The Darkness Star Radha Mitchell On Horror and Reality

The Australian actress speaks with us about her new film The Darkness, Silent Hill and more.

Radha Mitchell has done all kinds of films since making her big screen debut in 1996 with Love and Other Catastrophes, including indie breakout High Art, Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda and Man on Fire with Denzel Washington. But she’s also got a nice little collection of horror and sci-fi on her resume as well, including Pitch Black (the movie that introduced Vin Diesel’s Riddick to the world), Visitors, the respected and genuinely creepy video game-based Silent Hill, the crocodile thriller Rogue and the remake of The Crazies.

Now she’s reteamed with Rogue director Greg McLean in the Blumhouse Films production The Darkness, about a family that returns home from a trip to the Grand Canyon and has inadvertently brought a supernatural force back with them. The family – which consists of Mitchell, Kevin Bacon, David Mazouz (Gotham) as their autistic son and Lucy Fry as their rebellious teen daughter – already has issues of their own and are ripe to be torn apart.

Den of Geek sat down with Mitchell recently at a Los Angeles botanica – a religious Latino/Caribbean shop that sells medicinal herbs, folk remedies and magical/spiritual aids – to soak up a bit of atmosphere and discuss The Darkness, the recent 10th anniversary of Silent Hill and more.

Den of Geek: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

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Radha Mitchell: Not really. I think the mind is very powerful and can cultivate any kind of reality, and almost like we’re all living in our own version of reality. So that kind of demonstrates that we can certainly freak ourselves out. And this place is interesting to come here and do these interviews because it looks like there’s this kind of a darkness… it’s all these candles that they’re selling. I don’t know if you’ve seen the candle collection? You can buy all kinds of things, including genitalia that you can use to control your spouse.  Point being, it’s all about belief.

So if you light that candle…

It could be dangerous. It’s kind of like a voodoo penis. [laughs]

I read that Greg McLean set this originally in Australia. There have been films going back years that are set in very strange places in Australia, places where reality might get a little bit thin. Have you ever been to any places back home that remind you of what this family goes through?

We went up to Uluru when we were shooting Rogue, actually with Greg, about this crocodile that eats everybody. [laughs] In that movie he got me eaten by this crocodile. But while we were up there we went to these secret areas. And we were taken in by these people that keep the land. So that was a real sense of what was sacred; an experience where you actually tune in and connect to what is sacred, because here you are like living in the city. And if you go underneath the city it’s just still the natural environment and it will take over at some point, and it’s still there. That’s really what’s going on.

So I’ve had that experience. I traveled in India a lot where there’s a lot of kind of people who are into religious ideas, and gurus, and power of the mind and all that stuff. It’s all about if you believe it, it’s happening. And again, I think it’s all about the beliefs of the person experiencing the transformation or whatever it is.

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You’ve done a few horror films. What is it about them? Is it that aspect that appeals to you, the sense that they kind of look into these otherworldly dimensions?

What’s fun about horror movies is just the visceral experience. It’s very raw, pared down to just human emotion. I guess when you look at life you are just dealing with your fear and your love and that’s pretty much what’s going on. And there’s shades of gray in the middle. In a horror movie you get right into it. In this case, my character has got the dilemma where she has this son that she needs to protect but she’s afraid of. There’s this complex relationship that’s quite primal, actually, to protect this innocent child who might be carrying evil. Who knows what energy is in him? It’s hard to define him. He’s in sort of his own dimension. He could be schizophrenic. Maybe he’s just autistic. Maybe he is connected to the dark forces. You can’t define it. And that’s sort of what’s creepy in this story.

But what’s fun about it, it was like going to a Halloween party every day, because Greg is a lot of fun to work with. And all the actors are just naturally quite buoyant and fun. And yet, we got to attack each other.

One of the things that this film sort of puts out there is that a family like this, which has a lot of issues that kind of come out over the course of the film and is obviously a pretty damaged family in a lot of ways, is more susceptible to this kind of thing because they’re not sort of a united front.

They’re not quite, any of them, aligned with themselves, or they’re repressing something. And also, I think we have fun watching them implode because they are kind of like The Brady Bunch, and we want to see The Brady Bunch go through it, because otherwise it’s not real. The mother in this case is a little bit like the mom in The Brady Bunch, but in this case she feels repressed and she’s unable to kind of express herself and connect to her children, and she doesn’t have an avenue outside of the house. The house is her kind of domain and kind of a cage.

And when you break down a lot of these relationships dramas in marriages, it’s all about, “Well, how do people stay connected over a long period of time? Should they transgress? And is there such an evil thing?” And all these questions are pretty standard, I guess. In this case it’s intensified by the possibility of this supernatural force that’s taking them along this trajectory.

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How would you describe Greg as a director?

Personally, he’s a wonderful leader. He makes everybody feel really good about themselves. And he casts really cool people. I think when we shot Rogue he had Mia Wasikowska before anybody knew who she was and Sam Worthington before anybody knew who he was. So he has a real instinct for casting and for character. And he’s just generally a good person. He’s a nice guy.

Just the other day I saw that somebody wrote an appreciation of Silent Hill. I’m wondering, 10 years on, what your thoughts are on the film. A lot of people feel like, so far, it’s kind of the only video game adaptation that’s ever really worked.

Well, I think Christophe Gans was like a nutty film buff who, in a way, he had his own sort of genius. He wasn’t messing around. He was very passionate about that movie and how it was going to look and that it would be true to the game. He was very connected to the gamers and very innovative, I think, in terms of having this female driven story with female cops, and female bad people, and a little tiny girl. Everything about it was unusual in terms of gender. And then the visuals were stunning. He had the guys who did the music for the video game doing the music for the film. So it is kind of like an art piece, and I think it will hold up over time for that reason.

What’s the film that people ask you about the most when you meet fans?

I think there’s a lot of appreciation for Man on Fire because of, I guess, the kind of movie and the genre allows a lot of people access to it. Lots of people have seen it. Silent Hill was a more specific audience, but a lot of people love that movie. But then there’s all different kinds of movies, like High Art. There’s an audience specific for that. There’s another movie made called Mozart and the Whale, which has mainly an autistic, not cast, but characters. So there’s a real audience for that movie because it kind of caters to people that don’t have stories for themselves. So different movies have different audiences.

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Were you sad that they killed off Fry in Pitch Black so you couldn’t do more movies in that series?

Yeah. Damn. At the time I was really happy about it. [laughs] I mean it was kind of cool. But in retrospect, it would have been nice if she was cryo-frozen or something like that. [laughs]

What are you doing next?

I’m going to do a surf movie in Australia. So I’m just learning how to surf.

You are just learning now?

Finally, yeah.

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You’re Australian. You don’t all know how to surf?

Shut up. [laughs] Finally I’m learning how to surf and it’s great. Like, especially living in California you forget that there’s this whole addition to the lifestyle that you can have so easily. It’s great.

You also have a movie coming out called The Shack.

Oh yeah! The Shack is based on a novel that sold something like 20 million copies; self-published out of somebody’s garage. What’s his name?

William P. Young.

Who was on set on the first day and kind of like blessed the set. Again, a really great cast, like Octavia Spencer will be playing God. Sam Worthington, again, play this man in crisis who kind of has to come to terms with this very real dilemma. And it’s a little bit like It’s a Wonderful Life. Do you remember that movie? Kind of magic realism, but maybe it’s real. It’s a really beautiful demonstration of the essence of Christianity. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate it, I don’t think. But it will kind of explain what the essence of it is about.

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The Darkness is out in theaters now.

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