Yesterday we brought you our exclusive interview with Tom Shankland, writer/director of the kids-gone-bad creepfest The Children, just one of four new Ghost House Underground titles to hit store shelves this week. Today we have an exclusive chat with Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project) writer/director of Ghost House Underground's Seventh Moon (starring Tim Chiou and Amy Smart). Check out our full interview with Eduardo below.
FEARnet: Where did the inspiration for Seventh Moon come from, is it a real Chinese myth?
Sanchez: Me wanting to make a chase film, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Originally it was gonna take place here, where I live in Maryland. I live in a rural area in Maryland. I just wanted to make a really cheap movie, get some people around here to do it. But I couldn't figure out who the bad guy was gonna be. I didn't want it to be zombies or rednecks or insane asylum escapees so I put it on the backburner. So I was talking to a Chinese-American filmmaker friend of mine who was trying to make some horror movies in China. So she asked me if I had any ideas and I thought yeah, it could work in China. To me this idea really exploded once the Chinese thing came up. I thought it was the perfect place for something weird like this to happen.
Then I started to do some research and found the whole idea of the Seventh Lunar Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival within the Seventh Lunar Month, and I realized this is where the movie has to start. We took the existing legend where Buddha opens the gates of hell and lets out all the hungry ghosts and went from there.
Did you shoot the entire move on location in China?
We shot the entire movie in Hong Kong, we thought about splitting up the shoot, maybe shooting some of it in Canada, but we figured it would cost us just as much shooting only in Hong Kong. It was like a big film school shoot, and I was able to shoot camera, which in a union shoot in the US I wouldn't have been able to do.
Tell us about some of the rural areas you shot at in Hong Kong.
Finding rural areas in Hong Kong is very challenging, it's very populated and developed, every time you see a rural area in the movie, we're pretty close if not right in the middle of a cemetery. So that was creepy, but it did add the vibe we were going for. I know it sounds really bad but every once in a while you'd step into an open grave.
And you were often behind the camera yourself?
We shot three cameras most of the time, it was the DP, then Greg Hale my producer ran the third camera and I ran the 2nd camera. I wanted to let Tim and Amy improv, but it became perilous with the open graves (laughs) so we had to plan and limit ourselves. But I also wanted to give them their freedom, and shooting 3 cameras gave me the coverage. I wanted a voyeuristic feeling to the movie, like you're not supposed to be watching.
Did you employ any techniques to keep the actors on their toes? Did you set any booby traps?
Sometimes we would not show them where they were going, like the crypt where they hide; I'd try to keep them away as much as possible from any of the big set pieces. It didn't lend itself to that kind of thing with this movie, not as many opportunities as I would have liked. But I gave them the freedom to react. And I kept the look of the pale figure away from Amy. So that when she saw that face for the first time through the window, it was her first time seeing that creature. There were very few dialogue scenes that were scripted.
The dialogue did seem very natural, especially the arguments early on in the film.
Yeah and once I cast Amy I showed her the three or four guys I was thinking of for the part, because it was important to me that there was chemistry. I think you're right; I was really pleased editing those scenes. I try to keep a rhythm, like you said; it seems like a real argument.
What can you tell us about the creatures? They're very unusual looking.
The creature design is something I had been toying with for a long time; the basic gist was this ghostly white image that appears. I wanted this white figure, very decrepit looking but not like a zombie with skin falling off. I wanted it to be more ghostly. And the face, I love that demon face from The Exorcist they flash. It's one of the scariest images ever I think. Right when I was developing the ideas for these figures, The Descent came out, which I think is a really good film and the creatures were very similar to what I was thinking. But I never imagined them having latex bodies. I wanted it to look like skin, very dry. I wanted to it sound like they were falling apart like crackling leaves.
The challenge was how do you put this stuff on actors and not kill them. So they came up with a technique in LA and transported it to Hong Kong. In the end they got it down to about 3 hours. At one point according to them, we had the biggest make up crew at one time in Hong Kong history; we had like 50 make up artists.
You seem to really enjoy directing smaller films with only a few characters, what's next for you?
I'm writing a scrip called Possession that I'm going to go back to a first person approach like Blair Witch with, very low budget. Do it improv and take a stab doing something a little bigger than Blair Witch but using the same technique. Mostly dealing w/ two characters. It's comforting to have only a few characters.
Have you reflected on Blair Witch recently now that we're in its 10th anniversary year?
Absolutely, there isn't a day that I don't think about Blair Witch. It's a bit daunting to live up to that. I think that's one of the most difficult things I had to go through, the idea that I did Blair Witch but I'll never do another Blair Witch, that's never gonna happen. Just be happy with what you have, and I am. You can't make films anticipating that will be the end result. You can hope for it and keep it in the back of your mind but at the end you have to love it for the material.
Have you seen Paranormal Activity?
I did, I saw it a couple months ago and I liked the film it's creepy and to me it's one of these films where - and I'm not trying to belittle the filmmakers because I think they did a phenomenal job and I've seen a lot of first person movies because people send them to me all the time and this is definitely one of the best I've seen. But these first person movies to me, I see myself very easily doing them, and I could be delusional but when I saw Paranormal Activity I can see how they did it. I know to me I can start a movie like that tomorrow. To me Paranormal Activity is right in my wheelhouse.
You can't market it as the next Halloween, if you bring people in expecting to see Blair Witch then I think they'll mostly be happy. I wish them all the luck and I know my publicist is doing their publicity too. So I'm kinda involved in what's going on over there to a certain degree.