A haunted house harbors sinister scares in The Unspoken, a new horror movie coming out on DVD today from Anchor Bay Entertainment. For our latest Q&A feature, we caught up with filmmaker Sheldon Wilson to discuss paying tribute to ’70s horror movies, the eerie day almost everyone got mysteriously sick on set, and working with Bailee Madison on his other recent scary movie, The Night Before Halloween.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Sheldon. When did you first come up with the idea for The Unspoken?
Sheldon Wilson: I had been looking to do a horror movie that was a bit of an homage to the horror films of the ’70s, the films I grew up on. I was brought a script that had some core ideas that I thought lent themselves well to the type of classic horror I wanted to make, so I ran with that initial premise with the intent of doing something that might make you look back on some of the classic horrors films with different eyes, maybe give the audience a different way to see and interpret some of those films.
Where did filming take place and what did that environment add aesthetically and atmospherically to your movie?
Sheldon Wilson: We shot The Unspoken about an hour outside Vancouver, B.C. in and around Mission and Maple Ridge. There are a lot of productions shot in the area, so it was a real challenge not only finding the right house but also finding one that worked for the story but hadn’t been filmed fifty times already. When it looked like we had turned over every possible rock, our production designer, Rick Whitfield, started looking online for houses that were for sale. That’s when he discovered the house we ended up using in the film. The house itself is almost a character in the film that had some very specific story requirements; this place was a real find. I also needed to add that the family that lives in the house is fantastic. Having a film crew descend on your home can be a pretty hellish experience. They really went out of their way to work with us.
What was the shooting schedule like on this film?
Sheldon Wilson: We shot this film in 14 days, so very fast, especially when you consider that we did 99% of all the effects for real on set. Because I wanted to do a film that felt like horror films from the ’70s, it was important to me that we did as much as possible in camera without the use of CG. My hat goes off to the entire crew and producers who worked very hard to make sure we got everything we needed.
What types of horror can fans expect to experience in The Unspoken? Were there any films that inspired or influenced you while making the movie?
Sheldon Wilson: This is a very character-driven film that I wanted to be a celebration of sorts of the horror films from the ’70s, so I was very inspired by films like the original Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, The Shining. It’s my hope that once the audience gets to the end of The Unspoken, it gives them a new way to experience these films I respect so much.
What was the most challenging scene to film in The Unspoken?
Sheldon Wilson: Because I wanted to do all of the effects in the movie without the use of CG, it became a real challenge shooting some of the scenes that required a lot of wire work, especially given our short schedule. There’s a scene later in the movie where an unseen force drags a character along the floor, then violently pulls them up into the air before dropping the character to their death. This was done with a very complicated system of wires and rigging that took days to set up. The special effects and stunt team really went above and beyond on this one. They were fantastic.
When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly funny or memorable moment that stands out?
Sheldon Wilson: At one point we began to believe that the house we were filming in was actually haunted, no joke. One morning, a crew member went home because he wasn’t feeling well. That was quickly followed by another and another. By midday, so many crew members had suddenly become ill, we needed to start training production assistants on how to pull focus and push the dolly. By end of the day it was like a ghost town on the set with only about seven crew left and the actors. I’d never experienced anything like it. We took a long weekend and by Monday everyone was 100% again. We never did find out what made everyone so sick.
Is this a world you would be willing to return to in a potential sequel?
Sheldon Wilson: Absolutely.
In addition to The Unspoken, you also recently had another film released, The Night Before Halloween. What can you tell us about your experience making that holiday horror film?
Sheldon Wilson: I’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people and The Night Before Halloween was no exception. Bailee Madison gives an amazing performance unlike anything else she’s ever done, surrounded by a remarkable cast. It’s a supernatural murder mystery horror film that promises to keep you jumping.