Nightmare Code Interview with Mark Netter Pt. 1

Recently, PPF and SeedyReview got a chance to sit down with Mark Netter, the director of Nightmare Code, and talked in depth about Nightmare Code and horror movies in general. The podcast can be listened to over at PPF.

You can also go here and read the Seedy Review of Nightmare Code.

Nightmare Code can be watched over at Steam, Vimeo, and many other streaming services and is definitely worth checking out.

PPF: We have MARK NETTER, the director of Nightmare Code, and we actually get to talk to him about the nature of movie and what his intent was. So, where you from?

MARK: Oh gosh, originally I’m from my outside of Albany New York, a town called Delmar New York. I’m actually happy to say that this past month we did a hometown screening in Albany, and we got a great turnout.

PPF: Awesome, did everyone like the movie?

MARK: Yeah, they seem to. It’s funny because a lot of them were my parents friends. We actually had the oldest average age audience. Because the movie has a kind of interesting visual style where for at least half the movie we’re using four images at once on a surveillance monitor and I really wondered how it would play out. If people see it in their teens or 20s they got no problem. I have kids that are 12 and 15. They watched TV with a devices in their hands. But believe it or not, it went really really well.
We got a tremendous set of questions in the Q&A afterwards and great compliments, and I think it worked.

PPF: And we really I enjoyed it, as well.

MARK: Thank you so much.

PPF: We think it’s always fun to explore the antagonist, especially when it comes to Horror. So, maybe start off talking about the AI and explore that a little?

MARK: Sure, let me take you back to the original concept. The whole movie grew out of an initial concept which was when I worked in the video game industry years ago. I am not a programmer. The movie takes place in a troubled startup trying to finish this behavior recognition program called Roper, and it’s called Roper because it ropes in all the video in the area. We came with an acronym for it as well, but it’s not as interesting. and I actually been put on the spot to come up with that and I kinda forget the whole thing.
What was interesting was the idea that before I started in the business I thought if you had two programmers of similar skill and gave them a task to perform, like creating elevator programmer or a calendar app, that the code would look side-by-side 90% similar maybe 95%. It turns out it’s not true at all. Any programmer will tell you that different programmers solve problems different ways and build things differently. What that means is that deep inside of your programs in your computer, your phone, the DOS kernel that’s hidden inside Windows, which goes back to the late 70s early 80s, there is the personality of a programmer that expresses logic, just like a film-maker would be expressed in shots and editing and music choices and things like that. Our idea was well what if that logic and personality were sentient and what if it was extremely pissed off? That was the core idea behind Nightmare Code.
Then I guess the antagonist in the movie is really the program, ROPER. They’re desperately trying to finish it, but it doesn’t seem to want to be finished. The program is writing its own code. Then there’s some question as to whether or not the original architect of the of the program was an old programmer from the old days, a guy named Foster Cotton and this is gonna be his last hurrah. As you learn during the movie and before the movie starts, Cotton had gone on a murder suicide rampage at the start-up. He started killing the top executives who he felt was lying to him about certain things. Then he kills himself.
The question as the movie goes on is whether or not this code is taking on a greater intelligence. Not only can it recognize people’s behaviors and interpret what they’re thinking and feeling, but it is sort of modifying the behavior and starting to resemble those who are closest to the programmers working on it, as well as resemble that of the dead programmer. The question is are you just dealing with a super brilliant artificial intelligence that Cotton created? Or, Did Cotton’s personality or soul in some way enter the machine, and is he the true antagonist that you’re up against. Hopefully with the movie you’ll have an opinion But I hope it’s also ambiguous enough that it’s something you could argue about or discuss afterwards.

PPF: In my reading, when he became part of the computer he lost his humanity. Is that what your intent was? Once you digitize yourself, you lose your physical form and some aspects of your humanity?

