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SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Annihilation. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know any important details about the end, please bookmark this page and save it until after your screening!
While writer/director Alex Garland is best known for his contributions behind the camera, it may surprise fans to learn how he directly contributed to the most terrifying scene in his latest film, Annihilation. During production, Garland took it upon himself to operate the creature in the mutant bear sequence, and he did what he could to try and shock his actresses while slowly crawling around the small house. As seen on screen, this was very effective, but the filmmaker recently told me that it was actually Tessa Thompson who really scared him during the shoot, basically because she is just a crazy talented actor:
Actually, [Tessa Thompson] freaked me out. She looked so frightened and worried at one point that I was afraid. I somehow thought, 'Oh my God, she's not acting. Something terrible has happened. Oh, Christ.' But actually she was acting. I remember it really unsettled me, actually. But she's an incredible actor.
I first learned about Alex Garland operating the mutant bear from Tessa Thompson when I spoke to her earlier this year during Annihilation's pre-release Los Angeles press day, and I followed up with the writer/director about it when I spoke with him on the phone late last week. I brought up the sequence and mentioned to him that Thompson had sincerely complemented his work with the bear, when he countered with a compliment of his own. It turns out she is such a talented individual that she fully convinced Garland she was legitimately terrified of being eaten by a horrific creature. And to his credit, that's how you feel watching her in the scene as well.
Thankfully it sounds like Alex Garland didn't call, "Cut" mid-take, which allowed him to capture the full power of the scene. Of course, one big question still remains: why exactly was it that Alex Garland wound up operating the mutant bear in the first place? Thankfully, the filmmaker was very forthright in explaining. I asked him how he wound up with that gig, and he noted that it was really a matter of convenience, detailing the work that went into making that Annihilation scene as powerful as possible. Said Garland,
We had different incarnations of the bear that we were using for different shots. So sometimes there's this huge stuntman who was knocking people out of the way and turning around, and then there was a really, really beautiful animatronic head that was used for some of the shot. And then the other times, for reasons to do with timing, it was just easier if I picked up this big foam bear head and used that, because rather than explaining exactly what it had to do, it was easier just to do it.
Fans can now relive this terrifying sequence over and over again, with Annihilation now available on home video. The film has been released not only on DigitalHD, but as of Tuesday is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Be sure to pick up a copy, and stay tuned for more about the amazing film here on CinemaBlend!