Anthony DiBlasi (Dread) is breaking away from the macabre universe of Clive Barker, but not without taking some disturbing imagery along with him in his new film, Cassadaga, starring Kelen Coleman (“The Newsroom”) and Kevin Alejandro (“True Blood”).
Cassadaga is actually a real place that’s deemed the Psychic Capital of the World, an interesting backdrop for a story that centers around a deaf woman attempting to contact her sister from the beyond only to wind up being caught between a malevolent spirit and a serial killer dubbed Geppetto. DiBlasi was kind enough to share a few words about Cassadaga with Dread Central a little earlier this week.
DC: I was just down in Austin for Fantastic Fest and they showed the Cabal cut of Nightbreed and I was just curious if you’d seen it yourself.
AD: Yeah, and I am really eager to see how those guys clean it up and stuff for the Blu-ray release. I don’t know if they’ve changed it since but the version I saw was raw. It came from the VHS masters and what not. What is it looking like now?
DC: Probably about 70 percent of the film is that kind of quality but I think they’re going to be cleaning it up fairly soon. It didn’t really bother me even seeing it blown up on a big screen.
AD: Oh great. Good. It’s going to be really nice to see it when it’s all done.
DC: It’s a great victory for directors, not just Clive.
AD: I know. That was such a long time coming. It’s great that they found that footage and stuff. It took a long time.
DC: I was just reading how VICE magazine ventured into the Cassadaga Spiritual Camp and it reminded me of Ti West’s film The Sacrament that’s going to be coming out soon. What happens to Kelen Coleman is far more therapeutic than what happens to the characters in that but, going into a place like that, you never really know what to expect. Why was the decision made to set the film there and how much was actually shot there? I understand that it’s a pretty small place. Any strange New Age experiences? I think a documentary about that place could be made probably.
AD: It’s a really fascinating place and it is a real place. It is a tiny place and when I got there it was so much smaller than I expected it to be. The guys who wrote it, Scott [Poiley] and Bruce [Wood], they grew up in that area and always knew about it. They thought let’s write a film about it and tie it into this bigger story. We shot the whole film there in that area on the outskirts of Orlando. It’s very swampy and it’s similar to New Orleans and very Southern Gothic, I would say. We went on a scout early in the morning and Cassadaga is a really hilly area which is strange for Florida. We had this cavalcade of cars that was going down. We were driving down the streets and then, suddenly, everyone in the town starts coming out on their porches. It’s not like we were making a lot of noise. It was just a strange experience where they were like, ‘Who are these people and why are they here?’ They were all just coming out onto their porches and watching us. All of these psychics – like they knew we were coming.
DC: That’s a little creepy. You’ve been in Clive’s world for so long. Was it a nice change of pace to do something more straightforward and more dramatic? Was it somewhat daunting to not have that association this time out?
AD: What I set out to do with Cassadaga, in a lot of ways, is kind of an homage to films I grew up with like The Changeling – a movie that I love. It has a classic sense of storytelling and it is dramatic and I think more accessible than something like Dread and a lot of Clive’s work. I wanted to make something that was more accessible to a larger audience. Movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s tried to tell a story that was both emotionally satisfying and scary, so that’s what I tried to do with Cassadaga. It was a good experience down there.
DC: I know the human marionette dolls are probably the main draw for gore aficionados. I imagine that was a fairly complicated rig to set up. I think Lee Grimes did the effects. It seems like that aspect of the film and the killer Geppetto could have been a whole movie unto itself. Was its inclusion always in earlier drafts of the script? It’s pretty nightmarish stuff.
AD: It was, yeah. It was something that we tweaked along the way. I completely get what you’re saying; it could have been a movie all by itself, and we wanted to tie it into this mysterious character. In The Silence of the Lambs you had Buffalo Bill doing his thing before the characters meet. The rigs were painful but worked really well. We built these puppetry rigs where we could hang her and have her fake limbs attached and green screen everything else and work her as a puppet. I wanted the actor who was playing Geppetto to actually be able to control it himself and do what he felt fit in the moment, which sometimes got really dark. I would let those takes run for like twelve minutes sometimes. I have so much deleted footage of things that should probably never see the light of day.
Cassadaga is in limited release now and also available on VOD and digital services from Archstone Distribution.
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