“Gotham” star Ben McKenzie and “Instinct” actress Bojana Novakovic are attached to star in the new J-horror film “Bloat,” Variety can reveal.
Produced by Bazelevs, the production banner of Screenlife pioneer Timur Bekmambetov (“Unfriended,” “Searching,” “Profile”), “Bloat” is a co-production with Russian streaming platform Okko, French production and sales house Pulsar Content (“The Deep House”), and Japanese production company flag Co., Ltd.
Filming has already started in New York and will continue in Japan. Pic marks the first time Okko has co-financed an international production. Pulsar Content will handle international sales and is launching pre-sales at the European Film Market.
“Bloat” stars McKenzie as a military officer stationed in Turkey while his wife (Novakovic) is vacationing in Japan with their kids. During the stay, their younger son almost drowns in a lake. Soon after the accident, the parents realize that something is wrong with their boy.
McKenzie’s critically acclaimed roles include the NBC/TNT crime drama “Southland” and Fox’s Batman prequel series “Gotham.” The Australian actress Novakovic has made a name for herself in Hollywood, starring alongside Margot Robbie in “I, Tonya” and “Birds of Prey.” She also appeared in “Rake,” “Westworld” and “Shameless,” and will star in the upcoming limited series “Love Me” for Warner Bros. International and Binge TV.
“Bloat” is written and directed by Tokyo-based horror filmmaker Pablo Absento. Her short “SHI” was a festival favorite, receiving accolades from Guillermo del Toro and Eli Roth and getting picked up by Crypt TV. Absento also directed several episodes for “SMA Horror” (“Smartphone Horror”), a new show produced by the creator of the iconic J-horror franchise “The Grudge,” Takashi Shimizu.
McKenzie and Absento are producing alongside Bekmambetov, Maria Zatulovskaya and Anna Shalashina from Bazelevs; Gilles Sousa and Marie Garrett from Pulsar Content; Hiroko Oda from flag Co., Ltd; and Dzhanik Fayziev from Okko. The Fantasia Film Festival’s artistic director Mitch Davis and Aleksandr Fomin are associate producers.
“Bloat” is the second joint project between Bekmambetov’s production company Bazelevs and Pulsar Content. Their inaugural partnership, the sci-fi thriller “Resurrected,” starring “The Vigil” actor Dave Davis and directed by Egor Baranov (“Gogol”), is set to premiere later this year.
Both films adopt Bekmambetov’s signature Screenlife filmmaking technique, in which the story unfolds on the screens of the devices used by the movie’s characters. The first Screenlife release, “Unfriended,” was picked up by Universal and grossed $65 million worldwide in 2015. It was followed by “Searching,” starring Debra Messing and John Cho, which was acquired by Sony Pictures and raked in $75 million. Bekmambetov was a producer on both films, which were shot for under $1 million.
McKenzie is repped by Verve. Novakovic is repped by CAA, Management 360, Shanahan Management in Australia and attorney Bob Wallerstein.