MARK: I love that. You know, it’s funny like a part of me is the film-maker and I don’t want to give you all the answers. But I think what you’re bringing up are incredibly great questions to explore.
So, here’s a couple different things about it. One of them, is there is a good question of why Cotton is so bitter and so angry that he’s being betrayed that this program is being outsourced and that other people will be finishing it. You know, if his soul does enter the machine or he programs his soul into the machine in some way which I wanted it as, I tend to lean more toward your camp although not all of the people who worked on the movie would agree with you. Maybe that it is just an anger that just continues on.
I love this idea about the loss of humanity because of what the title Nightmare Code is actually inspired by. To me, it has three different meanings. One of them is obviously working on computer code that’s very difficult. Sometimes programmers are brought on to work on someone else’s code. Those programmers will always say that the code is written really badly. They’ll say it’s spaghetti code, it’s all over the place, or in our case it’s Nightmare Code. It’s also reference to one my favorite film noir. It is a really dark movie called Nightmare Alley. I’m gratified to see if you do a search on Amazon for Nightmare Code usually Nightmare Alley is right after it. I even took a screen shot of it. Then, the third thing is the idea that I think all movies are about codes of behavior and that at some level you figure out in the first 5 to 20 minutes of the movie who are the good guys who are the bad guys and why are they good. Depending on the type of movie, you may be rooting for the mafia guy who is the better one of the mafia guys. You might be rooting for Clint Eastwood out there killing people. I think that you know the set of values and codes. I think that what Nightmare Code is kind of saying is that the human codes of behavior, those things that for centuries bound us together, are being loosened or changed. Maybe our humanity, like you’re saying, in the characters are metaphors for being lost because of our interactions with technology.
The example that I like giving is; all these guys who think that somehow they are going to get away with cheating on their spouses by going on AshleyMadison.com. Until the day that, just like Roper, Ashley Madison betrays them and their names are released to the public. Not AshleyMadison itself but the hackers who manipulated the technology. For example, in the movie the main character is Brett Desmond who is this young programmer that is brought in after Foster’s done this horrible act. He’s the one guy, the one programmer left in the office trying to fix it. He’s sleeping in the office. He’s away from home. He is desperate to help finish this because of problems in his own past. He’ll be on Skype or a video chat with his wife and daughter who’re halfway across the country in Chicago. The great thing just like with our Skype call right now is technology enables us to be connected in ways that we never could prior to the existence of things like Skype. By that same token, it can also be very distancing and can provide the sense of “well, they’re really over there, so it doesn’t matter what I do over here”. Or, it can provide a sense of loneliness. They can engender a sense of loneliness that I can say good night to my kid but I can’t kiss her, I can’t give her a hug or I can’t be sleeping in bed with my wife. Sometimes I think technology can emphasize that sense of loneliness. I really do think we’re asking the question is technology not only getting beyond our control but is it changing the way we behave. Is it loosening those bonds.

PPF: The one that we really dug about this movie was that your protagonist wasn’t a clean-cut character. He wasn’t your traditional protagonists. He wasn’t a hero. We have seen this guy before in the real world.

MARK: I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that this past him to be involved in some sort of whistleblowing. I think it’s a good question as to whether or not that was a good or bad thing to do. I mean, there is obviously laws that he is broken and things that he’s in hot water for. Supposedly if he helps finish this program, everything will be okay. I think the tragedy of Nightmare Code is Brett Desmond. He is played by Andrew J Wester who did a great job. People, and your fans may know from The Walking Dead where he played Garrison in Terminus.
This guy is a brilliant programmer and in a sense he is the best guy for this job, but the question the movie asks is can anybody beat technology, can anyone beat ROPER? Even the best guy… to avoid giving away the movie but it takes a pretty dark view.
There are also things in his personality that we want to be kind of R-rated, you know? You don’t know if he’s completely good or completely bad. I mean, there’s this way he’s somewhat dismissive when he’s talking to his Indian counterpart. He’s the company our optics is now outsourced almost all the programming to except for Brett over to India. There’s some moments he is dishonest. He doesn’t particularly take good care of himself. He is using some chemicals to stay awake at work late nights. I just like that because I think most of us and believe we’re good people but everybody’s got some sort of secret. Everybody’s got different sides to them depending on the situation, certainly depending on the amount of pressure you’re put under.

PPF: Would you say knowledge is one of the corrupting factors in this story?

