Your upcoming movie The Crazy House - in a few words, what's
it going to be about?
It's about a mob family from Brooklyn who gets put into the witness
protection program, and they begin to suspect that the house they've been
placed in is haunted. They find out the house has a local reputation,
because of two murder-suicides that happened there, over the years. The
locals all refer to their home as "The Crazy House". The family's teenage
daughter, who is having a really hard time with the change to her life,
begins to see apparitions and demonic creatures in the house. This causes
several members of the family to believe there are ghosts there. The men
in the family get the idea to exploit the house for financial gain, and
this attracts all kinds of attention, the wrong kind. As the film
progresses, the characters slowly get more unraveled and the second half
of the movie leads to all kinds of mayhem and craziness. The
audience is going to have to figure out if the house really is haunted, or
if these characters are already unhinged people in a situation that's
sending them over the edge. Either way, by the second half of the
movie, the bodies begin piling up.
From what I know, The Crazy
House will to an extent at least be based on your short First Night
in the New House - so you obviously have to talk about that one a
Yes. I wrote First Night in the New House a few years ago. I was on the
phone, just chatting with my brother, Lee. And he gave me this
idea he had about a ghost who hides underneath the bedsheets in people's
beds, and you can only see him when they flap the sheets out on top. I
thought it was a neat visual idea, so I wrote a short based around it.
Originally the short was a girl in her new apartment, hearing noises
through the walls, but I thought it would be cooler to change it to a
city girl in her new country house.
You can check out the movie here:
After I wrote the short, I started to expand on that idea, a
Brooklyn family in a scary isolated midwestern house, and that's how The
Crazy House started. I thought of a mob family in witness
protections, in a new house that creaks and groans and makes all kinds
of noises. Coming from an Italian-American family, I know how
superstitious a lot of old-school Italians can be, and I thought that
was a good basis for a story.
What made you decide to extend First Night in
the New House's premise into a feature, was that planned from the
get-go? And where does the mob-subplot come from?
was, after I wrote The Crazy House, I put the First Night in the New House
script away and
forgot about it. But when we wanted to raise money for the film, I
felt we needed to shoot something to demonstrate the look and feel of the
film. Unlike my previous films, The Crazy House is going to be shot
on the Red MX One, and have much higher production values. I wanted
this to reflect in the short. Originally we were going to shoot the
opening scene, but I wanted to do a short that would stand on its own and
be separate from the film. So I dusted off the First Night in the New House
script, and we
shot it in one day.
can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror, and also to
this film, I'm going to be approaching it from a realistic perspective.
In the acting styles, the direction, the dialogue, and even the
supernatural stuff. I want everything to feel as real as possible.
The film's ghosts are only seen through the eyes of Lydia, who may be
having a schizophrenic breakdown, or may genuinely be seeing ghosts.
So the horror has to have a hallucinogenic quality to it. Like
those weird moments when you wake up from a dream, but you're still half
asleep, and the things from your dream are standing around your bed. The
second half of the movie, things get a lot more visceral, and this is also
where the gangsters come in. I love gangster movies. Goodfellas is
probably my favorite movie of the 90's, maybe second to Fargo. And the
raw, brutal violence of the gangster world is going to come crashing into
this family in their little house in Indiana. It's going to be an
interesting merging of genres, both of them connected by dark, vicious and
visceral onscreen violence.
Do talk about the intended overall look
and feel of your movie for a bit!
Going into this project, I had to contemplate this heavily at the
writing stage. Initially, my instinct was to make an Evil Dead
style project, but I ditched that during the writing stage. Partially
because it started to feel too much like my last film, Hell
had a little bit of a Reservoir Dogs meets
partially because I felt the supernatural stuff had to be toned down
enough to make this work. I've seen a lot of supernatural movies
that are creepy as hell, until they get to their last act, when they
ramp it up and make the supernatural elements more aggressive and more
physical. And suddenly, the movie loses its impact. Supernatural stuff,
especially in a realistic film, is often best left beneath the surface.
In this film, the last half of the movie is going to involve so much
bloodshed, action, shootouts and mayhem, that I didn't need to step up
the supernatural at all and could keep that element just bubbling
beneath the surface, where it won't lose anything by being too
In the film, several characters are starting to act stranger, the
longer they stay in the house, but also could be suffering from very
normal, real world conditions. Lydia is seeing things and becoming
increasingly reclusive, and may be suffering from the onset of
schizophrenia. The father of the family, Ricky Donatelli, who is
the one who testified against his mob buddies and got them into this
mess to begin with, he's having a hard time with this, going through a
secret depression that he hides from his family, leading to drinking,
drugs and eventually crystal meth addiction.
So the camera work and lighting, I want to reflect in a lot of the
mental states of the characters. We're going to use long lenses in a lot
of scenes, to blur out the backgrounds in a lot of Ricky's shots.
Giving the impression of being isolated and alone, the rest of the world
in a blur or fog. We're going to put vertical blinds on the
windows, so when we light, the shadows appear like prison bars
throughout the house. As the characters unravel, the camerawork is
going to gradually get more handheld and choatic.
Also, the film is going to have a very conversational, realistic tone to
its dialogue. I'm a stickler for great dialogue in a film, and I
really love these characters and who they are and how they talk. We're
going to work these scenes in rehearsals, and rewrite if necessary,
until the scenes have a completely realistic tone. It's important to me
that when actors perform a scene, it feels so much like reality that I
can't tell if they've started the scene, or are just bullshiting with
Anything you can tell
us about your projected cast and crew yet?
