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Prestige Horror: The Hollywood Elite in Horror Films

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This week marks the release of the Spierig Brothers’ new horror flick Winchester starring Dame Helen Mirren as the notorious widower of the Winchester rifle fortune and architect of the Winchester mystery house.

I don’t know about you, but having such a prestige name as Helen Mirren stopping by our beloved genre is a big deal in the eyes of the Dread Central crew. It’s with this in mind that we wanted to look back through semi-recent horror history and seek out some other genre offerings that boast such top quality casts.

What follows is our list of horror/thriller films with prestige casts. Sometimes the films were classics. Sometimes they left us scratching our heads as to what went wrong. Either way, all of the films listed below are worth checking out just for the pedigree of talent behind the scenes.

So let’s get to it!

***

Stoker

You’ve got to love Nicole Kidman. She is one of our genre’s most frequent elite actresses, and she seems to be showing no signs of stopping. Not only did she star, alongside Mia Wasikowska, in this horror-thriller from director Chan-wook Park but she has also graced our genre with such quality efforts as The Others, The Invasion, The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Dead Calm. Damn, The Invasion aside that is one hell of a resume for an Oscar winner. Keep up the good work, Nicole Kidman!

Death Becomes Her

Some people might not call this film a horror movie. They’ll call it a comedy (which it is) or make up some kind of sub-sub-sub-genre to explain it away. But make no mistake, Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her is a gory, hilarious trip through the underbelly of gothic horror. It’s a blast, and if for some reason you’ve never checked it out, put it at the top of your must-see list and enjoy.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

I’d venture to say that director Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the most prestige horror film of all time. From the lavish production design, the epic scale, and of course the pedigree of the cast (wait, is that f*cking Keanu Reeves?) Bram Stoker’s Dracula is as prestige as prestige gets. Does anyone want to argue? Didn’t think so.

What Lies Beneath

Like Death Becomes Her listed above, What Lies Beneath further proves that director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away, Forrest Gump, etc) is really a massive horror fan at heart. Take for instance this horror-chiller starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Sure, it’s more of a Hitchcock-ian thriller, but if this film had starred B-movie actors it would have been called a horror movie no question. But add in the superstar pairing of Pfeiffer and Ford, and flawless filmmaking, and What Lies Beneath is a horror movie even your mother will enjoy.

The Devil’s Advocate

True story: parts of this movie were filmed in my hometown of Gainesville, Fl. Pretty cool, huh? Meh. I’ll take what I can get. But still, as cool as The Devil’s Advocate is, nothing compares to the show-stopping performance by Mr. Al Pacino. One of the acting greats of all time, Pacino played the Devil himself in this horror flick by Taylor Hackford (Trivia Bonus: Hackford is Helen Mirren’s husband) and I still cannot think of an actor better suited to play Lucifer on screen. Maybe Christopher Walken. Maybe.

Hannibal, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs

Sure, when these films started out the cast wasn’t quite as prestigious as they are now, but that’s only because the original Silence of the Lambs was so damn good that the cast became prestige simply by being in this horror film. Hannibal was arguably even more of a prestige effort as it boasted Julianne Moore, and then Red Dragon sealed the deal with its inclusion of Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. In the end, the Thomas Harris trilogy of films will be known as the creme de la creme of fright flick prestige. And that makes total sense.

Interview with the Vampire

Sometimes, even to this day, I’ll watch Neil Jordan’s Interview With the Vampire and marvel at the prestige of its cast. Sure, Tom Cruise was a big deal back in the day, but watch it again and be astounded at the level of talent present onscreen time after time. From Brad Pitt, to Antonio Banderas, to Kirsten Dunst, to one of my favorites Christian Slater, Interview with the Vampire‘s cast will make your jaw drop. But my favorite actor in the whole piece is Neil Jordan’s go-to Stephen Rea. His performance as Santiago is still one of the creepiest performances I have ever seen, and his dance in the tunnel gave me more nightmares as a kid than 10 Pennywises. Brr.

Wolf

Jack Nicholson. Michelle Pfeiffer. James Spader. Enough said, right? Not quite. Add in director Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Closer, etc.) and Wolf is about as prestige a werewolf motion picture as we could only ever hope to see. That said, I’ve never seen the film myself (I know, for shame) but I plan to give it a watch tonight. Finger-crossed.

