer and Napalm Death, and eventually, I ended up listening to underground bands as extreme as Anal Cunt, Agathocles, Regurgitate, and more, along with a bunch of Chilean death metal like Pentagram, Death Yell, Sadism, Undercroft, Atomic Aggressor.

A few years ago, I came across a band called Silencer, with a funny story behind it. I started delving deeper into this genre when I already had the concept for Invoking Yell in mind. Essentially, it’s more atmospheric with screams or wails, which was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t want the typical female band playing instruments. I wanted the band to be more experimental. I thought those twisted screams could contribute a lot to the narrative and explain why the girls wanted their first demo to be cursed. That’s where the idea of EVP recordings was born – them recording that phenomenon on their track.

The ’90s marks the second wave of black metal, with the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal, and others coming onto the scene. Some of these artists were driven to create “evil” sounding music, and that’s something that the characters in Invoking Yell are striving to do. Were you purposely trying to capture an ethos of what was going on in black metal during the ’90s? 

PV: Yes, absolutely. But with a Latin American spirit. Consider that many say the Brazilian band Sarcofago played a significant role in the origins of Mayhem. So, the ’90s marked the peak of black metal. In Chile, black metal emerged in the late ’90s; I believe the first Chilean black metal bands started to appear around 1996 to 1999. I suppose cassette tapes of Mayhem or Darkthrone had already been widely pirated in Chile by then. But yes, Invoking Yell is certainly heavily influenced by those bands.

However, I also try to incorporate elements from other macabre stories of more extreme bands, like a German NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) band called Absurd. They also have a history involving criminal activities within their formation.

What attracts me the most about these bands are their somewhat schizophrenic, naive, and egotistical personas. It’s incredibly appealing for a movie. Alongside that, I love that raw sound, recorded with few tracks and using rudimentary sound equipment.

The outdoor scenes at night are incredibly creepy, can you walk us through what it was like to shoot those scenes?

PV: I’ll start by saying that filming the movie was quite a wild ride. We shot the entire film in just three days. We began on a Thursday and wrapped up on Saturday. The crew consisted of only three people plus the actresses. Since it was a documentary-style film, we had a lot of creative freedom when it came to shooting. Now, filming at night in a forest was challenging. Our only source of light was an LED light on the camera, so we had only a few meters of illuminated area. It was complex, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Many scenes were shot behind the cabin where we were staying, though in the film, it looks like we were deep in the mountains. I divided all the nighttime scenes in the film into two days of shooting. I believe we managed to capture some really unsettling moments, where the silence and the sound of the trees rustling in the wind were the main focus.

The actors – Maria, Macarena, and Andrea – provide incredible performances, can you talk about what it was like working with them? When it comes to their metalhead personalities, how much of their performance was based on what was in the script, and how much was perhaps improvised by them?

PV: It was fantastic and very easy to work with them. Their roles were well-studied in the script. I remember needing to find three Chilean actresses. I didn’t want to hold auditions, so I started by asking around. I met Macarena at a bar along with her girlfriend Andrea; they were a couple. They had very distinct personalities. Andrea isn’t a professional actress but has a rather introverted personality, while Macarena is super outgoing. I thought Macarena’s extroversion could greatly benefit the film. Moreover, both of them were highly motivated by the project, and they were the first to join.

As for the band’s leader, it took more time to find the right fit. That’s when Maria Jesús came into the picture. Interestingly enough, Maria Jesús and Macarena had been acting colleagues at university, so they already knew each other. I believe this background played a significant role in enhancing the chemistry of the film since both characters have strong and distinct personalities. The most surprising thing for Vittorio, the director of photography, and me was that the actresses knew the entire dialogue from the script. The script was around 30 pages at most.

Maria Jesús Marcone, who portrayed Andrea, had to embody the role of the band’s leader, channeling the style of [Varg] Vikernes (Burzum) in her speech and beliefs about the band. She was always in a bad mood, everything was very serious, and she fully immersed herself in the band’s persona. On the other hand, Macarena Carrere, who played Tania, was the cheerful member of the group, the companion who followed the band’s leader faithfully. She was more than just a best friend and was always cracking jokes for the camera. On the other end, Andrea Ozuljevich, who portrayed Ruth, was the “poser” ( #deathtoposers ) of the group. She’s the one wearing a t-shirt of Death in a black metal band, the girl who becomes the target of bullying throughout the movie.

Regarding improvisation, it did exist, but it wasn’t extensive, maybe around 20%. They added a feminine touch to the characters and a few dialogues. The script that my friend Barry and I wrote had certain limitations in that regard. I’m really pleased with the outcome, thanks to their contributions.

What inspired the concept of the group trying to record the screams of spirits in the woods?

PV: Well, it was the band called Aghast; their debut album featured some very peculiar super creepy sounds, almost like recordings of ghosts. That band served as a major inspiration for Invoking Yell. Furthermore, I always had this imagery in my mind: the girls in the middle of the forest at night, with a microphone capturing the atmosphere and managing to capture the audio of some ghostly presence for their demo. It’s incredibly eerie. For aesthetic reference, I drew a lot from the forest scenes in the Japanese film “Noroi” (2005). The influence of “The Blair Witch Project” is also quite evident.

Will we ever get some kind of musical release from Invoking Yell?

PV: That sounds like a really immersive experience! Working alongside [my] friend Vittorio, [we] created a couple of tracks for the film. In the movie, we see the girls filming a demo music video using a small Super 8mm camera, with Andrea singing to the camera. During the editing process, Vittorio Farfan and I created some tracks where we could add the vocals and screams by Maria Jesús. I believe we ended up with four tracks but ultimately completed two. One of the tracks, titled “Voice of Agony,” was actually uploaded to Bandcamp and YouTube as a preview of the demo. I would love to release the demo in physical format, whether on cassette tape or vinyl for collectors. The idea is still there. It would be great. Several people have asked me for it on my social media.

If you were to make another horror movie that revolved around a different subgenre of metal, which genre would you want to incorporate into the film?

PV: Indeed, a few months ago, my wife Evelyn and I discussed this. If I were to create another horror/crime movie centered around a different subgenre of metal, I think it would be the glam metal subgenre – it’s quite appealing! The extravagant aesthetics, and somewhat theatrical costumes of glam metal, could provide a captivating contrast with the darker themes typically associated with horror. Furthermore, the most famous glam metal bands have a plethora of stories that are quite amusing, bordering on dark comedy. I believe it would be highly entertaining to delve into that. The dazzling and exaggerated visual style, coupled with the energetic and catchy music, could create a unique and thrilling atmosphere for the film. In fact, we already had the name of the band planned out – it would be called “Pussy Ratts.”

In your personal opinion, why do you think horror and heavy metal – or horror and black metal – work so well together?

PV: In my personal opinion, the synergy between horror and heavy metal, particularly death or black metal, is captivating due to their dark and intense atmospheres. Both genres explore themes of the mysterious, gore, the macabre, and the unknown, creating a sense of unease and intrigue. For me, I actually got into metal music because of the fantastic album art or posters! Many songs draw heavily from H.P. Lovecraft (like horror movies), Satanism, and crime. The eerie and often aggressive sonic landscapes of black metal mirror the tension and suspense found in horror narratives. Moreover, the imagery, symbols, and lyrical content of black metal frequently delve into the supernatural or aspects of folk horror. What’s appealing is the DIY aesthetic of black metal, much like the found footage style, adding an authentic and raw quality to the experience.

At the time of this writing, Invoking Yell can be viewed on eventive via the Popcorn Frights Film Festival.