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An Interview with Kelly Hughes, Director of The Mephisto Box

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2016

Films directed by Kelly Hughes on (re)Search my Trash


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Your upcoming webseries The Mephisto Box - in a few words, what is it about?


Sex. Drugs. Satan.

The main character is a disgraced psychiatrist who gets a chance to redeem himself by treating a young mental patient. But his unconventional drug therapy dredges up demonic trauma. And thatís when the fun begins.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing The Mephisto Box?


The made-for-TV-movies I grew up with in the Ď70s. The Night Stalker. The Stranger Within starring Barbara Eden. Satanís School For Girls. Stuff like that. And the title was inspired by the movie The Mephisto Waltz.

But itís really occult conspiracies in general. The fear that everyday people are secretly involved in a Devil cult. Today we have the Illuminati conspiracy. Where supposedly everyone who works in entertainment/media is part of a Devil cult that controls the world. But I prefer the Rosemaryís Baby-era Devil cult. Itís more obsessive. More intimate.

But I think the biggest threat today is actually pharmaceutical drugs. Especially mind-altering drugs. And if there is actually a conspiracy, itís that the majority of people today seem to be on some sort of prescription drug. And they are either out of control. Or dulled into submission.


As far as I know, The Mephisto Box was initially planned as a feature film - so what made you turn it into a webseries instead - and how does writing for one format compare to writing for the other?


Besides returning to my roots, Iíd say the main reason I turned this into a TV series is because I really liked the characters. I couldnít leave them hanging at the end of a movie. They had more stories to tell. More secrets to reveal.

Itís harder to create characters from scratch for a movie. But once youíve developed them for a TV series, itís easier to write new episodes for them because you already know their voice. Itís easier to think of situations that will test them.


Episodic filmmaking must take you back to your early days with Heart Attack Theatre again - do you at all see parallels there, and how has filmmaking as such changed since then?


Yes. My roots are in television. And I love the format. But for a while I gave in to the illusion that feature films were superior to TV. That you only arrived in the industry if you made a ďrealĒ movie. But now we live in a new Golden Age of Television. Thereís so much variety. And so much talent there. And faithful fans. I mean, wouldnít you rather be associated with shows like True Detective and House of Cards than a movie that plays in the theater and disappears after a week?

Iím also encouraged by the acceptance of so many shows with supernatural themes. Thereís certainly a glut of them right now. But so what? I canít get enough of them. And I think thereís always room for more. Especially if you can add a new twist. Or something special to your idea.


As for parallels with my old TV show Heart Attack TheatreÖ

1. I still do my own camera work and editing.

2. I still write strong female characters.

3. I still use some of the same actors (25 years later!)


As for the differencesÖ

1. I take a little more time writing the scripts. But I still write fast.

2. Iím open to a little more suggestion from my actors. Iíve tried not to be as rigid as in the past. So weíll see how that experiment works out. But I still donít allow improvisation. Everything is scripted.

3. My current camera (a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000) is a higher resolution than the S-VHS one I used back in the day (a Panasonic AG-450). But I guess Iím still faithful to Panasonic. And I donít have to edit analog tape anymore!


What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror (as in suspense vs sudden shocks, atmosphere vs all-out gore and the like)?


All those things are good. And have their place. Iím not a snob. Creating suspense takes skill. But so does creating gore.

When we see a horror movie or horror TV show thereís an expectation that we get something out of the ordinary. Special effects. Bloody prosthetics and makeup. Maybe a monster. So I want to provide at least some of that. Otherwise, why be part of that genre? If you donít throw your viewers a few of those things, youíre just making a drama. Or a mystery. And I really enjoy mysteries. And I think you can incorporate mystery into horror. But if you confuse the two genres, you risk disappointing your viewers. If they seek out horror, they want to be scared.

My personal style of horror is more about creating emotional breaking points. Pushing characters to the emotional brink. If we get to enjoy some blood along the way, well, thatís a fun bonus. And music plays a big part in creating a tense atmosphere. So I always make that an important element.

Iíd say the most horrific part of The Mephisto Box, though, is the frequent intravenous drug use. If hypodermic needles make you queasy, youíll get a healthy dose of it here. Especially since people in the story are often getting injected against their will.


What can you tell us about the series' overall look and feel?


