[Set Visit] A Trip to Gepetto’s Lair in ‘Cassadaga’!

Cassadega

Last October, Tim Anderson and I trekked over to Sanford, FL to visit the set of Anthony DiBlasi’s Cassadaga, which premieres this coming Saturday, October 22 at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival in CA. The film – which centers on a deaf girl who attempts to contact her late sister’s spirit during a seance but instead attracts the avenging ghost of a murdered woman – looks to have some fairly intense moments judging by what we saw during our trip.

The two days we were on set for, which also happened to be the final two days of principal photography, were filled with things we can’t really get too specific about – like what exactly is going on in Gepetto’s lair – but Tim did a really respectable job of giving you guys an idea of what you’re in for without completely ruining any third act plot points.

Read past the break for Tim’s set visit report and check back shortly for interviews with the film’s producers, Scott Poiley and Bruce Wood, as well Anthony DiBlasi.
Just off the main drag in downtown Sanford, Florida–a picturesque turn of the century city founded on the shores of Lake Monroe–there is an old brick warehouse that serves a film production studio. From the outside it resembles any old industrial building that has been sitting around for the better part of a hundred years. A few cars are parked off to the side, the asphalt’s cracked with weeds–the kind of thing Florida is know for. Old streets built on swampland, just a little disuse away from the elements creeping in, taking back what was once theirs.

From the main entrance, the non-descript building doesn’t appear to be the scene of anything specifically special. But around back the unmistakable bustle of a motion picture film set is buzzing at full tilt. Wardrobe, Make-up, Grip Trucks and Craft Service are all situated in what on any given Sunday is probably an empty parking lot that would be just about big enough to park a few dozen cars, or maybe play a game of soccer with some street kids. But today, and for the next several weeks this is ground zero for a new horror film–A film based on the spiritualist community of Cassadaga which lies just 31 miles up the interstate.

Cassadaga was founded in 1894 by a medium who claims he was sent there after a vision told him to travel to Florida from Iowa. A hundred and seventeen years later Cassadaga is recognized as a U.S. Historic District and better still as “The Psychic Capital Of The World”. It’s not a place to suffer fools and they take their spirituality very seriously in this little hamlet with only about 55 homes on 57 acres. In Cassadaga, the people keep to themselves a bit, and locals know that despite obvious appearances the town is really not about ghosts and goblins. Much of this explains why there have never been horror movies made about this legendary town–even though it has shown up in popular books and made mention on TV shows such as The Glades.

But this Cassadaga has only a tenuous connection with the real place. This films exists in a very fictionalized version of the small town. One where a young woman with a tragic past, hopes to start fresh. One where the ghosts of the past are still present and a serial killer is stalking his prey.

And, it’s the killer (known only as ‘Gepetto’) whose lair inhibits the set we are visiting today.

Cassadega

Inside the warehouse the production team has crafted a two-story torture chamber–where the killer (because all horror moves need an antagonist) has set up shop. Literally shop. The room, all dingy and painted a two-tone of yellowed/white and green, is a veritable workshop of fear, with every manner of rusty tool needed to extract bloody terror. Severed doll heads hang from the walls and in the center of the room, an enormous marionette’s control bar hangs ominously over the set–foreshadowing the unspeakable misery that I’m sure will be befall some nubile young starlet in only a matter of hours.

As the crew runs in and out of the set prepping for the next shot, I’m struck by the obvious associations between a puppeteer, pulling strings to make entertainment and the role that a horror movie director plays in toying with audience expectations, moving this piece here to make a reaction occur over there. That’s when my eyes make their way over to one of the masterminds behind this production, Director Anthony DiBlasi.

DiBlasi, who made his directorial debut with the Clive Barker adaptation Dread which was picked up by Lionsgate for their After Dark Horrorfest is no neophyte genre filmmaker. He started his career as Barker’s assistant before graduating to an Executive Producer position on films like Midnight Meat Train and Books of Blood. But this time, instead of working from source material that’s he’s intimately familiar with, DiBlasi finds himself behind the lens of an original screenplay by a pair of newcomers Writer/Producers Scott Poiley and Bruce Wood.

This trio have assembled a cast lead by Kelen Coleman (Children of the Corn: Genesis), Kevin Alejandro (True Blood) and Oscar winner Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). With an Effects/Make-up team lead by Lee Grimes (Pirates of the Caribbean, Zombieland, Sorority Row) fans looking for some gruesome gore gags and–from what I saw–one hell of a set piece (see the poster art) are in for a real treat.

Having spent the final two days of Principal Photography on set with fellow writer David Harley, I was struck by how intense portions of this film are and by how committed the crew and cast (specifically Coleman who was put through the emotional wringer, yet still spent her downtime, happily chatting about what a great time she was having, and personally lamenting that she hadn’t made it to Universal Studio’s Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter) were in turning out a film that satisfied not only genre fans looking for horror, but suspense fans and mystery fans looking for a solid story arc.

David and I sat down with the filmmakers–who took time out from getting the final shots of their feature in the can–to talk to us about where the story came from, and how they found themselves on the set of their first feature (for Poiley and Wood) and for DiBlasi, how he founds himself 3,000 miles from home, in the 100 degree Florida heat, making a movie about a girl, a ghost, and a serial killer that’s not quite all there (you’ll see what I mean)…

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