I cast Katelyn
Marie Marshall in the film. Katelyn is an enormously talented, very
versatile actor who was the lead in Hell
Fire. She also plays the
lead in the short, First Night in the New House. She is going to be
playing, most likely, Lydia, the film's lead. However, I want to give
Katelyn a shot to audition for Dottie Donatelli, the younger sister.
Dottie's a great character and probably the scene stealer of the movie.
She's a former stripper turned born again Christian with a foul mouth and
a hot temper. She doesn't believe in ghosts, but believes that her
sister is possessed by demons. By the end of the movie's first act,
Dottie falls in with a dangerous, and extremely charismatic church and
tries to bring her sister in for one of these mass exorcisms, where there
are just people freaking out all over the place. It leads to the films
centerpiece, this creepy scene where Lydia, amidst this insane church with
dozens of hysterical people and piles of writhing bodies all around her,
begins seeing demons coming from everywhere. Lurking in the crowd, coming
out of the walls, in the faces of the people gyrating around her.
The scene is going to have an evil, almost orgiastic vibe to it.
Sexually charged, yet wicked and very twisted. Like something out of
A film like
yours definitely needs the right location - so what can you tell us about
I cheated the location in the short, using about 30
dollars worth of stock footage of a house, a wheat field and a clear
starry night, and combined them in Adobe After Effects to create the
dream-like exterior shot of the house. But for the film, we are
going to have to find a real location. Isolation is a big part of the
movie. The family's mob case was very high profile, partially
because Ricky was all over the news, but also because Lydia, his daughter,
was a singer songwriter with a viral video who got a big record contract
just prior to being forced into hiding. Because they are both recognized
wherever they go, the government puts them in a house that is pretty much
in the middle of nowhere. I envision the Crazy House being one of these
country farmhouses surrounded by weeds and dead grass with not another
house in sight. Something people from Brooklyn, who mostly live in
apartments and brownstones with hundreds of people on a city block, will
not be used to. The isolation is one of the things that really starts
driving Ricky mad, so location is going to be an important part of the
film. Not just the house, but it's empty surroundings.
From what I know, you're currently still raising
funds for The Crazy House - so do talk about your campaign for a
One of the things I want to do with this campaign is to bring in backers
into the decision making in the film, to make them feel like more of a
part of the production. So we plan on giving backers the
opportunity to vote on pre-production decisions, like picking out
wardrobe, helping decorate the set, things like that. There is a
scene where a character kills a house full of people in their sleep, in
elaborate ways. So we are going to give our backers a chance to come up
with creative ways to kill off these characters and then they all get to
all vote on which ways these people will die. It's a way I thought
would bring people into the production on a more personal level.
And to be clear, backers won't get to vote on major decisions, like
casting or final cut. I'm a director who comes to the table with a
very clear vision of what I want and that's a key part of making a great
film. I believe any director who would turn major decisions like that
over to backers doesn't have a clear vision and is probably going to
make a bad film. But I have no problem turning minor decisions
over to the backers, if it engages them on a more personal level.
I also plan on sending them constant photos, behind the scenes videos,
some dailies, and updates after every day of production. May even
drop a few rough cut scenes on them along the way, haven't decided that
yet. But I want them to see this thing coming together over the
next year. I want people to get their money's worth. For 50,
or 100 Dollars, you get to spend the next year watching this thing
materializing before your eyes, instead of just waiting in the mail for
a few bumperstickers and a DVD. But, of course, we have all kinds of
perks, too, including bumperstickers! The cool thing about our
perks, a lot of them are going to be props in the film. When the family
begins exploiting the house, they turn their kitchen into a gift shop,
with mugs, t-shirts and kitchen magnets.
Once the funds are raised, what's the schedule -
and any idea when your film might be released, however tentatively?
idea yet. I'm looking at about 35 day shooting schedule, not
including pickup shots. And depending on how much money we can raise
is also going to dictate how we shoot the film. If we can raise over
150,000 Dollars, we can shoot this movie straight through, in one long 35
day schedule, like most movies are. But if we can only raise 5
figures, we may have to shoot on weekends, with maybe a week blocked off
for all the exteriors. we'll see how that pans out in the next two
future projets beyond The Crazy House?
Not at the
moment. I have about 5 or 6 ideas for movies, but nothing beyond
some scribble on a notepad or some loose ideas in my head.
movie's website, Facebook, IndieGoGo, whatever else?
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else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
One of my favorite things about this movie. There is a character in
the film by the name of Purcell. He's a serial killer who is also a
paranormal enthusiast, who travels around the country on business,
occasionally killing people and investigating haunted houses. I
don't think it's going to surprise anyone that he turns up at the house.
He's a complex character. He is a former victim of childhood bullying and
abuse and that forms his motives for killing. He is a massive, hulking
guy, but still very much a nerd and a loner. He enjoys killing
people who victimize others, and views himself as some sort of Charles
Bronson type. He likes to force them to look in his eye as they die,
and he views himself as a reflection of who they are at their worst.
But Purcell is incredibly brutal, and has no qualms about killing the
innocent himself, if it means getting to the guilty. He goes through
mental leaps to justify this to himself. Something happens midway
through the film that shakes his justifications and beliefs, and starts to
unravel him mentally, just around the time he finds this Crazy House. He's
going to be the hardest character in the film to cast, and I cant wait for
for the interview!