Sphere

Based on the novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and brought to the screen by director Barry Levinson (Diner) Sphere was one of the most anticipated sci-fi horror thrillers of my youth. But then the movie came out… Awkward silence. But still, the film boasts one hell of a cast including Dustin f*cking Hoffman and Sam Jackson. It’s not often someone of Hoffman’s stature stops by the horror genre, so as bad as Sphere is, I’d still suggest giving it a watch just for the fun of it. Not a total waste of time. Merely misguided. Think of it as The Abyss. But without, you know, anything cool happening. Ever.

Fallen

Fallen is so f*cking badass, isn’t it? Love it. If you haven’t seen this film watch it asap. It’s basically a 90’s slasher ala Shocker or The Hidden, but with Denzel Washington, Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and John Goodman in tow. The plot centers around a serial killer demon (yep) who can jump from person to person with merely a touch of the hand. It’s suspenseful, scary, and all-out horror at (most) points. “Tiiiiime is on my side. Yes, it is.”

The House on Haunted Hill

After starring in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Geoffrey Rush might not seem to be the most prestigious of prestige stars in Hollywood, but let’s not forget that the man is one of the great actors of our time. Not only that, but at the time that Rush agreed to star in director William Malone’s underrated haunted house chiller he was known for Oscar-bait films like Shine, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, and Les Misérables. Plus, you’ve got to love his John Waters meets Vincent Price performance. Classic.

Mary Reilly

This adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – as told through the eyes of his housekeeper Mary Reilly – has been almost completely forgotten within the realms of cinema in general, let alone horror films. And maybe that’s for good reasons. Personally, I have never seen the film, and Julia Roberts isn’t enough of a draw for me to check out this film, but the promise of Malkovich as Jekyll/Hyde just might put this film on my must-watch list. Should I take on Mary Reilly? Let me know below.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Like Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula mentioned above, director Kenneth Branagh’s take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is about as prestige as prestige gets. From the casting of Robert De Niro as the monster to Helena Bonham Carter as Frankenstein’s tragic lover, this film is a classic. I think. It’s been a few years. But still, I plan to give the film another day in court soon. After all, it was written by Mr. Frank Darabont. And if you don’t know who Frank Darabont is then you’re reading the wrong list on the wrong site. Hope you find your way back to Penny Hoarder safe and sound.

Shutter Island

Here we have yet another film that people love to say isn’t a horror movie. But I strongly disagree. From the escaped mental patients, to the raging storm, to the psychological tension under every scene, Scorsese’s Shutter Island is yet again a film that if it’s cast and crew weren’t as prestige as they are, people would happily slap a “horror” label onto the box and throw it on the shelf next to the Shutter remake. But that’ll never happen. Just look at that cast! This is a “psychological-suspense-thriller-drama” if I’ve ever seen one! Sorry, my keyboard got stuck on the sarcasm there for a second.

***

And there you have it. These are our picks for the prestige of Prestige Horror. What do you think? Let us know below!

Winchester starring Helen Mirren hits theaters February 2nd, 2018.

Synopsis:
Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Academy Award winner Helen Mirren), heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider, it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters…

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10 Terrifying Moments from Kids’ Movies That Haunted Our Childhoods

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When the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story dropped a couple weeks ago, I watched it with a tinge of dread. See, Han Solo traumatized me as a child. I was 7-years-old when I saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, and the scene where Harrison Ford gets tortured at Cloud City gave me my first bona fide panic attack. It was dark, intense, and completely out of left field in an otherwise fantastic franchise where no one ever bleeds (or screams).

I might be the only one who had such an adverse reaction to Solo’s torture (which happens, primarily, off-screen), but those of us who came of age in the 1980s can probably relate to encountering terrifying moments in otherwise kid-friendly films. For the most part, these were the days before PG-13, meaning there was a ton of leeway for movies that fell in between the extremes of Cinderella and The Shining.

In retrospect, 1980s kids were subjected to a litany of scares that would be considered highly inappropriate by today’s standards—perhaps explaining our generations’ intense love of horror! Return with me now to those terrifying days of yesteryear with 10 terrifying moments from kids’ movies that haunted our childhoods!


The Tunnel of Terror in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The only film on this list that wasn’t produced and released in the 1980s (and the only one I didn’t see in theaters) is nonetheless one every child of the era has seen: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971. I remember my parents telling me that I was in for a treat when they sat me down in front of the TV at the tender age of 6.

I was already unnerved by the tall man in the trench coat and the bizarre antics of Gene Wilder’s Wonka, but that boat-ride scene completely destroyed my childhood. It wasn’t even the chicken decapitation or the centipedes that rattled me; it was Wonka’s unhinged shrieking! To this day, the scene gives me the willies (pun intended!); Wilder truly channels the dangerous intensity of a lunatic.


