First Look at David Benullo’s ‘Hallowed Ground’

Post-production has recently completed on David Benullo’s Hallowed Ground, a new supernatural thriller starring Jaimie Alexander (Rest Stop), Brian McNamara, Chloe Grace Moretz (The Amityville Horror, The Eye , Wicked Little Things), Hudson Leick and Nick Chinlund (Ultraviolet). SFX were done by Precinct 13 Entertainment, the new fx house run by KNB co-founder and make-up fx guru Robert Kurtzman. Inside we’ve posted our exclusive interview with writer-director David Benullo who talks about the film he calls “a classic-style horror movie… It’s Rosemary’s Baby in a small town.” Read on for the story and the first ever stills from the film!


HALLOWED GROUND

By: Mr Disgusting

(Click HERE for the full images)
Writer-director David Benullo has been working on HALLOWED GROUND for ten years now, he tells us a little bit about how it feels to finally have the film completed, “I’m thrilled with the way the film turned out, so it feels great to finally have completed HALLOWED. This script was originally written over 10 years ago, before I was even living in Los Angeles. I wrote it in my bedroom in the house where I grew up outside of Boston. I wrote it in maybe 3 weeks – it pretty much wrote itself.” Getting it done was only the first step, then the real obstacles came to light, “Once it was done, I cold-called some companies from the east coast and got the script seen by a handful of producers, many of whom liked it. But they didn’t want to work with a first-time director. So I refused to sell. And believe me, I needed the money. Thankfully, the script got me my first professional writing job on a film called CUPID – a thriller I wrote for Clark Peterson and Pierre David, who produced Cronenberg’s early stuff and now makes “from hell” thrillers – the nurse from hell, mailman from hell, etc. CUPID was the boyfriend from hell. Clark has gone on to produce MONSTER, with Charlize Theron.” He continues, “CUPID was the type of job where you walk in and the producers say “We have this idea for a movie. It’s coming out next February. We don’t have a script. We need to be shooting in June. Want the job?” It was a great trial by fire for me and a fun experience.

But Hollywood continued to take its toll, until things finally started to solidify, “So every year or so, a producer would call about HALLOWED GROUND – and then disappear. Including Dan Grodnik, who ended up producing the movie. Dan first read the script about 7 years ago and loved it. He would call every so often and make sure it was still available. Finally, he put together this new genre label called Mass Hysteria and decided HALLOWED would be their flagship movie. Dan has worked with many first-time directors so it wasn’t as scary for him.” Benullo tell us that in the end the film was a surreal experience because of how long ago the film was written, “Making the film was surreal, because you’re watching something play out in front of you that you wrote a decade ago and – except for some minor tweaks – it was all playing exactly as written.

As for the story Benullo tells us that “HALLOWED GROUND is a supernatural thriller about a young woman who becomes stranded in a small, mid-western town and discovers her arrival there was foretold by the town’s founding preacher. She soon discovers she is an integral part of the preacher’s impending – and terrifying – rebirth.

He tells us that the idea came about “While driving cross-country,” he continues, “my girlfriend at the time kinda forget that the car needed gas. So I drove the first five hrs and took a nap, then I woke up and said “How we doing on gas?” and she goes PALE – it never even occurred to her. So we’re running on fumes now and we’re somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. We see this GAS SIGN and pull off – and the gas station’s burned to the ground. So we’re forced to keep driving, on fumes, and finally reach this little one-street town in the middle of nowhere. And I thought: “What if these people burned down that gas station to bring motorists here?” That was the birth of HALLOWED GROUND – though, unfortunately, the scene with the burnt-out gas station was cut for budgetary reasons. And time.

With all of the violent horror films coming out, it’s nice to know there’s something ‘classic’ coming from an indie director, “This is a more old-fashioned type horror film. More classic. One of the big inspirations on it was Rosemary’s Baby. I’m not trying in any way to say we’re in its league, since that movie is a classic, but it was certainly an inspiration. To do something more upscale and creepy. Also, as a kid I had seen DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW and that really stuck with me – but I didn’t want to make just another “killer scarecrow” movie. And this was written before any of those had come out. Then there was this boom of them. It’s also one of those “weird town” movies. I think what’s great about HALLOWED GROUND is every time the audience will think “oh, this is THAT kind of movie,” it twists and changes into something else.

Even though the film is a classic scare-flick, there will still be plenty of blood and violence, “In spots it’s violent and bloody,” he tells us, “But it’s not a torture movie, by any means. For me, the violence always has to feel integral to the story and not just like something you stick in for the sake of violence. Then it gets numbing.

Benullo was lucky enough to work with up-and-coming actress Jaimie Alexander, who he says was always on her A game, “Jaimie’s amazing. I think this was only like her second feature film and every day she brought her A game. There’s this really emotional scene in the police car where Jaimie explains her character’s emotional backstory and it’s my favorite scene in the movie. Her performance is incredible – it just elevates the whole film. And it’s something I don’t think you expect in a horror movie – especially lower budgeted ones. The entire cast is really strong and they help elevate the movie. Too many horror movies (particularly low budget ones) think “gore and boobs is all we need.” But bad acting will rip your audience out of the movie faster than anything, and it’s because they’re watching it every second the film is playing.” he also tells us how physical of a worker Jaimie is, “Jaimie is very physical. She loves running and getting tackled and struggling. She did all of her own stunts. She was actually on the wrestling team in high school – the ONLY GIRL on the wrestling team. In the end, I bought several of my lead actors massages – especially Jaimie – because it had been such a grueling shoot for them.

So what’s next? A sequel? Another movie? Benullo spills the beans on all, “Who knows. The producers have certainly left the door open for a sequel. It all depends on how the movie’s received, financially and by an audience. For me, we’d have to find a good story. It’s always about story to me. Otherwise, why do it? Sequels are so hard. How many really good ones are there? GODFATHER 2, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, ALIENS. BREAKIN’ 2, which is far superior to BREAKIN’. (kidding) So it would have to be a strong enough story. ” So what’s next? “I just finished a new supernatural horror script that’s making the rounds to producers and I’m finishing another one – which is very commercial and which I have high hopes for. And the feature version of SHADOW MAN – the short film I directed – is still gaining momentum. I would love for that to be next. That’s my personal favorite script. So we’re working on attaching a cast, which will hopefully get us the financing we need.

Watch for tons more on HALLOWED GROUND soon!