On August 31 Lionsgate will open their haunted dibbuk box when they release The Possession, the Sam Raimi/Ghost House Pictures produced supernatural chiller, in theaters everywhere. Directed by Ole Bornedal, the film mixes a traditional and somber dramatic aesthetic with some of Raimi’s signature Ghost House chaos.
To that end, myself and a few other journalists hopped on the phone with Raimi last week. Our conversation ranged the gamut from The Possession, the Ghost House brand, the Evil Dead remake and whether or not he’ll take a break from blockbusters to direct another horror film (his last was the vastly underrated and amazing Drag Me To Hell).
The Possession is, “the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde (Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.”
Head inside for the interview!
The Possession doesn’t quite have the spook-a-blast intensity of Drag Me To Hell but it shares at least a bit of it. Is this a sort of branding for Ghost House you that collaborated with Ole on? Or did he bring this in on his own?
The style is all Ole Bornedal. He’s a great director and he’s made a lot of films. He has his own unique style. The type of film it is is representative of the kind of films that Ghost House Pictures likes to make. I really like supernatural horror films, that’s what we set out to make with the company. Not realistic slasher pictures or real tales of murder, but more a fantastical story with the supernatural. I think, in that way, it probably represents a Ghost House picture. Half of it’s the script. Juliet Snowden and Stiles White wrote a really great script. They wrote Boogeyman for Ghost House Pictures, they also wrote Knowing and I think they’re working on another project for Universal, Ouija. They contributed a lot. And then Ole was the main influence of the style on the picture.
Why was Ole the right guy for this material?
Well, I knew Ole from his earlier film, The Substitute, which Ghost House had wanted to remake for America. We’re still involved in that, we’re just delayed a bit in the script process. What I came to know about Ole is that he’s a brilliant director of actors. In fact, some of the children’s performances in The Substitute are some of the best kid performance either in a horror movie or another type of film for that matter. To me, that speaks of someone with a great eye for casting and someone who really knows how to work with the actors. That is a quality that was most important for us and this picture at Ghost House. That is, this is a story based on a true story and is written about a family who is torn apart and how they have to find the love in their hearts to come together and defeat this evil. It really needed someone who honored the story and could direct a great performance and make those relationships real to the audience. That was the strength of the script and we’re looking for someone with that strength as a director and Ole really connected to the material. I couldn’t be more pleased.
How involved were you as a producer?
Very involved at different points and not involved in others. I was very involved in working with different writers while developing the screenplay and trying to find the right way to crack the story. Our goal was to stick to the absolute true story – because that’s what was so unique about this is that it was a terrifying true story. But [it turned out] that sticking directly to the story but it didn’t make for a great, dramatic film. Finally, we came upon these great writers, Snowden and White, and we said we’ll step away from the absolute truth of the story. And at that point they were free to crack the story and make it into a great screenplay. I was instrumental in finding the director and Ole was our first choice. Bringing him on board was my greatest contribution to the picture. After that it just became a question of protecting him from those who may have disagreed with him.
Have you see a cut of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead Remake?
I saw a really early incomplete thing that was before the editor’s cut. He still had three weeks to shoot and it was great. It was really scary, gut-wrenching, low budget and I think it’s going to be a great horror film. I read what Bruce [Campbell] said, something like, “[Fede] didn’t just repeat what we had done.” He took the flavor, the way in which the original affected people and made his own movie. It’s really a great combination, I’m super excited about it. He also got great performances from the actors.
As a director, would you ever return to horror?
I’m thrilled to be able to make bigger budget pictures… but I’m really excited about making another horror movie. I’m writing one with my brother right now and I’m really looking forward to it. I love that crowd… It’s great when you can do something they like, there’s nothing as rewarding as that. Being in the audience when a bunch of horror fans really seem like the movie is so much fun. It’s the greatest high in the world.
Do you feel like horror fans have evolved?
They’re very savvy to film technique. The horror audience is the most original audience out there. They don’t want sequels, they don’t want what most of the audience wants. Most of the time audiences want to see versions of what they’ve seen before. Horror audiences are like, ‘no. Show me something I’ve never seen before! I want to be freaked out!’ My hat’s off to them. They’re a really original audience. Even more than the art film crowd they’re the ones who break new ground and accept new techniques from filmmakers on the cutting edge. Not the indie guys, but those guys. The low-budget horror fans.