Gmork attacks Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The NeverEnding Story was an exciting alternative in the Disney-dominated landscape of kids’ movies in the 1980s—exciting and dark! But a kid trapped in an attic, a horse drowning in a swamp, a nihilistic turtle, and a devastating void all paled in comparison to Atreyu’s confrontation with the insidious Gmork.

Those green eyes staring out from the cave froze my blood. The fact that it could speak made it infinitely more terrifying; this wasn’t some primal beast, this agent of The Great Nothing was a cunning and merciless villain. The matter-of-fact way it informed Atreyu that he would be his last “victim” was beyond bleak. When the monster attacked as thunder roared and lightning struck, I screamed.

Though many aspects of The NeverEnding Story show their age, this moment remains, objectively, as scary as any horror movie werewolf attack.


The Wheelers Descend in Return to Oz (1985)

When Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) first arrived in Oz back in 1939, she was greeted by a community of cheerful Munchkins. When Dorothy (reprised by Fairuza Balk) returned to Oz in 1985, her reception was much colder.

The eerie silence of a seemingly abandoned wasteland was broken by an assault by Wheelers: colorful, mechanically enhanced cousins of the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys. As adults, we can laugh at the impracticality of villains who can’t even maneuver stairs, but we weren’t laughing as kids, I can promise you that!

While the hall of heads, an unintentionally terrifying Jack Pumpkinhead, and a truly demonic Gnome King are perhaps the scariest moments of Return to Oz, the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Wheelers was a truly devastating moment. It obliterated all our happy memories of Oz in an instant, transforming the land of enchantment into a labyrinth of evil.


Large Marge Tells her Tale in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Many of the films on this list are dark from start to finish, containing multiple terrifying moments. But part of what makes the tale of Large Marge so impactful is that it appears in an otherwise completely lighthearted film. Sure, man-child Pee-wee Herman has always been subversive in ways that only become apparent as we get older, but he never dabbled in ghost stories or jump scares.

Luckily, the scary face of Large Marge was as funny as it was shocking, so even though kids like me hit the ceiling, our fears quickly dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. Today, I remember practically nothing about Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll have fond memories of Large Marge until the day I die.


The Emperor Turns to Ash in The Dark Crystal (1982)

Over 35 years after it’s release, The Dark Crystal remains a unique and beautiful anomaly. Jim Henson’s G-rated Muppets were left in the workshop! This film was populated by fascinating and terrifying characters, conveying a tale that wasn’t dumbed down for its audience. These factors give the film profound resonance and contribute to its status as an enduring classic

Like the title warns, this film is dark. The Skeksis are demonic, Augrah is arresting, and the Garthim are pure nightmare fuel. The process of draining Pod People of the essence and the stabbing death of Kira are horrifying. But it was the death of the Skeksis Emperor that really hit me like a ton of bricks.

There was something metaphysically terrifying about this moment; not only is the idea of a creature crumbling into ash creepy as hell but the effect was gasp-inducing. As a child, it was something I’d never seen before, a concept I’d never imagined, and it floored me. Death had never been conveyed with such shocking profundity.


The Lab Rats are Injected in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

When I sat in the theater in 1982, I don’t think I realized that The Secret of NIMH wasn’t a Disney movie, but I realized soon enough Mickey and Minnie weren’t hangin’ with these rodents! The Great Owl was petrifying and the finale was as harrowing as anything my young psyche had yet experienced, but it was the flashback of experiments conducted on lab rats that stuck with me and haunted my childhood.

It wasn’t just the brilliant animation that powerfully conveyed the rats’ pain as syringes were plunged into their bellies, it was a brutal moment of education they don’t teach kids in school. It was my first introduction to the realities of animal experimentation, and the fact that grown-ups would perpetrate such atrocities felt like a betrayal


The Ending of Time Bandits (1981)

In retrospect, it was irresponsible for any of our parents to think that Time Bandits was a kids’ movie just because the main character was an 11-year-old boy. In 1981, the only other film Terry Gilliam had directed was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, Time Bandits is funny and exciting with motifs common to kid-friendly time-travel fiction, but the film is nearly hopelessly bleak from start to finish.

Kevin (played by Craig Warnock) is completely neglected by his parents and essentially kidnapped by a troop of interdimensional robbers. He’s made complicit in a series of crimes throughout many dangerous eras, forced to endure wars and even the sinking of the Titanic. Eventually, Kevin is dragged into a realm of ultimate darkness. Though triumphing over Evil personified, he’s abandoned by God before returning home—only to find his home engulfed in a blazing inferno.

