As Halloween draws closer it’s time to celebrate some horror projects which will never see the light of day, the best horror we’ll never get to experience. We start with a defunct horror movie, and that movie is: Phantasmagoria: the visions of Lewis Carroll.
Phantasmagoria’s plot was described by the Official Wild Bunch Website (the production company originally responsible for the movie) as “A haunted writer in an isolated castle is tormented by sleepless nights and visions of a girl named Alice. He finds himself becoming a symptom of his own invention.” The movie would have focused on “the children’s story that we all know, and discover the horrifying roots that grow beneath every one of its childish metaphors.”
The original cast of Phantasmagoria is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the dead film. Slated to feature performances from Evan Rachel wood, Dita Von Teese as well as rumoured roles for Tilda Swinton and Angelina Jolie. This cast would have been headed up by Marilyn Manson, who on top of playing Lewis Carroll, was writing, scoring and designing lighting for the film. He was also slated to direct the film for a period of time.
It’s Manson’s involvement with the film that really brought this project to life, due to the heavy links between Carroll’s work and 1800’s gothic imagery. Manson had, by this point, proven himself to be a master of gothic imagery and sounds, his tours were frequently a lavish mix of the two. The prospect of him turning his hand to a different medium, one which he has expressed a love for previously, with such a unique debut was a very tantalising one.
The nature of the film making, the horror itself, was also a tantalising part of what this film could have been. Manson ambitiously said he wanted the film to “redefine the horror genre”, whilst focusing on “Hitchcock-style psychological horror”. However the “redefinition” Manson intended may have come instead as a product of one of the techniques he planned to utilise, as he had mentioned using subliminal elements to enhance the audiences immersion in the movie. Whether this was a viable, or even entirely legal, thing to do with the film, I’m not totally sure, but it must be said that this is a truly interesting idea and, if it had come to fruition, could have certainly had repercussions on the entire horror genre.
A teaser trailer for the movie was leaked in 2010 by Revel studios, whom, Manson later said, had no involvement with the film’s production. The footage seen in it featured unconventional editing, lighting and framing as well as unsettling practical costume designs. However many viewers reacted negatively to the heavy use of adult imagery, some of which was found disturbing, and this large backlash resulted in the film being delayed and eventually dropped from the original production company; Wild Bunch.
In the years since the leak the film has seemed on and off, on a regular basis. Manson released several albums since and each one delayed the production of the movie further (including Eat Me, Drink Me, an album heavily inspired by the themes that would go into the movie). It was resurrected in 2013, this time with Roger Avery at the directors helm. It was then resurrected again in 2014 with Manson withholding comment on who was involved with and directing the project.
Then, in an AMA on Reddit in 2015, the killing blow was struck. When asked about the status of the project Manson responded, saying that he found the process of writing it psychologically damaging and, as a result of this, he no longer wanted anything to do with it, although he was interested in starring in and directing other movie projects in the future. This was the final word heard on the project.
Phantasmagoria could have been a drastically new type of horror film, that introduced new techniques to immerse and scare audiences. Whether it would have redefined the horror genre or not remains to be (or not to be, in this case) seen. But the trailer did have a unique, if unpolished, look and feel about it. Manson has gone on to prove his acting credentials in roles in both television and film productions and has been cast in other roles which are currently in production. But it looks as if Phantasmagoria has been buried for good, making it one of the greatest horror movies that we will never get to see.
Up next in these Halloween specials: The greatest horror game we’ll never get to play.
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Thanks again – Cam.