Sphere of Fear is stunning in its simplicity. A ball possessed by a demon causes murderous havoc around Plymouth. Now the demonic ball has bounced back for Sphere of Fear 2. We caught up with the guerrilla filmmakers behind the comedy horror franchise.
The chills start multiplying when an everyday plaything turns evil. When the place of childhood – and adult – refuge turns into a dangerous nightmare. We’re not talking about ventriloquist dummies (really? they are quite rare nowadays, all banged to rights for murderous plots). And the Chuckie doll was never the most comforting.
We’re talking about the football. Equally at home in the street, a £ multi-million stadium, or hell! Just think about the merchandising.
Director John Mitchell and actor Chris Ball Hero were behind Sphere of Fear. With Sphere of Fear 2 set for release in 2020 we asked what inspired them for a ball of pure evil.
“It’s because all we had at the time was a football,” says John. “And we wanted to make a film.”
Chris says: “When most people see a football, they would not immediately think of making a film.”
It’s an inspiration that goes back to Robert Rodriguez.
“He was saying that when he made his first film, El Mariachi, he just had a guitar and a turtle,” says John. “We had a football.”
Sphere of Fear took six years to make. The sequel took half that. And they’ve learnt how to make films along the way.
“This one is better, and we’ve upgraded all the equipment,” says Chris.
Language of film
Their storytelling and use of the language of film has improved, too.
“The first one worked for what it was,” says John. “It was a hand-held run and shoot film. But in this one we’ve actually used tripods. We’ve used some static shots and built the scene more. And Sphere of Fear 2 is more dialogue based. There’s a different concept behind the filmmaking – and it looks better. There’s still a long way to go yet.”
Without giving too much away (you can watch Sphere of Fear online), a football gets cursed, and goes on a murderous campaign in Plymouth. It is finally expelled by reluctant hero Dylan Davis, played by Chris.
Sphere of Fear 2 picks up three years later. Relationships have changed, causing their own pressures. Faye Le Mort is now with the Hunter. And Dylan Davis is so love sick he’s having hallucinations. The evil Ball has returned from Brazil and is now on a mission from the devil to find God’s magic box. With a tempting promise to split up the Hunter and Faye Le Mort, The Ball gets Dylan Davis on board to try to get the box, because The Ball hasn’t got hands.
“This film’s better than the first one in all respects. Technically and acting and story line – it’s improved because we’ve come a bit further now,” says John.
Webseries, podcasts and The Millers
“It’s a 10-minute short about gangsters,” says Chris, who calls it his baby project. “It’s so I can help John out.”
John does all the shooting, with the rest of the cast and crew being made up of people they know. Assitsance comes from Kung Fu Tony, Jonathan Lea and Spooky Lee taking their occasional turns holding the boom pole.
“We pick things up as we go along,” says John. “If we need anything we look on YouTube, there’s always a video there. We’ve had no professional help or anything.”
To bag their cast, when they meet new people they try to draw them in. But they had to travel from Plymouth to Cardiff for a scene with women in. And they also try to attract professional actors who are interested in the under-the-radar, guerrilla approach – John Altman is the voice of The Ball.
Locations too, can be a problem.
“We try to pick locations outside or that are owned by someone we know,” says John. “We try to control the environment when we can.”
In terms of inspiration, John looks to the 90s films of Tarantino, Scorsese or Terry Gilliam.
“I’m not into the big special effects,” says John. And the special effects on Sphere of Fear are beautifully minimal. “It’s just someone’s hand. And when we wanted it to do a certain thing, we just got lucky.”
With the premiere of Sphere of Fear 2 imminent (January 11 at Home Park, Plymouth). The pair, who go by the professional name of Cinedownloads, have their eyes on podcasts.
The Temple of the Killer Tigermonkeys is 28 part series. The scripts are being put together. There’s another podcast series coming after that called The Dungeon Scum. The pilot for that has been written
“We’ve also got plans to do a fictional web series that’s a spin off of the Temple of the Killer Tigermonkeys and that’s going to be a superhero based series,” says Chris.
“We just keep ploughing ahead, pushing on. Nothing else to do really… nothing to lose.”
John says: “It’s just about doing something. We’re both in low paid jobs and don’t do anything spectacular professionally – this is a way for us to try and do something a bit more meaningful.”