You may recall last week it was revealed that Jeff Buhler, who found his way into our genre by penning the script for Midnight Meat Train currently being directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, is moving up the Hollywood ladder rather rapidly by jumping right into directing.
The film in question is called Insanitarium, and shortly after the news broke Jeff agreed to chat with us a bit about it so we could find out more of what to expect. “The story centers on this guy who’s got a history of mental illness in his family,” Buhler told me. “His sister is his only living relative and she gets committed to an insane asylum. He knows he has to save her from this place, and the only way he can do that is to convince the powers that be that he’s insane so he can get committed and then break her out.“
Does it sound strange that a person with mental issues in their family would feel it their duty to break out a family member who’s been interred? “Unfortunately for her one of her greatest fears is doctors and hospitals and being locked up,” Jeff clarified for us. “He knows that the doctors think they’re doing her well but that she won’t survive inside.” Of course, there’s a lot more going on in the insane asylum than some well meaning doctors…
“Without revealing too much, he finds out about a new drug that the doctor running the asylum is giving the patients that’s turning them into cannibalistic psychotic freaks. So of course he then has to stop them…” Now that sounds more like it!
Buhler revealed that the script is one he’d been working on for many years in various stages, having written it with a low budget and limited locations in mind. “We’re really trying to develop some characters that the audience can feel for and have sympathy for, but get into the story as quickly as possible so that we can start pulling things apart. We want the time to be able to build this up as a very scary, dangerous place,” he said, admitting that even he was a bit surprised that both Screen Gems and Benderspink, who are producing the film, had him in mind to direct. “I said I’d love to, but I didn’t want to bog the project down, basically. If we were to take it to a company who didn’t want to work with a first timer or wanted someone with at least a reel or something, I didn’t want to hold it back from getting made. They said they believed in me and my vision and they knew I saw the movie the way is should be shot. So they said I could do it and have been behind me since then.” Truly a once-in-a-lifetime situation for any aspiring screenwriter.
Though Insanitarium hasn’t officially been given a green light yet, Buhler said that if and when it does happen, they will begin developing it immediately, having favors ready to be called in from his years working in production in Hollywood and having already scouted out a possible location in Los Angeles: an abandoned hospital that they can dress up as an insane asylum quite easily.
With cannibalistic psychotic freaks roaming the hallways, things are bound to get pretty messy, so is there any specific effects company he has in mind? “What I’d love to do is find someone who’s been working for the more renowned special effect houses who wants the opportunity to take charge of a film themselves,” Buhler told us. “Someone who’s been in the shadow of the greats, who has that kind of experience and is ready to take on something as their own. Someone who could see this as an opportunity to move their career forward so in that way we have everyone on board who’s inspired, so everyone has a personal reason for wanting to put their all into it.“
Sounds like a damn solid plan to me! Keep your eyes on Dread Central for more on Insanitarium as it develops, and of course we’ll be giving you more on Buhler’s first claim to fame, Midnight Meat Train, as we get closer to its conclusion as well!
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