Filmmaker John R. Leonetti feels the clamor around sexual harassment in showbiz is a turning point in Hollywood and a reflection of how men have looked at women for ages. The Annabelle director says it is a signal that it’s a time for a change.
At the moment, there are debates around women’s safety in showbiz as some well-known men in power have been accused of using their position to harass people.
From Harvey Weinstein, Ben Affleck, Brett Ratner, Charlie Sheen, Dustin Hoffman, James Toback to Kevin Spacey and James Franco, several men from Hollywood have been accused of sexual assault and harassment.
Asked about his views on the controversy, Leonetti said in an email interview from Los Angeles: “This is a turning point in awareness about how men have looked at women and where lines are finally being drawn… It’s about time.”
Leonetti, who has explored the supernatural genre through his creative vision, said horror films backed with a bigger message is the trend to look forward.
“Really smart writing like Get Out (is the trend that will make it big in the genre in the time to come). It is horror with smarts and a message in irony.”
Get Out is a horror film centered on an inter-racial relationship between a black American man and his white partner. The movie was a satire on racism and it was critically lauded.
It is the shrills and thrills that keep Leonetti hooked to the horror genre. He is known for working with director James Wan as a cinematographer. Leonetti also served as director of photography on Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2.
He first sat on the director’s chair in 1997 for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and has directed films like Annabelle, Wolves at the Door and forthcoming film Wish Upon. Carnival Motion Pictures has brought Wish Upon in India on Friday.
Talking about his influences, he said: “Alfred Hitchcock and John Frankenheimer inspire me, they both were masters in suspense and keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Steven Spielberg inspires me with ET.
“There is a script about the inception of Rock n Roll in Philidelphia in 1956. It is a drama with lots of music and performance… I would love to make that movie.”
“I like horror that teases the audience to pull back the curtain to ‘the other side’ because none of has been there but we are all so curious about what happens after we die,” he said.
But he rued “although ‘jump scares’ are still expected, suspense and thrills are just as if not more important” now.
At present, he hopes Wish Upon pushes the “entertainment buttons in India” as it is a film through which he has tried to make a “fantasy teen thriller that could resonate with teens and have a message that everyone could relate to”.
Wish Upon narrates the story of a teenaged girl who finds a magic box that grants wishes, but kills someone close to her each time. The film stars Joey King, who also played a pivotal role in The Conjuring, Ki Hong Lee, Sydney Park, Elisabeth Rohm and Ryan Phillippe.
After Wish Upon, Leonetti has gone in “The Silence” mode.
“I am in post now on The Silence, based on a book by Tim Lebbon. It is a sci-fi suspense thriller that is set in an apocalyptic world. It is scheduled to come out in June.”