Though rescued by firemen, Kevin’s parents didn’t even realize he was missing and are soon reduced to piles of ash by a stray bit of concentrated evil. The friendly firemen take little notice, leaving our young protagonist utterly alone.


Faces Melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

A lot of my peers will count the human sacrifice scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as one of the most terrifying moments of their childhood. Not me. After what I’d endured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was ready for anything.

Since it gets less attention than its predecessor (bonus fact: Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark), I think people forget just how scary Raiders really is. It’s worlds darker and grittier than Doom, which has a colorful, comic book pallet by comparison, not to mention a clear emphasis on comedy. The spiders, the snakes, the boobytraps: they all put monkey brains and extracted hearts to shame.

But the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark is more intense than most horror movies, past and present. The face-melting evoked Cold War Era fears of nuclear annihilation and the idea of a vengeful God was devastating.


The Death of Shoe in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

I wasn’t always the jaded gorehound I am today; I was young and sensitive once. And even though I was well into puberty by 1988 (or maybe because of it) I was especially traumatized by a moment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The hard-boiled plot loaded with barely veiled sexual innuendo was, for the most part, completely buried beneath a cacophony of cameos from just about every cartoon character ever penned.

But it wasn’t the fever-nightmare of Roger’s mania or even the emergence of Judge Doom’s true form that devastated me; it was the execution of poor Shoe, a paradigm of animated innocence unceremoniously dropped into a barrel of “dip” (a toxic concoction made from turpentine, acetone, and benzene).

Most kids in their early teens couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica Rabbit; I was haunted by the death of Shoe.


Supercomputer Makes a Human Cyborg in Superman III (1983)

There’s an evil streak that runs throughout Superman III, the third film to feature Christopher Reeves as the titular Man of Steel. While Superman II had its dark spots (specifically the devastation caused by Zod and his companions) there’s an undercurrent in Richard Lester’s follow-up that’s absolutely wicked—containing a scene that contributed to the destruction of my childhood.

A makeshift batch of Kryptonite turns Superman into an immoral, selfish thug before he participates in a troubling fight to the death with himself. But as unsettling as the concept of an evil Superman may be, the scene where the supercomputer turns Vera into a cyborg was some next level shit for 10-year-old me.

I re-watched the scene in preparation for this article and was shocked at its similarities to the moment in Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is transformed into a Cenobite—especially the wires! No wonder it scared the hell out of me!

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Exclusive: Making Effective Low-Budget Slashers w/ Black Creek Writer-Director James Crow

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Today marks the release of writer-director James Crow’s new supernatural slasher flick Black Creek on VOD.

To celebrate the film being out there for your viewing pleasure, we wanted to catch up with the director and talk a bit of shop about just how one puts together a low-budget (effective) slasher film.

So without further ado what follows is our interview with writer-director James Crow (House of Salem). Give it a read and then let us know what you think!

***

Dread Central: The film’s central villain is very interesting. How much of the mythology/backstory is based on real legends?

James Crow: I’ve always been very fascinated and inspired by mythology and have always been very fascinated with Native American culture. I saw a very powerful film called Soldier Blue when I was younger about the Sand Creek Massacre and it has always haunted me. The skinwalker is based upon the Bayok, a shape-shifting creature that was meant to fly through the forests and Great Lakes. It eats the insides of its victims without waking them!

DC: What were some of the major challenges you faced during the shooting this particular film?

JC: Being out in the wilderness is great… in some respects. You’re not disturbed and don’t have things like traffic and planes overhead. You can be quite secluded and it helps with the atmosphere of film – and in some ways, it focuses the cast and crew. But it can be a challenge when you need quick access to things and problems arise. When you’re on a smaller budget and have a smaller crew than normal, it’s a challenge to be that cut-off. You have to be very resourceful!

DC: In addition to directing Black Creek, you also wrote the screenplay. What inspired you to try your hand at a slasher film?

JC: I think there are elements of the slasher genre there, but it has a supernatural element. I wanted to do something different than my last two films, which were far more supernatural. It wasn’t as heavy as some of the other films, and that was quite liberating. It was fun to enjoy doing something in the vein of a more old-school slasher.

DC: How did you pull off all of the SFX contained within the film?

