Home invasion films are incredibly popular currently. The deal with invasion of privacy and comfort which in America is an honest and true concern to many citizens. Over the past few years, there has been many different home invasion horror films such as You’re Next, The Strangers, and The Purge. Today (January 15, 2016) a new film can now be added to the list of great home invasion films.
Intruders directed by Adam Schindler, packs all the right punches in the right places. The film starts off making the audience feel one way and leads them down a labyrinth of emotions, confusion, and puzzles causing a refreshingly unpredictable story. The story of Intruders is as follows:
Anna suffers from agoraphobia so crippling that when a trio of criminals break into her house, she cannot bring herself to flee. But what the intruders don’t realize is that agoraphobia is not her only psychosis.
Before we even dive into the story, the performances by all the actors have to be recognized. The star of the film, Beth Riesgraf who plays Anna, delivers a performance unheard of in horror films. She hits an incredible range of emotions from anxiety to fear to confusion to even evil. Every emotion she pulls has purpose. Every line delivered builds her character in some shape or form. A lot of actors have issues with their eyes telling the stories but you look into Anna’s eyes and you know she means every single word. Rory Culkin delivers an outstanding performance as well. Working very closely with Beth, he adds a vulnerability to a confident character creating an incredibly human and likable persona. Although it is very clear that underneath this faux tough exterior he is dealing with the exact same turmoil that Beth has but in a much different fashion. The three intruders are Jack Kesy, Joshua Mikel, and Martin Starr. All three created a superb honest chemistry and such depth to characters who are usually seen as one sided. At first you wanted to hate these guys for interrupting such a vulnerable woman’s life but when it came down to the nitty gritty of the story, the three delivered on all aspects creating sympathy for what are usually portrayed as unlikable villains. The chemistry between Beth Riesgraf and Jack Kesy create many unforgettable chilling moments via conversation.
The film itself is described as Panic Room meets You’re Next and honestly that does not even begin to describe it. Intruders presents a deeper story and complicated characters rivaling those of Hitchcock and Fincher. The story itself intertwines and surprises causing any horror film that comes out this year to have a challenging competitor in creating something better. Writers T.J. Cimfel and David White succeed in creating a new take to a sub-genre that is flooded with similar tales of dread. With such a unique setting, an invigorating story and marvelous talent behind and in front of the camera, Intruders easily becomes the top horror film of the year thus far and sets a precedent for all those to come.
Intruders is currently available via VOD and playing in limited theaters so check your local listings. Find all the information at the bottom of the interview.
We Are Indie Horror was given the pleasure to have a conversation with Director Adam Schindler, star Beth Riesgraf, and producer Brian Netto. What follows is the in depth conversation where we talk the unique setting, the challenges in financing, and what’s next for indie horror. Enjoy!
WAIH – We Are Indie Horror • A – Adam Schindler • BR – Brian Netto • BE – Beth Riesgraf
WAIH:The location of the house was so interesting and a cool labyrinth, what came first the script
or the location?
A:Script Definitly. The script was written several years ago. Brian and I are reped by the same managers. We read the script several years ago. The script came to us at a time when producers had money and wanted to make a movie with us. When the manager sent us the script, we immediately jumped at it. The funny thing is our location guy Kendrick down in where we shot in Shreveport Louisiana found this house randomly on his location search. It was not in any of the databases. He was just driving around and knocked on the door because it looked interesting. The script fit this house perfectly! Stairs up the front, stairs up the back, kitchen here, it was pretty much exactly like that in the script. I write it off to Divine Intervention.
WAIH:Did any renditions have to occur on the house to help fit everything perfectly?
A:The basement was built. The upstairs part where the cat and mouse stuff happens was all there but we did have to build the basement.
WAIH:Did you build the basement in the house or did you use a studio?
A:We used millennium studios in Shreveport. We used one of their stages there. The production designer really did a bang up job. It was a tough task to do; make it all feel like it is part of the same house. So we all wanted to do it practically especially the stairs, which turned out to be quite the challenge but we pulled it off.
WAIH:What was the process to receive financing for the film?
BR:After our first film we met with Lati Grobman and Christa Campbell and they said we like how you work, we want to work with you. They brought us a pile of money and now find a script.
A:I wouldn’t call it a pile of money…
BR:It was money, certainly more money than our last film. It was a matter of finding a project we all wanted to work on. It was a great situation to be in and quite unusual. Most times you start with no money. Again we had to check all the boxes and for us creatively it had to work. For them they wanted a good film. An usual situation that worked out really well. The script was optioned in April and we shot in August which is incredibly fast especially by Hollywood standards.
WAIH:Where there any financial budget issues that occurred
BR:We had a line producer on board from the moment we signed on. Initially he said we need to find a way to make these stairs work. Do we need the stairs? That was red flag to Adam and I and immediately we said we need to find another guy or gal because that just wasn’t going to work. We had to find someone who knew the pinpoints and the major parts of the script. We had to nail the stairs as a huge moment. We had to make sure we had the location. We knew we would get good actors. We got better actors than we could have hoped for. That squeezes you schedule wise. Time became the issue. We only had 15 days to shoot. If we got our stairs we’d have less time but it was worth it.
WAIH: Beth your character was incredible with full range of emotions and an unpredictable story arc. What were your inspirations for your character?
BE:eah I researched agoraphobia and asked around to professionals. I did my homework. With what was in the script I built Anna’s world the best I could. When I met the rest of the cast, especially Conrad, he brought a whole story with him. We were both open to hearing each other’s suggestions. Those moments formed the character. I did start shooting before I met him. The work I did with Adam helped so much but working with everyone else really helped. Anna is not a victim she is a survivor. We wanted to make it clear what her weakness is which is where her strength came from
WAIH:What challenges came from such a complicated character?
