Interview: Director Eric Bress Talks WWII Horror Adventure GHOSTS OF WAR

Before directing Ghosts Of War, which turns out to be quite a mind bending haunted house movie set in Nazi occupied France, Eric Bress was best known for the Ashton Kutcher thriller The Butterfly Effect, another film that breaks out of the typical genre mold. He also developed the cult show Kyle XY and wrote The Final Destination, the 4th entry in the series that went into another dimension exploring the world of 3D.

Things are not exactly what they seem in Ghosts Of War, so we definitely treaded carefully in the below interview in fear of giving away any of the surprises awaiting fans…

Synopsis: Five battle-hardened American soldiers are assigned to hold a French Chateau near the end of World War II. Formerly occupied by the Nazi high command, this unexpected respite quickly descends into madness when they encounter a supernatural enemy far more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield.

Dread Central: I was struck really early on with the opening quote. Is that a real letter that you found?

Eric Bress: No. To write that letter, I knew I needed an opening to the film that set the tone for the movie. This is what I do: I get on a motorcycle and I drive up the Pacific coast and after about 40 minutes my right brain takes over and the left brain drops. And the creative juices start flowing. It just started flooding to me, this despair of what this one soldier was going through.

DC: So once your motor functions take over then you can really start thinking creatively. I was already invested before the supernatural stuff entered in. If you can make it an interesting war movie and be invested in it before the horror element comes in, that’s the goal right?

EB: If I had my druthers, we may not have ever gotten to that mansion. I’m just such a firm believer of starting our stories with that ordinary day. I really wanted it to feel reminiscent of a Saving Private Ryan…where the score has trumpets and brass in it very reminiscent of a war film before we even get to the haunted house. This movie was interesting because it kind of transitions through genres that way which makes it a challenge, not only during the writing, but the editing is effected. The camera lenses you’re using get effected. And the score is definitely effected.

The trick is to do it so subtly that the audience won’t notice. This film takes some twists and turns that hopefully they won’t see coming.

DC: You were talking earlier about how you like to start with an ‘ordinary day’ but in my ordinary day Billy Zane doesn’t suddenly pop up and I’m boxing with him. Can you explain the Billy Zane cameo?

EB: The producers are very good friends with him and they know what a great guy he is and what he brings to the set. We were hunting for a certain character that appears in the film at some point to have a certain authenticity, a certain screen presence. In order to do that, for this dual role, we would be introducing someone and losing them very quickly. I’d recently seen another movie where a certain television actor who gets top billing in the film is killed within the first ten pages. I found that really disconcerting. There’s a lot of things in this film that serve two purposes and you had to be careful…

DC: I really like the whole construct of it, I know we can’t talk about it too much. It doesn’t really seem like you want people to know that there’s a big twist in this.

EB: Yeah, no. So it’s really tough talking to you! I don’t know if even the mention of that ‘T’ word will make people start guessing. Maybe they’ll guess wrong; maybe they’ll guess right. I don’t think they see this coming even if you think there’s some reveal. Now, we almost expect certain things and I think the horror genre really lends itself to that.

DC: I do like how you pepper in these kinds of references to Robert Heinlein and with An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Pierce. Just with those references, you’re starting to think a little bit. I liked those touches.

EB: I wanted to use them just when we’re at a point in the film where, I would think as an audience member, I get it. They’re dead. This is hell. But what if the characters actually were to talk about it? What if they actually began to suspect they were dead and in hell? Now, that can’t possibly be where this is all headed. Rather than let you think that you’ve figured it all out, I wanted the guessing game to start over at that point.

Vertical Entertainment will release the horror, psychological thriller film Ghosts Of War in Virtual Cinema Screenings, On Demand and Digital on July 17, 2020.



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