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An Interview with József Gallai, Director of A Stranger in the Woods

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2023

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


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Your upcoming movie A Stranger in the Woods - in a few words, what's it going to be about?


The movie is about a university student called Edith who chooses as the subject of her exam film an elderly hermit who has been isolated from the world for decades. The rather moody Victor welcomes her for a few days, but Edith soon discovers that something is very wrong with him. As the days pass, it becomes clear to her that there are much deeper secrets lurking beneath the surface, secrets that now threaten her own physical and mental well-being.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing A Stranger in the Woods?


I love character-driven found footage films, so I was particularly influenced by the structure and mood of those. The Patrick Brice-directed Creep movies, but I also watched The Andy Baker Tape a few weeks before filming. They are excellent films in their genre.


What can you tell us about A Stranger in the Woods' co-writer Beáta Boldog, and what was your collaboration with her like?


Beáta is my wife, so I can only say good things about her. She came up with the idea and the story back in 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19. In our country, there were quite severe restrictions, so we were at home quite a lot, and when our daughter let us we started to work out the ideas, the characters, the whole mood of the story. Originally we were working with more characters, but then we realised that it would probably be very expensive, so I ended up reducing the number of characters in the script.


Do talk about A Stranger in the Woods' approach to horror!


As I mentioned before, I wanted to create a specifically character-driven found footage film. I've done this before, but this approach was perhaps the most prominent here. I think that this subgenre often tends to overshadow character development, and I wanted more than just characters who are in the film to be killed off at some point. I thought it was important to develop the characters of Victor and Edith as much as possible, even their movements say a lot about them, as well as the depth of the relationship between them.


A few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


I wanted the film to be as natural as possible, even if there was a scene that might be shocking or even disturbing and the same goes for the use of the camera. I let the actors immerse themselves in the characters, there was nothing set in stone, and a lot of very good ideas came out, there was a chance to try things out. More perspectives can lead to more good approaches, that's what I usually say.


You've hired two horror icons for A Stranger in the Woods, Lynn Lowry and Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] - so what was your collaboration with them like, and how did you get them even?


Bill had already made a cameo in a previous film of mine, I Hear the Trees Whispering, and I've been looking for the opportunity to work with him again ever since. I wrote the script of the film almost from the beginning with him in mind, and Edith was also intended to be Laura Ellen Wilson from page one. I didn't really have a plan B if either of them said no, but luckily for me they loved the script. It was a very close collaboration, we talked and emailed a lot, I was happy that they were so actively involved. Bill was very friendly with me from the beginning, we had great conversations during breaks or when we drove him home to his hotel at the end of the day. It was a defining experience working with him, from which I learned a lot. Lynn contacted me last year, right before Christmas, saying she would like to work with me, because she heard a lot of good things about me. At first, I was speechless, I was like wow, is this happening to me, but then I told her about this story and we agreed pretty soon.


You also appear in front of the camera in A Stranger in the Woods - 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?


Damn, I was hoping to keep it a secret, haha. Indeed, I have a small part in the film. The truth is, I had no intention of being in it, but I sent the script to four actors (several of whom I'd worked with before), to which I got not one single reaction, and then decided I could do it. I have a scene with Laura, and she was very helpful beforehand in getting the two characters to work well together, and Bill had also encouraged me days before, which was very empowering.


Do talk about the rest of A Stranger in the Woods' cast, and why exactly these people?


The answer is quite simple: I trust them. Bill and Lynn are legendary horror actors and I had the honour of having them along for the ride. Laura is professional, always prepared and humble, plus she adds great ideas to her characters. Shawn Michael Clankie has been there with me from the beginning, helping me and playing great characters, whether we're talking about smaller or larger roles. He was very nuanced and developed in his character, I was very pleased with his work. Some of the actors I was working with for the first time were Scott Cassin, Marvin Maddicks jr, Tracy Allen and Fountainblue Tielman, but they all did an outstanding job. Tracy also did an unimaginable amount of work behind the scenes, and her help was essential to the making of the film.


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


The atmosphere was very family-like, as it is on most of our shoots. All in all, we shot for seven days, with only one major interruption. On the last day of shooting, several pieces of footage disappeared from one of the memory cards, but the film's editor and producer managed to save the footage, so everyone was able to go to bed at 3am. We were about 2-3 miles from the nearest town, so we were pretty much on our own. With the exception of Bill, we also slept on location, where we had nice fights with the malfunctioning solar panels and low water pressure. I think I should really make a film that takes place in a five-star hotel or something.


The $64-question of course, when and where might A Stranger in the Woods be released, however tentatively?


It will be released in the summer of 2024, but before then we hope to see it at some of the more prestigious festivals in late winter and spring.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


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I'm working with the executive producer of this film, my long-time collaborator Roy McClurg on our next film, The-Black Eyed Children. It is the first time that he has been involved as a writer and I am happy that we are cooperating in this way too. The story is based on a creepy urban legend and we put a lot of emphasis on making a very scary and disturbing movie which will be released late next year, early 2025.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


Feel free to watch the official trailer of the movie - - as well as follow us on IMDb - -, Facebook - - and Instagram -


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry


directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke


now streaming at


Amazon UK





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