On the first day of shooting “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre”, we were not in the studio theater where sets were being built for the lion’s share of our 10 day shoot. On the first day we were in our own home, specifically shooting in our bathroom.
Most of that day required me sitting in the filled bathtub.
On the seventh day of shooting, late in the evening, we captured the underwater shots that were not possible in our own bathtub, mainly because it was just too narrow to get the camera underwater with enough distance to me to capture the shots we needed – like the one above.
So our production designer Mariana Soares da Silva ordered a kiddie pool and painted it white to approximate the underwater look of the bathtub.
And once again I had to peel off down to my swimming trunks for the art.
Major spoilers for the end of “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre” follow. You’ve been warned!
There are several shots of me underwater. But the main one, which required the use of a long rubber tube, is a close up shot of my left arm and torso as blood pours into the bathwater. You see, while the protagonist of “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre” imagines himself the victim of Poe’s version of the Spanish Inquisition, he is slicing his wrists in a bathtub. During the fiery, surreal climax of Poe’s story in the film, quick cuts to the blood in the bathwater clue in the audience as to what is really happening in the here and now.
Above you can see Director of Photography Jason Chua, at left, dunking the go-pro camera, encased in a waterproof see-through shell, into the kiddie pool water. Assistant Camera Jennifer Liu, at right, is steadying the pole to which the camera is attached. Back left is co-producer Henry Borriello, guiding the rubber hose trained from the fake blood supply into the kiddie pool, his thumb at the hose mouth controlling the flow of the red liquid into the water. His other hand controlling the electric pump pushing out the fake blood.
Here is an extra spoileriffic glimpse of what that looks like to the camera:
This and similar images are flashed for mere seconds in the film. The extreme close-up is intended to make the torso and arm look more like a landscape to the audience, with the red liquid having a more expressionistic than gory effect.
That hasn’t stopped certain family members from squeamishly looking away every time that shot is revealed during screenings.