The visuals alternate between lush and minimal. Much of it is indoors. But I like shooting outside. So you also get to experience a good amount of Pacific Northwest greenery. But much of the look and feel is cold and bare. Symbolizing the psyche of the main characters. We shot much of it in an empty house. In the story, the mental patient returns to her abandoned childhood home in the hope that it will trigger memories. It has a sad and lonely feel. Most of the color and warmth come from the flashback scenes. Because we have a tendency to idealize the past. But in this story, horrible things happened in the past. And isnít it funny how in Christian depictions of Heaven and Hell that Heaven is a drab blue and white minimalistic cloud planet. While Hell is a red hot Technicolor nightclub. Heaven is Sweden. Hell is Revlon lipstick.


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


What I value most in my actors is loyalty. So if they work hard, and throw themselves into a project without inhibitions, I will cast them over and over, year after year. But for this project, I did more extensive auditioning. And am working with a lot of new people. Iím very fortunate because I have some well-trained actors. And I love seeing how they bring the script to life. I still add amateurs to the mix, though. My lead actor Jason Lockhart is a horror fan I met at Crypticon. He had no acting experience. And all he really wanted to do was get killed on camera in a fun and gory way. Play a glorified extra. But instead I cast him in several shorts. And he had sort of a stoic Steve McQueen presence. So heís the eye of the storm in Mephisto Box. He keeps his cool while the people around him are emoting and flipping out. He canít remember lines worth shit. Which puts a strain on the rest of the cast. But heís getting better at it. And Iím now writing shorter lines for him. Not making him do these huge monologues anymore. So his character is basically turning into Clint Eastwood.

My most popular actress is Betty Marshall. She was our resident scream queen on Heart Attack Theatre. And for the past 25 years, sheís been in almost all my projects. Not just film. But sheís also had major roles in some of my full-length stage plays. And people always get excited when they hear sheís in one of my projects. In Mephisto Box she plays Nanny. The eerie and intimidating groundskeeper. And she gets to be part of some of the more shocking scenes (which I wonít spoil for you).


So is the series already shot in full, or are you still adding new episodes? And what can you tell us about the shoot(s) as such?


Season One is in the can. And Iím currently editing all the episodes into bite-size YouTube chunks. We shot Season One in January and February on the weekends. The first day of shooting was below freezing. And at first we didnít have heat in the house. Or running water.

We rented a large church for one day of filming. And by using the basement, the hallways, the chapel, the sanctuary, and the courtyard, we were able to make it look like multiple locations. And that added some nice production value. Although Iím sure weíre all going to Hell for a few specific things we shot there. (When you watch the series youíll understand.)

But I especially love shooting outdoors. And we had one rural location where we were able to build some fires. And add a few pyrotechnic touches. Which was especially nice during a demonic resurrection scene. And we also shot at a cabin on a lake. And constructed a special pyramid raft for our guru character to float on.

We also did what I considered a tasteful lovemaking scene on the grass outside of the cabin. But while we were doing it, a neighbor came out of his cabin and yelled, ďHey! What are you guys doing? Making a porno?Ē We all got a chuckle out of it. And fortunately, the neighbor had a sense of humor. And I told him weíd invite him to the premiere.


When and where will The Mephisto Box be released onto the general public then?


It will debut on YouTube on Friday, April 29. Which is the 25th anniversary of when Heart Attack Theatre first aired. I will post at least the first five episodes for a binge watching experience. Then will release a new episode every Friday till the end of the first season.


Will there ever be a season 2 of The Mephisto Box - and (other) future projects you'd like to share?


Yes. Iím already planning Season Two. And have booked a celebrity cameo for it. Actor and comedian Jason Stuart. And heíll be playing something diabolical. Something much more sinister than audiences are used to seeing him play.

Alison Arngrim (the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) will also appear in Season Two. Sheís been on-board since I wrote the original screenplay (which was called "Lazy Susan", before morphing into The Mephisto Box). And I consider her our Alexis. You know, when they added Joan Collins to the cast of Dynasty in Season Two? And her presence took over the show? So Iím creating a special character for Alison. And her first scenes will be with our lead character. And she will be part of a crucial plot twist.

Iím also editing and will be releasing a reality web series called Spanky Goes to Hell. Itís about a drummer from a horror-rock band. And his massive horror memorabilia collection. And his animal rights/vegan activism.


Your/your series' website, Facebook, whatever else?


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YouTube channel: 

My personal website: 


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


This is the era I dreamed about 25 years ago. Higher resolution cameras and digital editing available to the common man. And an outlet like YouTube to share my work with the world. No excuses anymore. The future is now.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

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