JC: We shot the scenes as best as we could with gritty lighting and atmosphere. My director of photography Scott Fox is a real talent. Then it was all down to the amazing skills of Jeremy. His work on the edit was brilliant and he really brought a lot to the film. The combination of him and Scott – and, of course, Pete Coleman’s score – is wonderful.

DC: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?

JC: Keep being ambitious and aiming for new things. Don’t be afraid to go out and make movies. Don’t be constrained by people who tell you it’s impossible to do certain things.

DC: How did you go about casting this film?

JC: A lot of the cast I knew. Producer Craig spent a lot of time going back and forth with casting ideas. Robert Lowe is a fantastic actor I’ve worked with a lot, and Michael is very young but a big talent to watch for. Pierce Stevens always deliverers, and I loved his take on the sheriff. They make a brilliant double act. Chris O’flyng is a very talented guy and actually comes from Wisconsin. I think he gave the role a lovely vulnerability and played the troubled angst of an alternate teen brilliantly. I cast Leah for her wonderful warmth and beauty on camera, and she really delivers the likable girl next door and heroine. Brianna also is a real force and has some great comedic lines. Rachel Vadeer has something magical about her and Kaylee Williams and Michael Copan are really great pros, all of whom we were lucky to get.

DC: What were some of the films that inspired Black Creek?

JC: Obviously The Thing by John Carpenter, but also It Follows was a bit of an influence.

DC: What’s next?

JC: I have a Christmas horror anthology coming out in November – Nightmare on 34th Street – which feature Pierce Stevens, who plays the sheriff in Black Creek as a killer Santa. It also includes some other cast from Black Creek. We’re also in the final stages of another horror I shot with Scott Fox, A Suburban Fairytale, and we start shooting a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style comedy called Last Village on the Right next month.

DC: Are there plans for a Black Creek 2?

JC: I guess that depends on how well one does! I like the idea of a prequel though or spinoff. Hopefully, Craig Patrick and I will do something again soon, even more epic.

DC: What’s your favorite scary movie?

JC: I have too many. But my favorite horror is Suspiria. To me, it’s still totally iconic and out of this world. The soundtrack by Goblin is marvelous, but thankfully I’m doing really well with Pete Coleman on all my movies so far! And Black Creek is another treat, and I look forward to what he’s done on Ahockalypse with Craig. I’m sure it will be amazing, much like his score for Nightmare on 34th Street!

***

Thanks James for stopping by Dread Central and chatting with us about the new film!

Black Creek stars YouTuber Chris O’Flyng as well as Leah Patrick, Michael Copon, Kaylee Williams, Robert Lowe, and Michael Hill. It was directed by James Crow.

The film is now available On Demand HERE.

Synopsis:

Returning to their family’s cabin in the dark, Wisconsin woods to scatter the ashes of their father, a troubled young man and his brash sister are terrorized by signs that an ancient, Native-American spirit, awakened by a ritual murder, has marked them for death.

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Exclusive: Talking Vietnamese Ghost Stories and Gothic Horror with The Housemaid Writer-Director Derek Nguyen

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Her arrival awakes the wrath of spirits.

Writer-director Derek Nguyen’s Vietnamese Gothic romance horror film The Housemaid is hitting select theaters, VOD, and Digital platforms in the U.S. today, February 16.

Dread Central was lucky enough to catch up with Nguyen for some one-on-one time where we talked Gothic horror, Vietnamese ghost stories, and more. It was a great interview, and you can check out the full piece below.

After that make sure to check out the film’s poster to the right and the trailer below, and then let us know how excited you are to see The Housemaid.

Now let’s get to it!

Dread Central: First thing I would like to say is “Wow, what a movie!” I loved The Housemaid and found it to be a gorgeous Gothic horror film. Are you a big fan of the sub-genre?

Derek Nguyen: Thank you for your kind words about The Housemaid! And yes, I love Gothic horror films. But it all started for me when I read Gothic horror novels as a kid. My go-to reading list was Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, Picture of Dorian Gray, and anything from Edgar Allan Poe. One of the highlights of my career was when I received an Edgar Allan Poe nomination for a play I wrote called Monster. Dream come true.

DC: What are some of your favorite Gothic horror films?

DN: I am a big Guillermo del Toro fan. I love his dark sense of humor, his ability to create memorable offbeat characters, and the dark storylines he gravitates to. Other than the classics like Bride of Frankenstein, I really liked Let the Right One In, The Orphanage, and The Witch.

DC: The film is set in 1953 during the First Indochinese War in Vietnam. How important was this particular period to you and the film?

