It’s January 15, 2010, when this scribe arrives to the snowy set of executive producer Greg H. Sims’ psycho-thriller Behind Your Eyes. Shooting for 14 days on location in Lake Arrowhead, CA (with additional days in and around the nearby environs of Los Angeles) and written by Daniel Fanaberia, the flick revolves around ‘A couple. A kidnapping. A secret. A weekend to meet the parents becomes a weekend of trying to stay alive for perfect Steven and Erika’ (according to the production’s PR).
The film stars Tom (Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil) Sandoval and Swedish actress Frida Farrell as the unlucky duo. Writer Fanaberia and actors Remy O’Neil, Lisa R. Segal, and Arthur Roberts round out the film’s cast.
The first in-house feature for new production and distribution entity Vesuvio Entertainment Corporation, of which Sims is CEO, Behind Your Eyes is being helmed by Clint Lien (he previously worked as a producer with Sims on their 1999 feature The Fear) in his directorial debut. You wouldn’t know it, though, as when this scribe arrives to the dusty, cramped basement in which the film is shooting, Lien comes across as a seasoned and patient pro, guiding his cast and crew with a steady hand through the scripted tortures of the day.
Filming in an old restaurant turned storage facility for the Timberline Antique Dealership, the production is utilizing the location for the basement set of the parent’s home, where much of the action goes down, and the flick’s official synopsis is as follows: ‘Young couple Erika and Steven have the world going for them as they embark on a weekend retreat to meet Steven’s parents. Things take a turn for the worst when the couple is unexpectedly kidnapped and held hostage. Now, it’s a fight for their lives against their mysterious abductor and the secrets he possesses. As he tortures and teases them, secrets from the past emerge and change everything. When Erika escapes, things only get worse, and the twists and turns take the viewer into uncharted territory and unyielding mayhem.’
Of the scripted mayhem, “That’s the ‘sodomy horse,’” Lien tells us between takes of one of the set’s props – a rather sadistic looking sawhorse variant whose purpose is rather clear given its construction and moniker, as well as the bound and gagged Farrell who pleads in the foreground with her off-screen captors. We soak in a few takes, and with the scene complete and Farrell’s cries still echoing in the basement (we’re embargoed at present from revealing exactly what was shot), this scribe steals Lien away from his chair for a chat.
“It’s definitely a psychological thriller,” says the director, who previously co-producer the 2002 feature Megalodon, of Behind Your Eyes, “but as you can see from the set that you walked onto, it’s pretty grim.”
Dread questions him regarding the cinematic depravity audiences should expect from the film, given the Hostel-esque tools of torture that adorn the walls of the set, and Lien responds: “I definitely wanted to take a step back from ‘torture porn’ because it’s becoming ridiculous. This is one of the problems I had with (Bryan Bertino’s 2008 film) The Strangers – we’ve got to the point where our protagonists don’t have a face, a name, or any words – they just come in and rip the shit out of everything. Even Jason and Michael and Freddy, all ridiculous characters from the 1980’s, had some motivation, and we all loved them because they had character. When I watch a horror movie, I want my bad guy to be lovable in a way because we love to hate them.”
As for the film’s exploitative versus thematic elements, Lien offers, “We’ve got the beautiful girl (Farrell), but I think everything that I’ve done in there suits the push of the story, and the actors agree with me. I’ve asked them to do some really risky things and they’ve pushed it. The dramatic element is a triangle between the three characters: the boyfriend (Sandoval), the girlfriend (Farrell), and then this other guy (writer and actor Fanaberia), who we don’t really know who he is. We have a triangle of incredibly twisted dimensions. It’s about deception and coming to terms with who we really are, and that’s the case with all three of these characters.”
With the production shooting on the Red camera system, we’re curious as to what ‘look’ Lien and production designer Caity Birmingham are striving for, and the director quips, “The look was one that was ‘finished’, if that helps. (Director of photography) Akis (Akis Konstantakopolous) and I sat down and watched Seven, and without a doubt it’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, and he agreed. Then I watched The Strangers – which while I am a horror fan I thought was a bit misogynistic – but the director shot that film beautifully: a lot of hand-held, a lot of oranges and warm tones and that cabin, earthy-feel that gives you that feeling of isolation that you don’t get in the city. So we are moving away from the city look (of Seven), and going for an isolated, claustrophobic feel. We are doing a lot of hand-held.”
Commenting on the limited space inherent to the basement in which they are shooting, “We’ve got this thing called a slider,” says Lien, “which gives me about three and a half feet to move-in and move-out and keeps the camera moving. I’m not a ‘sticks’ guy: I do not want them on my set, and Akis is a big Greek kid who can hold that camera all day.”
Executive produced by Sims with co-producer Hawk Furman and producers Chris and Michael Ottinger, Behind Your Eyes had a breathtaking three-month turnaround from script to principal photography, with Lien having no more than six weeks to prep before the first day of shooting.
“This is the fastest turnaround I have ever been involved in,” says Lien. “Greg asked me to read it and maybe punch it up a little bit, so I did a brush (on the script), and then next thing I knew we were in L.A. casting and now we are here.”
“It’s really incredible what Greg’s pulled together here on a shoe-string budget,” Lien continues, “which is the way the industry is going now. They just aren’t making those half-million dollar movies anymore. Five years ago you couldn’t do a film like this for this budget; it was just impossible. But now with the advent of the digital world, you are able to. The Red looks incredible. It looks so 35mm. And we’ve got some good talent in there and some great crew, and I’m just stunned at what they are putting together and what they are giving me to work with.”
Check out three exclusive production stills and pictures from the set of Behind Your Eyes below, and stay tuned for our chat with executive producer Sims.
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