Kirlian Frequency – interview with Christian Ponce
Out on the borderlands, we here at Signal Horizon pick up some strange things on our radars. Tales of terror, perspectives on the petrifying, and most recently, a peculiar broadcast coming from a small town somewhere in Argentina. To many, the Kirlian Frequency was a surprise curveball when it popped up on their Netflix recommendations. As if from nowhere, viewers were treated to a visually unique anthology of short animated horror stories, presided over by a mysterious midnight radio show host operating from the cut-off village of Kirlian. As new episodes continue to come out on YouTube, we caught up with the Kirlian Frequency’s creator Cristian Ponce to get the scoop on the story behind the airwaves.
SH: How did KF first come about? What was the backstory behind the series’ creation?
Before studying Film Art, I worked at a local radio station in my hometown for several years. I did shows about film and television, and another called “Hearts in Atlantis” in which I read Stephen King stories. Radio always seemed an ideal medium for horror stories to me; not for nothing is it often a feature of fantastical cinema. When I started my studies, I also began to develop a first draft of what became The Kirlian Frequency, focusing on a late-night radio show featuring disparate horror stories. Shortly after Tangram Cine was founded, we made a live action pilot that was never finished, after which I tried various means to get it off the ground. Almost a decade passed until I decided to do it with animation, taking into account my own limitations as an animator but also using them as part of the aesthetics. It was a project that we developed with a very small team and it took us a long time. It took us almost two years to produce the first episode, moving forward with baby steps and a constant experiment of trial and error.
SH: Can you talk about how KF arrived on Netflix?
Our arrival on Netflix was the result of absolute chance. As a standalone web series, we never had much of a diffusion prior to our arrival on Netflix. We premiered on Vimeo and YouTube and the impact with the public was moderate, and it was the same with the media in Argentina. However, by total coincidence a Netflix ‘aggregator’ (a sort of curator who finds material for Netflix) was listening to a radio interview we did; it was a late-night interview as well, to top it all off! This person contacted us because he believed that the product had potential, and he was the one who made all the arrangements.
SH: One episode has a whole story dedicated to the works of Stephen King; besides him, what were some of the other major inspirations for KF?
It’s difficult to specify the references or the influences because they come and go all the time, and the development of the episodes took place several years ago. In general, in horror cinema there are many late-night radios that work similar to Kirlian, likewise with small towns where it seems as though nothing’s happening and everything’s happening. In that sense, I think the two biggest influences were “Pontypool” for the radio show and the TV series “Eerie Indiana” for the town’s inhabitants. Then I think that all the media I have consumed in my life, even the things that I have forgotten but have left a subconscious imprint on me, comes out from time to time and appears in the things I do, even when I don’t realize it.
SH: Kirlian Frequency has a very unique look, especially in its use of shadows – can you talk about the animation style a bit?
The animation style came about as a result of necessity. I started as an amateur animator, with no real prior training, so we had to find a way to achieve something that would work with the few resources we had. This is how this kind of “cut-out” look with extra post-production arose. It ended up enhancing the stories we wanted to tell, giving them a unique style and mystique.
SH: Most episodes in the first season revolved around putting a new spin on classic horror tropes like werewolves, vampires and zombies. Since the five episodes were released on Netflix, there’s been several others released for the second season. Can you talk about what you wanted to do with these episodes going into them?
The idea was always to give those classic monsters a spin to talk about something else. I’m a huge fan of Twilight Zone and what Rod Serling did on that show. Horror and science fiction are incredible vehicles for talking about the issues that run through us as humans. They say that you should be able to remove the fantastic elements from a horror movie and leave a good drama; that was our intention. I think that’s why episodes like An Old Man and His Dog worked so well. A couple of years ago I read Alan Moore’s American Gothic and discovered that he had had a similar approach. I regretted not having known it before writing Kirlian, as I could have taken advantage of it.
SH: Western audiences don’t often see horror material from Argentina. Was there anything specifically from Argentinian culture you wanted to include in KF?
It’s a complex issue. Among the Argentine filmmakers who dedicate themselves to terror there is one branch that refers a lot to North American cinema, and another that seeks to get away from it completely. In Kirlian I think we are in the middle: we have super explicit references, but we tried to give it a twist that had to do with our own uses and customs. The way the characters speak tries to be naturalistic in a totally and completely unrealistic context. I think that is another of the points that play in our favour.
SH: Finally, can you tell us a random fact about the radio host?
In the first episode of the series we can see him wearing a jeans jacket, on the back of which there are still traces of the emblem of the “Lords of the Night”. We do not know if he was ever part of the group, but it is very likely.