Set Visit Report: Cast and Crew Talk Thomas Dekker’s Jack Goes Home
Production has commenced on writer/director Thomas Dekker’s Jack Goes Home in Kingston, New York; and Dread Central was recently on the scene. The film is produced by Dekker, Jordan Yale Levine/Yale Productions, and Scott Levenson. Co-producers are Nikki Reed and Jon Keeyes, and executive producers include Shaun S. Sanghani/SSS Entertainment, Jason Rose, and Jessica Chang.
Following is our report from the set along with a look at a few stills and the film’s preliminary artwork that was put together for film fest submissions.
This is Jack Goes Home. This is a gathering of talent to help shape a word of torment and trigger catharsis for its director, Thomas Dekker. What I saw was Jack (Rory Culkin) dressed in white shirt, dancing with his mother, Teresa (Lin Shaye), to a song from a foregone era. Teresa slips from his arms, as if drugged. and falls to the floor of the old house where the production is shooting.
I was witness to Jack hitting Shanda (Daveigh Chase) across the face and shoving her out the door. Jack was shirtless and covered in blood. Chase relayed the slap was real and she needed it from Culkin. “The thing is, we go about things in a very ‘method’ kind of way sometimes, and that’s like this whole other thing that people don’t know about it. I’m not going to be able to describe it in the next thirty seconds…”
Chase had known Dekker for years before taking on the role of Shanda. “Well, we’ve been friends for four years. We met over the phone first, and then we ended up doing a film together a year later. But it wasn’t even about that; it was just about the level of intimacy I have with him; we have such an affinity for each other, and I just knew that anything that he was writing would be something that would be worth being a part of because… he just has this great sense of self that he doesn’t compromise for anyone…”
And this is a deeply personal project for Dekker and certainly not a time for compromise when one has such a focused point-of-view. “My father died when I was twenty-two, and I really was destroyed by it. He was everything to me, and I really had a very deep inward emotional spiral, and I knew at the time that I wanted to tell a story about it, that I wanted to make something about it. It was a time of friction between me and my mother, and sort of grappling with my childhood, and I went through a period of wanting to write something about it, but I didn’t want to make some masturbatory, whiny drama, me-me-me kind of movie about the situation. Suddenly this kind of light bulb went off with me at the end of last year, and I went, ‘Uh-oh.’ If I could actually take all that anger and emotion that went with that ride and put it into something frightening and a thriller, I felt it was a good way to use a kind of universal theme in a genre capacity, and I obviously am a very outwardly-spoken genre fan and horror fan—but the kind of horror I’m obsessed with is the really dark, disturbing stuff…”
The look was important as well to express grief, to express sorrow. “I want that Carpenter [look]… y’know, to be able to play with the edges of the frame. John Carpenter’s someone who’s a huge influence on me… it’s a very subdued film; the story and the situations that take place are so intense and so harsh that if we played it up in a kind of Argento way, I think the whole thing becomes kind of ridiculous—and I love Argento, but this film needed to be grounded in a visual universe that was very serious, very stoic, very to-the-point; and that way we can get away with the insanity, both figuratively and literally, that ends up happening by the end of the film. The way I describe the film, which… I think is exciting, is that it really is like a runaway train… [in] the first half of the film, with the exception of indications of music and performance, you might not even know it’s a horror film. You might think it’s a family drama because it really is about establishing our characters. Then it reaches the midway point, and it just goes flying off the tracks. To me, that was the process of my grief and my depression… I felt for quite a while that I was totally fine—and then realized that I really wasn’t, and so did everyone around me. I think that losing yourself and losing your sanity and losing your ability to even recognize just what a hole you’ve dug yourself into is the most frightening [thing]; those are the most frightening topics to me. And lies within family and betrayal of your childhood and betrayal of who you are—there’s nothing quite more universal or palpable in the horror genre than that.”
When co-producer Nikki Reed read the script, she knew it was the one. “We spent about a year and a half working on something else that we would co-produce together—and then out of nowhere he just cranked out Jack Goes Home. He wrote it in just a couple of weeks and sent it to me and said, ‘This is the one! This is the one!’” She also appears in the film in cameo as Crystal. “To be honest with you, it’s just a cameo; it’s just because Thomas likes to play around and say that I’m kind of like his little good luck card, and he doesn’t want to do anything without me. I’m currently on a television show [“Sleepy Hollow”–read more about that here], which has kind of kept me from being even more actively involved than I would have liked to have been. I’m as involved as I can be—y’know, I’m on every call and every email, and I see all the dailies; I’m very involved on that front, and I was very involved in pre-production…”
But they needed to get the right house to contain the story, which led the production to Kingston, New York. Producer Jordan Yale Levine led the way. “Actually, the original homeowner who built this house, his kids… their faces are imprinted on the banister; I kid you not. It is just like—This is built for a horror movie! You’ll see the attic when we go up there… it’s nutty. So we actually have the new homeowner’s daughter here, helping us out.”
Theodora Blasco’s family was approached first about the house. “Well, inside it’s still being renovated, so it’s kind of got unfinished darkness to it. Also, all the original woodwork is still inside, which is all done by hand, so it’s got this interesting sort of church-y feel, but it’s been modernized a bit. Also, for instance… on the banister there are hand-carved tiles of the original children who lived in the house. The first night that we ever came here, it was the eve of Halloween… we came in and it was storming, and it was really dark and decrepit on the inside still, and my mother went to touch the face of the tile and she got a really intense shock from it. So yeah, there’s definitely an energy inside that really plays to the sort of dark feel.” She is learning a lot being a PA on the set. “I’m listening to everyone: ‘Don’t be full of yourself because you don’t know anything yet.’” And her mother does not mind that a genre crew has descended on the house. “Well, it’s my mother’s house and she’s an artist so she gets it. She’s into it. She’s come in; she’s really interested in all the changes they’ve made. She thinks it’s really… she’s interested in it. It’s cool for her.”