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An Interview with József Gallai, Director and Star of Spirits in the Dark

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2018

Films directed by József Gallai on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Spirits in the Dark - in a few words, what is it about?


The story centers around a lonely widower named Gil Spencer, who finds a mysterious video on his computer that leads him to an abandoned town occupied by an ominous entity.


With Spirits in the Dark being a ghost story of sorts, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?


I’m very much fond of ghost stories and have some genre favourites, though I prefer those films that deal with the emotional and transcendental aspects of being haunted while providing very little, yet powerful surprises in the long run.  Ghost Story with Casey Affleck – hidden into a $10 bedsheet – and Rooney Mara as well as I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and The Presence with Mira Sorvino have been great inspirations.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Spirits in the Dark?


During pre-production, I played with some horror games and the most effective one was a free experimental game titled Slender: The Eight Pages. It was obvious that I wouldn’t be able to shoot a movie about the title character Slender Man as Sony released their own version this year, nevertheless, the atmosphere of the game stayed with me for a long time and right after that I started writing the first draft of the script.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror for a bit?


Regarding this film my plan has always been to present a mixture of traditional horror films, point-of-view films, survival games and experimental films and I believe that’s what Spirits in the Dark truly is.


You of course have to talk about Spirits in the Dark's locations, and what was it like filming there?


I was extremely lucky since many abandoned houses, villages and even towns are located near the city I live in. Months before shooting began, I had checked these locations with a smart phone or a handycam in my pocket. I wanted to make sure I got the right locations. Filming there was like nothing we have ever done, though I already had the opportunity to spend a day in this ominous ghost town and shoot some small scenes back in 2015, but this time we shot 80% of the movie here. It indeed has its power when one stays here at night to film.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


I would say my approach is pretty unusual in every sense. For example due to its special cinematic approach, we all have very limited screen time. Despite being credited first,  I have around 13 minutes of screen presence. The protagonist of the film is not me, but the atmosphere and these wonderful, yet frightening locations.


You also play the lead in Spirits in the Dark - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


It’s funny since the initial concept featured only two characters namely a man and a ghost, but however had I tried, I had to realize it wouldn’t work as a feature film. To make things a bit easier I wrote the script with myself in mind as the focus was never on my character. Gil is part of a much bigger and inexplorable picture and he has to find what his actual role in this mystery really is.


Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


The film features my daughter and my wife - Zsófia Gallai and Beáta Boldog - and filming with them was probably the most heartwarming experience of my life. Actually, my wife was in her in her ninth month of pregnancy when she filmed most of her scenes. Regarding the other actors, I have wanted to work with Ágota Dunai since 2013 and finally we had the possibility to make a film together. Peter Cosgrove was the first actor who joined the project. I already knew him earlier and he would have had a small part in my science fiction project last year, but I chose to direct Spirits in the Dark instead and asked him if he would be interested in taking part in this film. Shawn Michael Clankie also has a small cameo – I worked with him on A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex and Echoes in the past two years. His commitment is exceptional and he is someone who will always have a role in my films if he wants to come.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


As there are only a few characters in this film, the complete cast and crew was pretty small. In spite of working with a skeleton crew, we tried out many things – we had an aerial unit, Károly Pál did a wonderful job with his drones as well as the shoot was a neverending experiment. I can say we all had a great time and a lot of laughs. All in all, it was a productive 14 days of filming. 


The $64-question of course, when and where will Spirits in the Dark be released?


We complete it very soon and we’ll probably sell the movie. It is supposed to be released in 2019. Fortunately, people are interested, so knock on wood. I’m pretty sure it will be available to people, but I don’t know if it’s going to get a big release or a smaller one. We’ll see.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


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Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

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Your shop for all things Thai

Next spring I’ll shoot a found footage feature titled The Surreal Project, written by Bálint Szántó, a great friend of mine. I’m looking forward to working on it!


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


The Facebook page of Spirits in the Dark can be reached here:


Thanks for the interview!



© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD