Brian and Lo Avenet-Bradley’s acclaimed supernatural horror film Echoes of Fear – which has been chalking up terrific reviews on the festival circuit – is about to embark on a nationwide theatrical release. The film, about a woman who after inheriting her grandfather’s house must confront the mystery of his sudden death and the evil that hides inside, kicks off in Los Angeles on October 16th with a run in cities such as New York, Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco to follow.
Alysa inherits her grandfather’s house following his sudden death from an apparent heart attack. She cannot keep the house so travels there to prepare it for sale. While she is packing away her grandfather’s belongings some strange and unexplained events inside the house start to spook her and she soon comes to the conclusion that she is not alone there. Even her pet mouse senses a presence. Something supernatural lurks in the house and she begins to believe that her grandfather was trying to find something before he died. When her friend Steph arrives they attempt to solve the mystery and what they uncover together forces them to confront the diabolical truth and the evil that hides inside.
Los Angeles, CA Oct. 16
Torrance, CA Oct. 24th
Chattanooga, TN Oct 24th
Johnson City, TN Oct. 24th
Knoxville, TN Oct. 23rd
New York, NY October (Date TBD)
San Francisco, CA October (Date TBD)
Greenville, SC November (Date TBD)
Pasadena, CA November 6th
Atlanta, GA November (Date TBD)
Palm Springs, CA November (Date TBD)
Boston, MASS. November 6th
Santa Monica, CA Nov 20th
Orlando, FL Nov. (Date TBD)
Dread Central was lucky enough to snag an exclusive interview with the Avenet-Bradley duo. Give it a read below!
Dread Central: Do you remember where you were when the idea for Echoes of Fear came to you?
Brian Avenet-Bradley: We moved into a house about 10 years ago. We all know that every house will make spooky noises—creaks, pops etc. But we realized right away that this house had a lot more going on. The house has a very unique architecture because it’s built up into the hill, so each floor stair steps back over the previous. So it’s very unique with high ceilings, lots of staircases and a lot of strange crawlspaces. Soon after sleeping here we started experiencing weird things—intercoms going off on their own, pipes groaning in the walls, footsteps in the hallway at night.
Lo Avenet-Bradley: Soon after we moved in, one night, we woke up from a screeching cat fight that sounded like it came from underneath us. So the next morning, I investigated the crawlspace, but there was no cat and no way for a cat to have come in. And like Brian said, we could hear the intercom buzz on its own and that would freak me out.
BAB: It finally escalated to me seeing a dark shape, which for some reason, I knew was female. One time I saw it sitting on the edge of the bed, her back towards me. Another time I woke up and saw her standing in the master bathroom… then she rushed me, and I jumped up screaming. That woke Lo up. She gets very mad when that happens. Anyway, there were a lot of strange things. And I kept notes, jotting everything down.
DC: What was the initial idea?
BAB: The initial idea really came from those notes. That was the kernel of the story.
LAB: And I really wanted to incorporate crawlspaces, because there are multiple crawlspaces that do not connect and are hidden under traps.
DC: And how did it change the course of development?
BAB: We had these experiences, but we knew it was only the beginning of the first act of a story. We had to figure out what it meant for the film. Cause in real life, we don’t know. So for the film, we needed to come up with– What’s causing this? What’s the mystery? How does it escalate? What’s the danger to the main character Alysa? So the idea simmered, and we made another horror film, Malignant, starring Brad Dourif and Gary Cairns. As we finished that film, I came across two other true stories of horrific events, one of which happened near where the house is and the other in another country. These true events we read about inspired us, and we realized we could combine them with what we experienced.
LAB: I liked the idea of the main character having a pet- small, fragile, and witty- a mouse. So we got a pet mouse that I started training. And I added other elements and locations that I can’t talk about without giving too much away. But they opened up the film and added to the characters’ development.
DC: Based on the film, it would seem telling a smarter, more profound horror story was much more important to you than your standard genre flick?
BAB: We always feel whether the story is inspired from real life or comes 100% from our imagination, if we execute that story well, it will be different and original. It will happen naturally. All our horror films mean a lot to us; they’re all passion projects that we put a lot of ourselves into. We never make a horror film just to make a horror film—this is what we’re drawn to and hopefully the audience can feel that passion. And most of all, we really wanted to tell this scary, creepy story and make it an entertaining horror film.
LAB: It was important for us to see the main character evolve psychologically, and show that even though she’s insecure and easily influenced, she learns to trust her guts and be strong. We also wanted to seed plot information & clues throughout so the main character discovers the mystery along with the audience. I’m interested in the horror that’s all around us, that can happen. The true events are very horrific, so we wanted to make sure the horror felt real.
DC: And how would you make sure that was accomplished?
BAB: It all starts with making the script as solid as possible. Then we start working together on the best way to execute it. We spend a lot of time on storyboards and planning the look and feel of the film way before production.
LAB: I took the script and broke it down into little pieces that I taped on a wall. Then I divided them into sections that would convey a change of story, mood or character arc. Each of those sections was translated visually into lighting, lens choice & camera motion to help build the tension, atmosphere and scares of the film.
BAB: Casting the parts was also very critical. We knew we had to find the right Alysa as so much of the film revolves around her— the audience is in her shoes, learning the mystery as she uncovers it, experiencing the terror as she experiences it. So it was crucial to find an actress who could make Alysa a character that the audience would have empathy with. And also, the actress had convey a lot of emotions and different stages of fear and terror and anger—all in the face and eyes without dialog. We had first worked with Trista Robinson in our previous film Malignant, and we felt she would be perfect. At festivals, audiences have really been responding to her performance.
DC: The film played festivals – – and it did quite well, too! Tell us how important festivals are to independent films.
LAB: Festivals give a chance for filmmakers to get an immediate response to the emotional impact or the scare factor of the film. Mostly, it helps make people aware of your film. It’s hard to compete with bigger budget films, so it’s all about word of mouth and spreading the word
BAB: Horror festivals are especially great because you’re able to show the film right to your target audience. It’s a fantastic way to get live feedback on the film too. We were able to learn what people love the most about the film– which is very useful as you create the marketing materials and talk about the film.
DC: Awards. How much do they mean to you?
Brian: Any recognition of the film means a lot to us because we care so much about Echoes of Fear. But what means even more to us than the awards has been the audience reaction to the film at the horror festivals. Their response to the story, suspense and scares has been overwhelming.
LAB: I think awards are important because it shows appreciation; it gives a stamp of approval that helps people notice the film. And it can help getting attention from a distributor.
DC: Does snagging a few help with distribution?
LAB: We discovered that larger festivals primarily play films that already have distribution or have a relationship with producers’ reps. So there are not many slots left for indie films without distribution in those festivals. So having awards can help stand out and get attention from a potential distributor.
BAB: I’m not sure how much it helps, but it doesn’t hurt! I did use it as a way to re-contact potential distributors—“look we played another festival, and it won another award.” I think after our 4th Best Feature award, Jinga Films became interested in taking the film for international sales. Would they have taken it anyway? Possibly, but it did make a great excuse to keep sending emails to them. But I don’t think the awards made much of a difference for U.S. distribution. For VOD, you’re not even allowed to put festivals or awards on the artwork.
DC: So, tell us about finding a home. Where and how did you start hunting for a distributor?
LAB: For us, it started right when the festivals started. Our first festival was at Shriekfest in Los Angeles, so we contacted distributors before and let them have the opportunity to see the film on a big screen. Few of them come, but it does put the film on their radar when we follow up.
BAB: Shriekfest directly or indirectly led to us talking to several companies. And we also reached out to fellow horror filmmakers we know. They’re really the best resource and were very generous in giving us recommendations on who to approach and who to avoid.
LAB: We always ask our fellow filmmakers how it’s going with their distributor. We had heard from multiple people about Jinga Films from doing our previous film, so we approached them directly for international sales. It took longer to get a feel for what to expect for US distribution.
BAB: We signed with Jinga Films first for international, then after 9 months of doing festivals, we finally made our decision on North American distribution—Artist Rights for the theatrical screenings and VOD and another company for Blu-Ray/DVD which we’re looking forward to announcing soon.
DC: Was it important to you that the film get a theatrical release?
BAB: Theatrical screenings were important to us because we saw first hand the audience response from festivals. And we knew that the best way to spread word of mouth was to continue to have screenings beyond the festivals.
LAB: We played 14 festivals so far, but that means there are a lot of cities we never played in so we wanted audiences to have the chance to experience the movie in a theater so they could share their reactions.
BAB: And really the best way to experience a scary movie is to watch it in the dark on the big screen with other people. It’s just the most fun- screaming in the dark!
With such a good sound base, I can only imagine the theater adds quite a bit to the soundtrack?
BAB: Yes, the sound design and Benedikt Brydern’s score has the most impact in a good theater sound system. I especially love fully experiencing the bass and low-frequency effects. For me, sound is what makes a horror movie really come alive.
LAB: Having great sound, sound design and musical composition is so important to a horror movie. There are large segments of the film with just sound design and music with no dialogue. We also recorded over a thousand original sounds to add to the sound design. Working with the composer, Benedikt Brydern, was very crucial to setting the mood. Also, playing it in a theater guarantees the audience can hear it in 5.1 with the full sub bass. A lot of people don’t have a 5.1 sound system at home.
DC: Sound is important to you, clearly?
BAB: I always think about sounds right from the beginning, while writing scripts. The pipes in the wall, the intercom buzzes and pops, the meowing cat, the creaks of the floor, the supernatural sound effects etc.—all of these are noted in the script. So I knew it would be critical to capture the right sounds. We didn’t want to resort to a sound fx library as I knew what the original sounds we experienced really sounded like. So we worked hard on capturing and creating sounds in post. Mark Lee Fletcher, whom I’ve been working with since high school, created original software programs to alter key sounds and make them disturbing. All this sound work increases the tension and atmosphere that Lo is already creating through her camera work and lighting.
LAB: Then we worked with Benedikt for a long time to create a score that really pushed the sense of dread from the very beginning, then built more and more as the movie builds.
BAB: His score is radically different at the beginning and end of the film. But it fits, because it changes and evolves as the movie shifts.
DC: Are we looking at a future where there won’t be any theatrical releases- and everything will go direct-to-digital?
BAB: It is tough out there and getting tougher every year for lower budget films to go theatrical. But horror has proven itself to be a genre that still thrives in a theater if done on the right budget. So I think 5 million dollar and up horror films will be in the theater for many more decades to come. Now, ultra-low budget horror films that are done for under a million or way under a million, that’s a different story. Already theatrical releases for those films are few and far between.
LAB: I think people still like getting a theatrical experience in addition to having their private viewing in the comfort of their home. Maybe Theatrical Event screenings for those films may be a way forward, like a touring band. A special showing, one night only.
BAB: But beyond that, ultra low budget horror will mainly be digital distribution. And of course Blu-Ray for people who love to have the physical disc and artwork—and the extras! To me, the biggest challenge to straight to digital is for people to be aware the film is there. There is so much media out there now, that unless you already know to look for a film—it’s very hard to find it. It can get lost in the crowd. That’s why festivals and screenings are so important to spread word of mouth.
DC: Are you preparing any extras for the inevitable DVD release?
LAB: Yes, we filmed a fun extra, Echoes in the Dark, where I pick up the 2 lead actresses in the film and take them on a tour of the haunted house entirely in the dark. We encounter more cast and crew along the tour and learn the true stories behind the film as we discuss key scenes and the special make-up effects with Renae Goodhew.
BAB: It’s really different from a typical bonus extra. There’s no clips of the film or talking-head interviews—it’s a 55 minutes tour that’s filled with surprises. Even some surprises we weren’t expecting. In addition to Echoes in the Dark, we also have edited together three festival Q&As that gives a lot of info on the movie. We hope people check it out.