BE:A lot of the challenges came from the elements that played meaning we had 15 days, we were on night shoots the whole time. We flew in… we didn’t have much time. One night to work the script with Adam. We went straight to the location. Being in a constant state of grief, anxiety, and fear, ya know. Having to keep my sanity the same time while adjusting was really hard sometimes. We had to have each other’s back. We were always on set. Never any time to get to the trailers. It kept us in the moment and the adrenaline going. I wasn’t expecting the cicadas in Louisiana The constant sound of humming was unbelievable. It created such a creepy home. You could never find quiet except in the hotel room but the moment I got there I hit the pillow. That’s how Anna feels. It never gets quiet for her.
WAIH:What was the key to pulling such incredible performances from your actors?
A:I am going to steal this from a ton of amazing directors. It comes down to casting the right people. The acting in the film is only going to be as good as the cast you assemble. Starting off, we were keen on having everyone read for the roles. For the budget level we are talking about it does not happen too much. Especially for Anna which is such a tough role, it was important that we had someone who could play a meek and sympathetic character but switch to vicious and predator and back to sympathetic. Like Beth said we really didn’t have a lot of time to prep, but we did have on day to go through every line in the script and discuss the emotions within the scene. When we were on set – Beth didn’t get 3 takes to do this stuff – it is truly a testament to her coming prepared and being in the role. 15 days insane to shoot a movie like this. It’s all about casting the right people. Martin ad-libbed a ton of comedic lines we had to cut from the film to keep his character intense. He had us stitches sometimes but scared other times. Rory came in late. Everybody came prepared and knew what they had to do.
WAIH:What are your top three inspirations to create the style of the film?
A:Visually, The DP Eric Leech and I, spent a lot of time looking at Fincher films. We usedGirl with The Dragon Tattooto help create tension. Specifically the knife sequence inDragon Tattooto see where he positioned things, set shots, and how he created that tension. The look may sound weird but, the filmThe Natural. We wanted to start the movie to feel like you are in a drama and end as if you are in a horror.Silence of the Lambswas a big inspiration. It was one of my favorites. We wanted to recreate the dread. We didn’t want the camera to get in the way. We choose to shoot it wide screen so we could see the space.
WAIH:What attracted you to the script?
BE: I read it and I loved it. I loved Anna. I loved the idea of playing someone very different from myself and that was a challenge and that is always exciting. The actual story itself was exciting. I knew that Adam and Brian knew what they were doing. They know how to manipulate elements to create tension. I knew it was going to be as good as it was on the page. The material the writers gave us was really great. The script was a page turner.
BR:If you are going to do a home invasion film you have to justify it’s reason for existence and put your own spin on it. It played with different genres and loved the challenge. If you aren’t going to do something a little different what is the point? If you cannot create empathy with the people on screen than its all kill sequences and that is not interesting for us.
A:Brian and I are a two headed monster. We love to mash genres. We read al to of scripts because we love to read. I had no idea where this script is going. A testament to TJ and David. They created a unique spin on a genre that can be tired at times. To create a sympathetic character that you are frightened FOR but then become frightened OF and then to come back around to be frightened FOR again. We all are trying to push the envelope a little bit. The script offered a refreshing take on the genre.
WAIH:Did the theme of what is home hit on a personal note and influence anything within the creation the film or characters.
A:The scene you are talking about, the kitchen scene, we spent a lot of time on. Anna and Dan are both lost souls. Originally in the script the Dan character could handle himself a little bit more, what Rory brought was this vulnerability to the character which made their relationship more unique. Rory was really good at feeling if he was a lost soul coming from a different perspective. His idea is my home is wherever I make it. He tried to push it on her and in a genuine way question her existence in the place. It helped added more texture to her storyline and ask the hard questions before we get into cat and mouse stuff. To see it from Anna’s perspective it helps answer a lot of questions. At the beginning she is stuck in this rut, this house, she doesn’t know what she is going to do or if she is going to leave.
WAIH:Where do you see Indie Horror going in the near future?
A:I think all the best envelope pushers are coming out of Indie Horror. Most chances are being taken within Indie Horror – due to budget. Bigger opportunity to take chances. People are really taking those chances and hopefully 2016 follows that. There was a slew of great genre pictures that came out last year. I expect more to come out this year.
BE:There is so much more possible now than there was 15 years ago. People can now create content without any rules and now people can see it. Before you had to have it all together but now it’s much easier for people to create. It has the opportunity to grow it’s own audience.
BR:The last couple of years I have seen more altered genre films. I think horror in particular is counter culture and goes against the grain. You have the freedom to try different things while hiding different themes and giving them what they want such as good kills or flesh. Religion, sex, promiscuity all can be hidden within films as long as you give them their kills. The ones that do work make us excited. We want to be a part of this trend.
WAIH:Any advice for up and coming artists within the genre?
A:Write what you know, write what interests you, and write what excites you. Continue to make things. You only get better by making things. Whatever interests you will bleed into the film. Continue to create.
BR:Do not do it because it is easier to sell. There is too much to go half-hearted. Even if you aren’t a die-hard you can bring something different to the genre, don’t do it because you want to sell it.
BE:From my perspective if I was there now and I wanted to be a filmmaker, persistence is the key. There is always somewhere to start and you should always be educating yourself. Educating yourself on what is available and seeing what you can do or add to that is what you can do.
Thank you so much to the trio for taking time out of their busy day to answer our questions. As artists it is important to learn and the best way to learn is by asking questions – or reading answers that others asked.
Remember you can watch Intruders now on VOD or in select theaters. Be sure to stay tuned to We Are Indie Horror as details on the inevitable Blu-Ray and DVD release become available.