DN: The time period was integral to the story of The Housemaid. It’s set in a very pivotal time in Vietnam’s history, where the French [were] just about to be defeated in the battle of Dien Bien Phu. And I wanted to talk about war, Colonialism, and their effects in Vietnam. I was interested in talking about the many years of oppression, particularly by the French rubber plantation landowners. And of course, I wanted to talk about these things while being entertaining!

DC: The film features some horrific acts by French overseers on the Vietnamese workers at the film’s rubber plantation. How much of this is based on real events?

DN: In my research when writing the film, I discovered all these horrific acts by French landowners on Vietnamese workers while on a trip to Vietnam. I had no idea that these things happened and was surprised that they weren’t in the history books. There are museums in Vietnam that tell the shocking tales of the plantation workers in detail. Thousands of Vietnamese men and women toiled at the French rubber plantations under debilitating and inhuman conditions. Dysentery, malaria, malnutrition, and back-breaking labor were rife. Merciless overseers systematically beat and tortured workers—many of them to death. I wanted to tell their stories and didn’t want to shy away from what really happened.

DC: In addition to directing the film, you also penned the screenplay. Can you tell us what your initial inspiration was to tell this particular tale?

DN: The film is inspired by my grandmother, who was once a servant in a grand estate in Vietnam and ended up falling in love with the landowner. As a child, she used to love to tell me ghost stories. One of the things that stuck with me was that she believed that spirits lived in trees. Then I learned about the atrocities that the Vietnamese rubber plantation workers experienced under the French landowners and I thought about how haunted the plantations must be. If you visit the rubber plantations in Vietnam, you’ll notice that the soil is red. Many Vietnamese believe that the soil is red because of all the spilled blood of the Vietnamese workers.

DC: What are some of the films that inspired The Housemaid?

DN: Jane Eyre, The Others, Rebecca, The Shining.

DC: The Housemaid is the third-highest-grossing horror film in Vietnam’s history; did you ever expect the film to resonate to that degree?

DN: Crazy, right? And it’s been sold to 19 different territories around the world. Unbelievable! You never know how people will react to your work. As a filmmaker, you just have to do your best and make sure that you’re being true to yourself. And hopefully, people like it!

DC: Nhung Kate received a Special Jury Prize for her portrayal of Linh at the 2017 LA Film Festival. What was it like crafting such a profound performance on set?

DN: Nhung Kate is a revelation! She’s bold, gutsy, vulnerable, and mysterious. (And she rides a kickass motorcycle!) It took months for us to find the right “Linh” and I think she embodies the character so perfectly that I can’t imagine I could have found a better actress to play the part. While on set, Kate and I worked a lot on the duality of the character: her internal feelings juxtaposing her sense of duty. In a lot of ways, she’s a character who struggles between her need for love and the burdens of responsibility.

DC: Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey S. Fletcher (Precious) is currently penning the script for the American remake of The Housemaid. How do you feel about your film being remade?

DN: I feel great about the American remake because it was my idea! When I was doing research for the original script, I realized that there are so many parallels between Vietnamese plantation workers in Vietnam’s colonial period and African-American slaves in the American South. I pitched the idea to my producer Timothy Linh Bui, and he took it to CJ Entertainment, who financed the original film, and they greenlit the remake. My only condition was that I insisted that the screenwriter and director of the American version be African-American. I feel that there needs to be an authenticity to the experiences and that the new characters would be best served by filmmakers of the same cultural background. I will be executive producing the remake and will be working creatively with the American team.

DC: Awesome! Now, I always like to end with this question: What’s your favorite scary movie?

DN: Psycho. I was one of those strange ten-year-old kids who watched that film over and over and over again. Does that say something about me?

Thank you so much to The Housemaid writer-director Derek Nguyen for stopping by Dread Central and talking with us about the film.

The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and via digital platforms in the U.S. on February 16, 2108.

Synopsis:
A forbidden passion awakens vengeful spirits within a haunted mansion in this bloodcurdling, erotic tour-de-force. Vietnam, 1953: Linh (Nhung Kate), a poor, orphaned young woman, finds employment as a housemaid in a crumbling rubber plantation presided over by the emotionally fragile French officer Sebastien Laurent (Jean-Michel Richaud). Soon, a torrid love affair develops between the two – a taboo romance that rouses the ghost of Laurent’s dead wife, who won’t rest until blood flows. Submerged in moody Gothic atmosphere, this stylish supernatural saga confronts the dark shadows of Vietnam’s colonial past while delivering heart-stopping scares.

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