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Man’s Absolute Worst Friend: Making ‘Black Mirror’ Episode ‘Metalhead’

"As a piece of action filmmaking, the episode is ruthlessly efficient. Director David Slade hits the gas early and never lets up."

The season four episode of Black Mirror, “Metalhead,” “could be pitched as Black Mirror‘s take on The Terminator, distilled down to its simplest form,” writes Bryan Bishop. “A roving robot is hunting a woman named Bella (Maxine Peake), and it will not stop until it has caught her.

“But this isn’t an ordinary robot; it’s a Boston Dynamics-style robot dog, with the sleek design of a high-end gadget and a relentless variety of tools and tactics at its disposal. As the episode whips by in a series of visceral action vignettes, there isn’t any larger takeaway or word of warning to be gleaned. It’s just a disturbing reminder that the future is coming, and it will not stop. Ever. Until we are dead.”

Bishop continues, “As a piece of action filmmaking, the episode is ruthlessly efficient. Director David Slade (American Gods, Hannibal) hits the gas early and never lets up, capturing Bella’s desperate attempts at escape with a vérité sensibility, while never blinking away from the dog itself. There’s no time to question whether the creature is a practical effect or computer-generated when watching ‘Metalhead.’

“Slade shoots the robot simply, as if it’s utterly grounded in reality, and whether it’s chasing an escaping van (and catching it), or tracking Bella through the rocks alongside a river, the approach paints the focus on the creature as an unstoppable, visceral threat, creating some of the most tense, cringe-inducing moments in the entire series.” To read the full article, click here

With Black Mirror, Our Dystopia Gets the Television Show It Deserves

The inspiration for the episode, explains series creator Charlie Brooker to James Hibberd, “was from watching Boston Dynamics videos, but crossed with — have you seen the film All Is Lost? I wanted to do a story where there was almost no dialogue. And with those videos, there’s something very creepy watching them where they get knocked over, and they look sort of pathetic laying there, but then they slowly manage to get back up.

David Slade admits to Steve Greene, “Those f***ing Boston Dynamics robots are terrifying, so that in itself was enough that we didn’t have to worry about it. There was no worrying about other movies that had been made about robots that kill you because the technology is so fresh right now and it’s so specific.

“We were like, that’s what it is. It’s a military robot. It’s got artificial intelligence. It can problem solve. It’s completely autonomous. That’s terrifying. There we go.” To read the full interview, click here.

Brooker tells James Hibberd that shooting the episode in black and white “put you in mind of old horror movies and it fit with the sparse, pared-back nature of the story. I don’t think it saved money on CG. It felt like something I hadn’t seen before—doing lots of CG in black and white.” To read the full interview, click here

“We planned it meticulously,” Slade explains to Alison Herman. “I’m used to storyboarding meticulously, which I did, and we shot it exactly the way we wanted to shoot it. They did all of the capture that they needed. I was pretty astonished, actually, with how beautifully realistic — I knew we would have realism, but I was really happy with the work they did.

“We designed every shot, but I was expecting to have more of it out of focus. [Laughs.] What you do when you do these things is, you’re just trying to get the bit you believe, but we managed to make this thing you completely believe. To read the interview, click here.

Slade says in his interview with Steve Greene, “It just seemed like such a fresh thing to be doing. It seemed entirely to be about humanity. It’s funny, I rarely reference anything and I’m one of those people that doesn’t really spend much time in other people’s worlds. I just try and create my own and make it as distinctive as I can,” Slade said. “The two films Charlie mentioned were Duel and Jaws. Both Spielberg films. I was like, ‘Yep! Got that, easy. Great!'” To read the full interview, click here

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