MARK: You know that’s kinda like a real Adam and Eve thing, right? It’s like the whole idea that the Apple was knowledge and that somehow they got the knowledge of their nakedness and then suddenly down comes the garden or they were kicked out of the garden. I think that’s really kind of interesting idea.
We were kinda going with the idea with Cotton. That you never know who’s watching you. I think we live lives now where even in private we have to be careful of what were doing isn’t being publicized in some fashion. Since we started working on the movie and telling people about it, other people tell me that they cover up the camera on their laptop or their computer. Unless they want to be seen and they flip-up a piece of cardboard, but they keep it covered.
But, I think you’re kinda right in a way. I think it’s kind of a cool horror movie thing to write. The the familiar classic horror idea is Bluebeard. Bluebeard gets his young wife and says, “you can go to any place in my home you like. I’m going out on a business trip or hunting trip or whatever it is just don’t go in to that room, okay? If you stay out of that room everything will be okay, and of course she goes into that room. She finds mutilated previous wife corpses. She drops the key. The key gets blood on it. She can’t get the blood off. She comes out. She thinks that she’s okay and locks the door. Bluebeard comes home and within five minutes he knows that she’s been in there and that’s going to be curtains for her. So I think that’s kind of our horror idea of be careful what you want to know. Maybe that’s our way of doing it in Nightmare Code.
Also, if you’re an audience member, you know that the way we kind of ended up showing what happened and the actual massacre that Foster did is we find out when Brett does. Brett gets onto Foster’s computer because he has to at a certain point look for previous builds because his old and new ones are getting corrupted. He finds the videos that Foster has saved on his computer around and even after Foster’s death. The one that Brett finds one that’s a whole point of view sequence for Foster going to the office and basically extracting his revenge on people. Each time he comes across somebody, it’s in a sensor of ROPER. The technology is making a decision and you see it based on how they’re interpreted with it whether they’re friendly or whether they’re angry or they are somebody that Foster is gonna want to kill or not. He makes his decisions about who he’s going to pick off and who he is not going to pick off. To some people who are fans of the movie it is a sense of justice. They almost agree with him about his choices which is crazy, but I think that what is really fun for the audience is you’re kind of seeing it go through Foster’s eyes and are also seen through Brett’s eyes, because he’s watching it at the same time and getting just as shocked as you are. Then you’re watching through your own eyes as well, so you’re getting a triple vision going on. There’s a lot of knowledge coming at you very very quickly.

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SoD : Let There Be Aliens! (A Critical Review of Mass Hysteria)

Lately, the news headlines have actually been interesting. It is not the fact that satirist have finally drawn the line, or that we are oppressing them their artistic expression. but it’s the fact that other people or other organizations are actually attacking them, fatally attacking them in some cases. A lot of people seem to be wondering why people believe strongly in these fictional depictions of their deities, and why are they so mad?
It reminds me of when I was a child. One of the big scary topics that most people can relate to being terrifying is child abduction, and this was deathly hot topic when growing up. For me, I never feared those strangers in the trench coats and the black fedoras or whatever the propaganda depicted them to be.

StrangerDanger

I thought the most terrifying child abductors were alien abductors. I mean, while I was alone at night shivering under my blanket in my ninja turtle PJs, I how would seriously imagine that aliens were outside my window just staring at me waiting for their chance to take me. I believe these aliens had actually conquered space and time. They have evolved to a point that we humans no longer identified with them biologically. Their whole conquest, their whole soul purpose in their whole history of their very being in this universe was to become the most sophisticated advanced child predators. That was my conclusion.

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I know. I was a very impressionable young lad and quite honestly that’s probably not the most bizarre thing I used to be terrified of while growing up. Nonetheless, hear me out before you place judgment. The reason why I had this terrifying belief was because of Steven Spielberg. the master storyteller himself. I blame Spielberg. Here’s why.
In 1977 Steven Spielberg chose to release a movie that was entitled Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There was actually a scene depicting a child abduction by aliens, so it wasn’t quite unfounded. Yes, I know that was a movie. How dare I compare reality to a movie?

What type of alien did you imagine, standing outside my window, staring at me, and waiting for the perfect opportunity to take me and utilize their anal probe technology? Were they short gray people with bug eyes, big black bug eyes with a big noggin? Most of western society would agree with you. That mass hypnosis was because of Steven Spielberg. He made that possible for us all in 1977 when he released Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This is the first time we ever saw an alien like that. Take a second and realize that our culture, our minds, our imagination is collectively conjuring up an alien creature which did not exist before 1977.

Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind_Aliens

Now, here’s the preposterous thing. Here is the idea that makes one question reality. In the 1990s, there was a huge ordeal about this released film called the alien autopsy. Our culture tried to retcon our Alien continuity. A lot of people pitched this film not as a fictional depiction of aliens being dissected, rather this was being pitched as rediscovered film evidence of an alien that was recovered from the Roswell crash. Supposedly, this was a Roswell alien being dissected before our very eyes. Guess what? It was a little gray alien. To this day, although the film footage we all saw was faked, people say it was very closely based on a real film reel of an alien autopsy. This is unbelievable. Despite the cinematic evidence, despite the fact that these types of aliens completely do not exist in all the universe, we still for some reason hold on to this belief, this cultural belief that if we did have an alien autopsy film it would most definitely look like that.

AlienAutopsy2

Now, this is like saying we found uncovered photographic evidence of Mickey Mouse being dissected because Mickey Mouse, just like the aliens Spielberg created for his movie, is only an artist depiction of something fictional.
I find it amazing that storytellers can actually pull things like this off. This is the foundation of movie magic. There’s no way a young Steven Spielberg had the foresight to believe that his movies, Jaws and Close Encounters, were going to create a small form of mass hysteria which would last for generations.
So, I’d like to talk about Orson Welles because he also attributed to our mass hysteria towards aliens, and yes, I’m talking about his broadcast that happened on October 30, 1938. For those who don’t know, Orson Welles did a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. In fact, it was so magnificently produced and enacted, there were people who actually believed that we were being invaded by Martians. It was done so well there are conspiracy theories dedicated to how the production was pulled off.
Before we start imagining farmers running outside with their shotguns looking into the starry night wondering where these Martians were, we have to understand the culture and mindset of the people during that time. The world had just experienced the first great war. At the time, The Great War itself achieved the highest body count and committed violent atrocities that were previously unfathomable. Then the western world sunk into the Great Depression. Now, that farmer we imagined running out all excited like. He’s more than likely getting his farm taken away, and his livelihood, his tradition of being a farmer was nearing its end. Unbeknownst to many was the only light at the end of the tunnel was that his unemployment would end by becoming a soldier for the second great war World War II. Many people like this farmer were about to go overseas and be put on the front line and undoubtedly face their own annihilation. When one is put into this very bleak and stressful situations, our mind has a tendency to be very malleable, very easy to manipulate. It becomes a sponge towards very well told stories which give our lives a little bit of wonder.
This belief system is something that humans never actually evolve past. This is something that still prevails today. People find themselves facing the lowest point of their lives. These day-to-day lives which are mediocre, repetitive, and monotonous. Most of the workforce in the “better” parts of the world consists of servitude and labor. Then life can throw a curve ball and your phone has a tragic message. Maybe it’s about infidelity, miscarriage, terminal illness, fatal accident or any number of everyday things. Then maybe you look up in the sky and you see an epic battle between angels and dragons, and all of a sudden fate handed you your chance to redeem your mundane existence. I am not saying this will happen. However, there are millions of people out there who believe Revelations is a possibility. It’s simply because most religious texts are righteously told stories.

Because my mind has an inclination towards all things SciFi, it makes me ponder. If it hadn’t been L Ron Hubbard who wrote those atrocious Battlefield Earth stories, instead SciFi religion sprung out of the minds of the master storytellers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, I have definitely been devoted. That’s how belief systems work. Whatever story can fool you into suspending your disbelief, that point where it starts merging with your cognition, that is where anything’s possible. In conclusion, all I am really trying to say is there should be caution taken when one is trying to satirize people’s beliefs and the stories that they treasure.

Panels Pixels Frames 10/8

Panels Pixels Frames.

This week, we talk about Left Behind, Mother’s Day, Alien, Paranormal Activity, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Stitches, House of the Devil, Shadow of Mordor, Ghostbusters 3, Twin Peaks, Flash, and more!

PPF 10/1 | Panels Pixels Frames

PPF 10/1 | Panels Pixels Frames.

In our first week of horror month, we talk about Tusk, Eden Lake, In Fear, Sacrament, the Guest, Gotham, How To Get Away With Murder, Sleepy Hollow, Equalizer, Destiny, Nicholas Cage, and more!