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Exclusive Interview with BACKWOODS Director Thomas Smith

Released December 1st by Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight”, Backwoods fixes on a young woman who, while lost in the woods, comes face to face with an urban legend. We spoke to the film’s co-writer and director, Thomas Smith about those creepy, eerie roads we all avoid at night!

Give our conversation a read below the trailer and synopsis.

High school cheerleader Molly woke bound and gagged in the trunk of her boyfriend’s car. That was the high point of her night. After escaping her abductor and fleeing into the nearby forest, she comes face-to-face with the town urban legend: The Hangman, a deformed zealot said to hang male trespassers and keep the women as “brides”. Now, Molly, along with her best friend and would-be rescuer Noah must work together to avoid becoming his latest victims.

Backwoods stars Isabella Alberti, Jeremy Sande, Erin Lilley

Dread Central: We’re very keen to hear about Backwoods. What can you tell us?

Thomas Smith: The setup for Backwoods is a typical slasher — grotesque serial killer, cabin in the woods, final girl, dumb jocks, etc. —  but we’ve added a few 2020 twists to the template that will hopefully take viewers down a fresh path.

DC: And where did the germ of the idea spring from?

TS: The opening scene with Molly waking up in the trunk of a car was the catalyst for the whole story. That scene was inspired by a road trip Erin Lilley (co-writer/co-producer/wife) and I were on. She was driving and I had nodded off in the passenger seat. When I opened my eyes and looked around I realized our route had us in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forest, in the dark. That moment of waking up on a country road, confused, in unfamiliar surroundings triggered a whole “what-if” scenario in my imagination and that opening scene was born.

DC: Sounds like the filming locale is as much a star of the film as the cast.  Local shoot?

 TS: Yes, most of the film was shot in Mobile, Alabama. I knew while writing what locations I wanted to use and what we had available, so that made things much easier. We had a day of shooting at John Schneider Studios in Louisiana, which was a great experience.

DC: And was the cast all local?

TS: Goleman Casting found some very talented actors for Backwoods. Everyone was either a Mobile native or was from the surrounding area — Atlanta, New Orleans.

DC: It was filmed at John Schneider’s studios, I believe? What kind of step-up does he have down there?

TS: The exterior of the Hangman’s cabin and a few forest chase shots were filmed at John Schneider Studios in Louisiana. The rest of the film was shot in Mobile, Alabama. They have a pretty nice setup down there, and I was lucky enough to get a tour. We scoured location directories searching for a creepy cabin and never found one that felt right. Somehow, doing a Google search, I stumbled upon an image of the Cajun Cabin. I loved it. That image took me to the studio’s website and I learned the cabin was part of their property and available for filming. It was perfect. We actually built our cabin interior set to that cabin’s specs.   

DC: Are there a lot of horror films shooting down that way?

TS: We have a good mix of films shooting in the state. They range from studio horror — Get Out was shot in the area — to Netflix dramas.

DC: Have you had an experience like the one in the film? I imagine there’s some creepy back roads and backwoods out there?

TS: Never, and fingers crossed I never do! There are some pretty creepy roads and wooded areas here that make you pause before you venture down them. We shot so many scenes in the forest at night that I grew kind of numb to the location. When the lights were on. The second the lights went out or the generator cut off, you remember just how dark and scary the woods are at night. Not one of my favorite places, ha ha.

DC: Is there a road you intentionally avoid because it’s just too damn spooky?

TS: No, but driving down some roads I’ve gotten an eerie feeling. It’s those long stretches of road, surrounded by forest on either side, no street lights, no cars coming in either direction. It can be unnerving and my imagination runs wild.

DC: Was the plan to create a new horror movie monster icon here? Sequels on ya’ mind?

TS: The Hangman may look like a standard killer hillbilly on the surface, but there’s much more to his personality. I hope audiences want to learn more about him, his origins, and his unusual code of honor. 

DC: What else have you got in the works, sir?

TS: I’ve spent most of the year focused on getting through 2020, but in the downtime Erin Lilley (co-writer/co-producer/wife) and I have been working on some scripts and are trying to get a new project off the ground, something completely different. There isn’t much to report at the moment, but hopefully, everything comes together!

Backwoods 1 - Exclusive Interview with BACKWOODS Director Thomas Smith

Have you seen Backwoods? What do you think of our exclusive interview with Thomas Smith? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.

Written by Josh Millican

Josh Millican is the Editor in Chief at Dread Central.

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