‘Mindcage’ Director Mauro Borrelli Discusses The Horror-Thriller Ahead Of Its Release

December 15, 2022

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: horrorfuelinfo@gmail.com

Mauro Borrelli, director of The Recall, Star Wars: VIII: The Last Jedi, and who has worked on films such as The Hateful Eight, Captain America: First Avenger, and The Wolfman, sat down with us to talk about his upcoming horror-thriller Mind Cage,


Starring John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire), Martin Lawrence (“Martin”), and Melissa Roxburgh (Star Trek Beyond), the film centers on detectives Jake Doyle (Martin Lawrence) and Mary Kelly (Melissa Roxburgh), who seek help from an incarcerated serial killer known as “The Artist” (John Malkovich) when a copycat killer strikes. While Mary searches for clues in “The Artist’s” brilliant but twisted psyche, she and Jake are lured into a sinister game of cat and mouse, racing against time to stay one step ahead of “The Artist” and his copycat.



Kelli: “You have a fantastic portfolio of films you’ve worked on. How did you go from the art department working on things like Sleepy Hollow and Captain America to directing?


Borrelli: “Basically, when I was a kid in elementary school, I liked writing stories so much that when I was in middle school, the teacher told my dad, this kid should go to classic school and maybe be a lawyer. And my father was a judge, so my father said, “That’s great!” And I got so scared to be like my dad that I decided not to write anything else, do something different, and start to paint. So for many years, I was an artist and a painter, and then I started to feel the need to go back to some of my original desire, which was storytelling. And so little by little, I combined the two things and started to write and make a story. And so that’s how the transition happened. But I’m glad of the art experience because it gave me a different approach to filming.”


Kelli: “Right, right. I’m sure. Okay, so tell me about Mindcage. It seems to pay homage to Silence of the Lamb.”


Borrelli: “Yes. I was looking at some of the comments on the trailer. We got very big numbers of watchers in the trailer, and I noticed many people, and I knew somebody was going to say that, but I think they would be surprised when they saw the movie that at the end, there is a bunch of unexpected things that will pull away from that. It is more in the tone. I mean, anytime you put a female detective into a prison cell with somebody charming, it will remind you of that movie. You trigger that. But actually, I was more connected with the Sixth Sense somehow. The supernatural element and M. Night Shyamalan are more my references for the world that I tried to bring. And the movie Seven, of course, Seven, yes. I can say Seven. It was a good reference for me in terms of creating a detective story in terms of the film noir look and feel.”


Kelli: “Right. I can see that. Well, it’s definitely got an amazing cast, and I think this is the first time we see Martin Lawrence in something so serious.”


Borrelli: “Yeah, believe me, I was surprised too when they told me you have Martin Lawrence to play him. I was like, what? And then the producer says, ‘Mauro, you can pull it out.’ He is going to be… I’m sure that when you work with him, he will be excited about it. And so I had to talk to him; he was humble and passionate about doing something different. And I remember I like the tone of his voice, the warmness. And I think sometimes it can be just the tone of the voice that can be an inspiration for something. And I’m thinking, well, this guy was beaten up, got a bad experience, and now is lost a little bit, and that voice works. You know what I mean? And then I thought, and then they told me, “Oh, maybe because he’s doing something different, that serious, why we don’t put him in a different look. So they did a test, and he came out with a big black beard like that [motions to the beard size]. And I say, no, no, no, no, no. This would be cheating. He is constantly creating another character. I want Martin Lawrence, but I want Martin Lawrence to perform like drama. And I think that’s the best way. Because also we don’t want to betray his fan.

We want his fan to understand that Martin is not just a fun guy, but he also has some heart and depth that he can be in a role like that. And so we took out the beard and returned with a very small, tiny goatee. I was a little worried about that. When his fans look at it in the beginning, when they see him and expect a punchline or something, they will be disappointed. But I think you start to adjust after you see him two or three times. I don’t think anybody will pay attention or think about it. They watch him carry on.”



Kelli: “He did a great job!”


Borrelli: “Yeah. No, he did. And he was always in character. I think he knew that his instinct as a comedian could come out at any time. So in order to prevent that, he took it very seriously. So he was standing out of the motor home, he was like, he has a sadness in there. So I felt like it was good. And maybe a couple of times I saw him, there was something on the line that happened, and at a certain point, there was a moment of quiet, and then he exploded in a laugh, his eyes becoming big. And I saw Martin, and I saw Martin Lawrence two times, the real Martin Lawrence probably, and on a couple of occasions. But for the rest, I always saw the character of the story.


Kelli: “It surprised me how well he fit into that role. But you also had that the rest of the cast is amazing. And I mean John Malkovich, come on. Who doesn’t love him?”


Borrelli: “How can you go wrong with that? Right. Yeah. I want him to have a different look right now, and he’s bald. So I thought this guy should be more like a prince of the Renaissance, some Leonardo da Vinci. So I painted his look with gray hair and white hair. And he saw that, and he said, ‘I like that. I think I have the perfect one.’ He probably has a bunch of stuff. I have the perfect wig for that. I said okay. It was exactly like in the drawing that I did. That was pretty amazing.”


Kelli: “Right, and how did you go about creating that moment, that line where it went from a police thriller to a supernatural horror?”


Borrelli: “I try to be careful with the horror, not to make it too flashy. I always think that horror works better when it is beautiful. And so it can become more intriguing. So I’m trying to make something always beautiful and not disgusting. I go to the horror… and I thought that if I start right away with an image that sets up the tone, that will stay in the mind of the audience. So I start with an opening scene right away of a drawing. And then I think that will set up a little bit the artist, the art world, the world where we are, and the detective story follows.”


So I think they kind of work pretty well right now together. And again, there are certain things that are more personal to me with the painting and the, cause I was a fine art painter in Italy, painting religious icons. And I’ve been in a church doing restoration for many years doing copy in the museum. I’ve been watching all these books where you see crucifixion and stuff. And I want to learn how to paint from the best master. But each one of those masters, the best work, has a religious team. And so how religion and art connect. So there are a lot of personal things here that I see meaning, but I don’t think that maybe other people will be too familiar with that. I think they still feel something without knowing why. So maybe there’s a little touch without being explained, maybe mystical, some mystical things.”


My takeaway from my interview with Mauro Borrelli is that he is a passionate director, led by his desire to create an intense movie while searching for beauty in darkness.


I can say that I really enjoyed Mindcage, which features fantastic acting from all of its cast, as well as its edge-of-your-seat tension. Don’t miss Mindcage, directed by Mauro Borrelli, set to open in limited theaters on December 16, 2022, from Lionsgate.


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