Director Patrick Meaney & Actress Kaytlin Borgen Discuss the Upcoming Film House of Demons
2017 ended on a high note for horror fans with films such as It, Happy Death Day and Get Out redefining the genre. Only a month in the new year and 2018 looks to be just as promising with a number of horror titles being released in the first quarter, one of them being Sony Entertainment’s House of Demons. House of Demons follows four estranged friends who are reunited to spend the night in a time-bending, haunted house that forces them to confront their deepest fears and overcome a collective trauma that has ruined their lives. We decided to sit down with the film’s writer/director Patrick Meaney and one of the film’s stars Kaytlin Borgen to discuss the process for creating this dark and mind-bending tale.
Patrick: Why did you decide to cast Kaytlin? Was there a specific audition that really stood out to you?
We had been auditioning a bunch of actresses for the part of Gwen, and there were a lot of people who were good, but no one had totally clicked. When Kaytlin came in, she read and from that moment on, there was no question. She had the spirit of the character down perfectly in that audition and we offered her the part right after.
Kaytlin: You studied acting at the Vancouver Film School and a few other places. Was there one thing in particular that you learned there that helped you prepare for this role?
It’s hard to remember one particular thing I learned there but I will say Vancouver Film School gave me permission to be me and to be open, honest and generous with others, not to be afraid of them and not to be afraid of diving into uncomfortable places. So in preparing for Gwen, who was an insecure and jaded person but at her heart just wanted to be loved and accepted, I knew that by trusting in my own experiences and coming to it with an openness I could bring myself to the given circumstances and that really helped me connect with her on a deep level.
Patrick: How close did you stick to the original script when filming began?
I always like to be flexible with the script, and work with the actors when we start a scene to ensure that everything is as good as it can be. In most cases, we stuck fairly close to the script, but some scenes changed quite a bit, particularly those with Kaytlin and Chloe Dykstra, who played her “mother.” With those, we did a lot of improv and alternate takes in figuring out the way to make it work.
Another good example is the flashback scene with all the friends in the car. In that case, we gave the camera to Taliesin to film the scene and they went and drove around with only a general guideline on what to talk about. And I think the scene turned out great.
One of the coolest things about making a movie is that each actor is there to bring one character to life, so they’re bringing a different perspective than I would have, having to think about the whole production. So, if the actors can find a way to bring something that makes their character come across more clearly, that’s great.
Kaytlin: When you read the House of Demons script, what first crossed your mind? What sealed the deal for you in taking the role?
When I started reading the House of Demons script I remember thinking this isn’t your typical indie horror film script. It has a lot of layers, I was really immersed in the world and felt connected to all the characters. I wanted to know what happened next. I think for me, what sealed the deal was I had the opportunity to bring Gwen to life and go on a journey that would put me in some really bizarre, scary circumstances that I knew it would be challenging and fun.
Patrick: The film is pretty dark. Was there something thematic you wanted to convey with a dark color palate or was it an overall vibe?
The whole movie is a kind of “dark night of the soul” experience for these characters, they’re being forced to face the things they’ve buried, and the fears they’ve run from, so it made sense to keep a dark, moody night vibe. And I think night has a more dreamy feel than day, which fit for the more surreal, subjective vibe of the film.
Patrick: What films have been the most influential to you and why?
I watch a lot of movies, and always try to absorb what I liked and didn’t like about what I watch and take those lessons to my own work. For this film in particular, PT Anderson’s Magnolia was a major influence. I love the way that he was able to weave a whole bunch of different character journeys into a single narrative, and I brought that same approach to House of Demons. David Lynch, particularly Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, is another touchstone. I loved how he was able to blend out there surreal scenes with very grounded, real emotional issues. And, the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion was a similar blend of wild genre action with brutal character introspection.
And, more than any director, Wong Kar-Wai’s work influenced me in how to approach film from a visual perspective, and push the boundaries of how to tell a story.
With this film in particular, music was a big influence as well. I was definitely inspired by the psychedelic darkness of Pink Floyd, and trip hop music like Portishead in building the mood and flow of the movie.
Kaytlin: What was the most challenging scene for you to film and why?
I think the most challenging scene was when I didn’t have another actor to work of off and I needed to go from a brainwashed state to realizing that I do matter and I am worth something. That was pretty challenging on top of being in a super small room, surrounded by crew, and we were running behind on a very long, very hot day that was just getting started.
Patrick & Kaytlin: What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?
Kaytlin: Being on set is collaborative, intimate and at times tense, we’re all a piece in the puzzle that brings the story to life, and each time a piece works and you can move on to the next it’s the best feeling.
Patrick: I love basically everything about making movies except for the business part. But, with this film, working with the actors on set was definitely my favorite part. We had an amazing cast, and everyone brought a unique energy and gave their all in their performance. You do so much work in pre-production and everything is about getting to this moment on set when you get to finally just focus on doing the creative work, and collaborating with the actors to bring the story to life.
Patrick: Not only did you direct the film but you also wrote it. What role was more challenging?
They’re very different challenges. Writing takes place over a very long period of time, I got so many sets of notes and went through thirty drafts of the script by the time we shot. It happened gradually and was generally low pressure. But, the fact that you can write anything down makes it hard to ever end the writing process. A script is never done until it’s shot.
Directing is challenging because you’re not just being creative, but also having to manage a whole crew of people and a lot of it is just making sure everything stays on schedule and you’re getting what you need. It’s a rush to get to the point where you can work with the actors and be creative, but you’re always keeping an eye on the time and knowing that you need to move forward. There’s not as much time for introspection, you just have to trust your gut in the moment.
I also edited the film, which is another interesting challenge. With editing, you once again have the luxury of time, but rather than being able to think of any idea and throw it in, it’s more like a puzzle, where you have to take the material that you got and assemble it in the best way possible. We shifted around several scenes in post to make the film flow better, and ultimately, one of the most rewarding things is to see the movie finally coming together as music and sound mix gets added and you finish the journey.
You can pre-order House of Demons on Amazon here: