Check out our interview with the brilliant writer-director of Hulu’s Into the Dark: My Valentine, Maggie Levin.
In October of 2018 Hulu and Blumhouse (Get Out) introduced a new horror anthology: Into the Dark. Each month a new holiday-centered film is released. The anthology has allowed amazing artists to truly shine and broadcast their talent to a wider audience. This month, My Valentine is the film being released under the Into the Dark banner. The film is written and directed by Maggie Levin, a brilliant filmmaker whose rock and roll background shines through all of her work. Levin recently directed the fantastic short film Diva, which you can watch here. She’s also the creator of the Rocky Horror Hipster Show, a twist on the cult classic that has sold out clubs for over three years.
Maggie’s work caught our attention last year, and we’ve been dying to see more from her. Her ability to craft compelling stories with a distinct visual flair is unmatched. Most of her work has a visual aspect that will make you want to pause the film and just admire the beauty of the shots she creates. We’ve been extremely excited to see where she goes next, and luckily, we got the amazing opportunity to hear straight from her. Check out our interview below.
Thank you for giving us time out of your busy schedule to talk. The first major question we have is how did you get involved in this film (My Valentine)?
My absolute pleasure!
I was initially introduced to the Blumhouse TV and Into the Dark team via my producers, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Into the Dark is Blumhouse’s monthly horror feature anthology–standalone films, often helmed by up-and-coming filmmakers, based on holidays.
What Into the Dark pulls off–literally making a full-length movie every month–is really incredible. You shoot for sixteen days and deliver a locked cut inside of three months. Coming from a run-and-gun, punk rock approach to filmmaking myself, I saw a few episodes and totally flipped for the model. It’s a natural working progression for directors with experience in the digital and music video world.
My Valentine explores a series of very raw, contemporary romantic issues: the cycle of abuse, what it’s like to fall for (and try to recover from dating) a narcissistic sociopath, overcoming codependency and enmeshment…and while it is fundamentally a horror movie, it’s often highly comedic AND dramatic. Plus, it’s a musical with four music videos and a bunch of magical realism weaved into the narrative. I’ve referred to it as a “kitchen sink movie,” and I am beyond blessed that the post team and the producers really understood the kind of editorial gymnastics we needed to do to pull it off seamlessly.
It’s a risky little film, and I’m so grateful that Hulu and Blumhouse granted me the opportunity to bring it to life.
How important is color in your films? Your work tends to have a very specific color palette which seems to help build up the thematic elements or invert what we expect from those colors. Is that something you’re drawn to when crafting a project?
Absolutely. For me, color is one of the most important and FUN aspects of cinematic storytelling.
My Valentine takes place in a heightened, music-video reality that cried out for saturated neons, high contrast, and lots of (my fave) hot pink and opalescent purple. For folks who’ve been following my work for a few years, this movie couldn’t look more like “my movie” unless I literally coated all the actors in glitter, head to toe.
Because I so often gravitate towards this vibe, when I was initially prepping Valentine I tried to skew the proposed look into faded blues and greens–more of a washed-out, soft grunge vibe. Then cinematographer Ana de Amortegui came to me with a pitch book full of bright magenta and cyan, and I was like “who the hell am I kidding?” The story is a demented, pop nightmare–the only move was to lean all the way in.
I’m so happy we went for it. The result is so exciting, so in-your-face, and SO Valentine’s Day.
In the past you’ve said that Edgar Wright is a major influence on your work. What other filmmakers and artists have inspired you?
Robert Lepage, a Quebecois film and theater artist, is way up there. Robert is probably best known in the states as the director of the Cirque du Soleil show, Ká – it’s the one in Vegas that doesn’t have a floor. Like literally, the performance is vertical; it’s absolutely insane.
I grew up around Robert’s mind-bending stage work–he designed and directed the Peter Gabriel tours I went on as a little kid (Secret World and Growing Up). In my later teens, I was fortunate enough to go up to Canada twice to observe his staging/creation process for different large-scale shows. Robert’s energy as a creator and collaborator is very relaxed and jovial, but his work and creative mind are utterly explosive. He thinks so multi-dimensionally that gravity itself is kind of a non-issue.
From Robert, I have always been inspired to make great physical use of the space I’m creating within. Even a very subtle conversation–and much of My Valentine is about charged conversation–can feel kinetic, charged, and full of life…with the right movement.
He’s also made one of my all-time favorite films, Le Confessional – a movie I think all US filmmakers should find a way to get their eyeballs on!
Are there certain films that truly inspire you or that have a major influence on your work?
I think the thumbprints of Romeo + Juliet, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Velvet Goldmine, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret, and Run Lola Run are present in my body of work thus far.
In terms of recent films that really moved me creatively, this year I’ve been high-key obsessed Alma Har’el’s Honeyboy and a Russian “apartment western” called Why Don’t You Just Die! by filmmaker Kirill Sokolov. Also loved High Life by Claire Denis.
You’ve directed work that you’ve written yourself and work that was written by others; do you have a preference towards one or the other?
There are advantages to both! Sometimes it’s very relaxing to not be so deeply married to the material–it can help you make the more cutthroat creative decisions you’re constantly faced with in production. It’s also fun to play in someone else’s sandbox, you know?
However…I love writing so, so much. And getting to see the worlds you built in your head made into physical reality is an unbelievable joy. I’ll never forget the day I went to the Miss 2059 set build and got to walk through the fucking SPACESHIP my pals and I dreamed up in the writers room. It’s an astonishing feeling. Same thing when I walked onto the bar set Eve McCarney and her team built for My Valentine. I kept thinking, “I’ve tricked them into doing this. Someone’s gonna catch me and make me pay them back.”
So without getting into spoilers, what can you tell us about My Valentine?
Oooh, I can tell you the logline!
My Valentine follows a pop singer whose songs and artistic identity have been stolen by her ex-boyfriend/manager and shamelessly pasted onto his new girlfriend/protégé. Locked together in a small concert venue after hours, the three of them confront the emotional abuses of the past until things turn violent.
I can also tell you that the performances by the entire cast are unreal fantastic. God, this cast rules. Britt Baron, Anna Lore, and Benedict Samuel are all absolute movie stars. Anna Akana is more fierce and scintillating than you’ve ever seen her. Our support cast is a dream–Ally Maki, Tiffany Smith, Shaun Brown, Sachin Bhatt, Alan Chow, Ruben Vernier…unbelievable talents, all, and they are all MONSTER BABES. Please screencap and GIF the shit out of this film and put their faces all over the internet. I believe strongly that all of these people should be household names.
The movie features four original pop songs by the incredible Dresage, and I am not exaggerating when I say that these tunes are hits, and they will be stuck in your head for weeks once you hear ’em. The score by Dresage and Mark Hadley rules.
I can also tell you that things get pretty gory–we’ve had some people have to hide (and gag!) during the more violent moments. If you have experience with extreme emotional abusers and/or narcissistic sociopaths, this movie could be triggering.
When working on the film, did you look at any of the previous entries of Into The Dark?
Absolutely. My favorites of the series are I’m Just F*cking With You, Culture Shock, and Midnight Kiss. I’m Just F*cking With You was the entry that made me go “I gotta make one of these. I GOTTA.”
What are you working on next?
The next two features…romantic action sci-fi and creature horror, respectively.
Be sure to check out My Valentine, which is currently streaming on Hulu. For more on Maggie’s work you can head over to MaggieLevin.com.
Influenced by some of the biggest pop scandals over the past decade, My Valentine, follows Valentine, whose songs and artistic identity have been stolen by her ex-boyfriend/manager – and shamelessly pasted onto his new girlfriend/protégé, Trezzure.
Writer/director Maggie Levin imagines what happens when the two worlds collide and find themselves face-to-face. Locked together in a small concert venue after hours, the three of them confront the scars of the past…until they take things into their own hands.
My Valentine stars Britt Baron (GLOW), Anna Lore (Doom Patrol), Benedict Samuel (Gotham) Anna Akana (Let It Snow), Ally Maki (Toy Story 4) Sachin Bhatt (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), and Tiffany Smith (Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal). The film is produced by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill (Doctor Strange) and written & directed by Maggie Levin (Miss 2059).
Written by Alex Lancaster
(Alex is a life long film fan, and has dedicated his life to watching, making and obsessing over films. His favorite film is Big Fish, and he despises Avatar. He has a 5 year old son. And a bad habit of saying more than he needs to. Follow @alex5348 on Twitter)