Now that Los Angeles’ film festival laureate Screamfest LA is off and running from October 8-17 at the Mann’s 6 in Hollywood, CA, we’re wrapping up our interview series with directors who have films in the fest. Our last installment: Andrew Shortell and Psych: 9.
”We are all thrilled to be a part of the festival,” Shortell told Dread of Screamfest’s selection of his feature film Psych: 9 (it plays this coming Tuesday, October 12th, at 9:30 pm). “I actually attended as a guest a few years ago to see a Victor Garcia film. It’s funny that he has another film (Mirrors 2) this year that is showing the same day as Psych 9!”
Produced and directed by Shortell, written by Lawrence Robinson, and starring genre heavyweights Cary Elwes (Saw) and Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens) and rounded out by actors Sara Foster, Gabriel Mann, Colleen Camp and Winter Ave Zoli, Psych: 9 revolves around a young woman with a troubled past (Foster) who takes a job at a recently closed mental hospital. While laboring the night shift alone, she begins to experience a series of unsettling events that lead her to believe that the hospital may be connected to a spate of recent murders in the area, and to uncover the truth she must revisit the past behind the walls of the shuttered ward.
With Psych: 9 serving as his feature directorial debut (Shortell had previously directed the short films “Pull” and “3 Minutes”, both of which were celebrated in the festival circuit), the director told us of his attraction to Robinson’s Psych: 9 script, “I chose it because it was interesting, and it also seemed like a smart choice for my new production company. We wanted (to do) something commercial, and psychological thrillers seem to have a good track record in the (film) market.”
“I first read the script in June of 2006,” communicated the director of the film’s genesis. “At that point it was given to me as part of a much smaller production slated to shoot in California. We eventually acquired the rights to the script and ended up shooting it in Prague with a budget of five million dollars late in 2006. As it was my first feature, I spent many months prior to the shoot in Prague working on the story, the shooting locations and the way I was going to shoot the film.”
As for his approach to the horror element, “I am a huge fan of Hitchcock and the way he could tell a terrifying story without turning it into a bloodbath,” said Shortell of Psych: 9. “I really wanted to make a psychological thriller that would be unsettling to the audience as well as give them some scares. At the same time I was very careful not to throw in gore when it wasn’t necessary. The best example of this is the opening scene when a young woman is brutally murdered outside the hospital. I wanted to make it gruesome and shocking but without all the blood and guts, and by working with just the sounds of her murder behind a door, and letting people’s imagination take over, I think we accomplished it.”
The burgeoning director’s excitement at working with Michael Biehn also added to his enthusiasm for Psych: 9.
“Michael was awesome!” said Shortell. “I had so much fun working with him and wished I had him in more scenes. He’s one of those actors that just ‘gets it’. I rarely had to give much direction apart from discussing the scene and setting it up with the other actors. He always would instinctively know where the character should go. When we had the casting session in LA, he was one of the first actors I met. After the reading I knew he was perfect to play the role of Detective Marling. He joked with me at the end (of production) saying, ‘I thought I would try playing this guy as soft and nurturing, not the usual abrasive detective,’ and it worked, but we all were left thinking that this character is kinda sinister.”
With Psych: 9 having already received a theatrical release in the UK on May 7th of this year (digital screens only) via Universal Pictures and Galaxy Pictures and scheduled for a DTV release October 11th in the UK and Ireland, the filmmaker recently secured US distribution through Grindstone Entertainment, who will release Psych: 9 to DVD early next year under the Lionsgate Home Entertainment banner.
”I am currently working on several scripts, none of which are similar to this,” concluded Shortell. “I have a story about oil, corruption, and kidnapping in Colombia entitled Black Gold and a coming-of-age story about a misfit British schoolboy who is the victim of bullying but finds the courage to try out for his school’s football team. I also am looking at other scripts and projects for me to direct and am keeping my options open, but I certainly have not ruled out another journey into the thriller or horror genre.”
Psych: 9 – Trailer
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