Relativity unveiled the official trailer to the Mark Tonderai-directed House at the End of the Street yesterday. Needless to say, since this is now “the new Jennifer Lawrence movie”, it cause quite a stir.
I had been traveling all day Wednesday and Thursday and I hadn’t yet been able to see the new trailer, but I was still eager to talk with director Mark Tonderai about his film – so when I had the chance to talk with him between flights, I took the call . Luckily for me, I found that I didn’t have to do too much grilling. Tonderai is so passionate about what he does that we were able to have a fairly free flowing conversation about his film, but also about film and the industry in general.
The PG-13 horror flick opening September 26 “centers on a teen girl (Lawrence) who moves with her mom to a new town and learns that their home is across the street from a house where a double murder took place. Complications ensue when the teen befriends the massacre’s sole surviving son (Max Thieriot). Elisabeth Shue costars as Lawrence’s mom.”
Hit the jump for the interview! It’s funny because I haven’t seen your movie yet, I know there’s a trailer coming out today but I’m traveling and haven’t had a chance to see it either. I hope to catch it later today.
It’s funny because when I heard who I was talking to I was thinking that our film leans more towards the thriller side. But it is horror. It’s not just blood spraying at the camera, but there’s more to horror than that. I was thinking about what Stephen King said in “Danse Macabre” that horror is about things that are in the unmaking this incremental feeling that something bad is around the corner. And that’s exactly what my film is. It’s that from the first frame. There’s this sense of foreboding for the characters, whom you care about. Lucky for us, one of them is Jennifer Lawrence.
And what was it about Jonathan Mostow and David Loucka’s screenplay that attracted you to the project?
It was an idea by Mostow, and I think it was developed by Richard Kelly for a while. And then David came onboard and wrote the screenplay and I worked on the screenplay further. It was just something that hadn’t seen before. It’s a really daring film. I like thrillers, my first film was a thriller and I’m drawn to Hitchcockian thrillers. I like engaging the audience, giving them a little bit of information here and there and making them complicit then kind of pulling back. Like Hitchcock said, it’s like playing a piano. You can watch it once and pick up a bit and watch it again and pick up some more.
So I saw the potential in it and we just ran with it. You’re as good as the people around you, that’s really true. And the people around me were phenomenal.
The film is PG13 and has Jennifer Lawrence who is now a big movie star. What’s the audience for this? What did kind of impact did you set out to have?
The films that scared me the most are movies like Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary’s Baby scared the life out of me. Even though there wasn’t anything really horrific about it. I took elements of that, elements of Strangers, elements of Psycho these classic films. And looking at the reasons they were scary.
And then I combined some of those elements with my style, which is predominantly handheld. You can sense that the camera is part of the theme. And we use color as well. The film starts off with this beautiful golden feel with this tobacco kind of warmth that really attenuates Jennifer’s hair and [sets up a contrast for later events].
This is a pivotal moment for you that could position you for other opportunities. What would you do if given carte blanche?
That’s a very good question. The industry has always been about collaboration, but more so now than any other time. There’s this gap, the middle ground of films is dwindling. Increasingly it’s just “low budget” and “big budget”. There’s this duality that’s happening, you see it in Jennifer’s career with Winter’s Bone and then The Hunger Games. But they’re all projects you’re passionate about.
And that’s kind of what you have to do as a director. Because the era is gone where you can go down the middle or just do both sides. So, knowing the logistics of the game and how competitive it is, it’s hard to tell. There’s a vampire film I’d love to do and there’s a crime noir set in South Africa that I’d love to do as well. They’re both very different, different audiences, different budget level.
But, and this may sound new-age, I don’t believe you pick your next project. I believe your next projects picks you. I really do. When The House At The End Of The Street came along I was about to be a father and all this stuff, about what you want your kids to be – stuff I was wrestling and the script just came along and it addressed all of that. And then I see a trailer for Prometheus and I which I’d made that. There’s also a film called Bullhead that I love.
But I’m really grateful for where I’m at and I really want to work. I love the filmmaking process, as much as it pains me at times. It’s a wonderful process and I’m just chomping at the bit to get back into production.