A haunted attraction harbors intimate and personally horrifying scares for a group of friends with dark secrets in House of Purgatory, out now on digital platforms from Terror Films. For our latest Q&A feature, we caught up with the film's writer/director Tyler Christensen to discuss filming his first feature in his hometown, working with Brian Krause (Charmed), and much more.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Tyler. When did you first come up with the idea for House of Purgatory?
Tyler Christensen: I had heard the story of a haunted attraction so scary that nobody had made it all the way through for years growing up in Wisconsin. It stuck with me, and it wasn’t until years later that I learned it was actually an urban legend. I was fascinated by the notion that I was so fooled, and got to thinking what this supposed haunt would be like if it actually existed.
Where did filming take place and what did that environment add aesthetically and atmospherically to your movie?
Tyler Christensen: We shot completely in and around Green Bay, Wisconsin. I really wanted to go back and shoot in my hometown. Because we were actually in the woods in the cold in the place where this legend was born, it really gave the film a bit of gravitas. We were out in these farm fields in the middle of the night with very little light and the elements, so it definitely gave the film that extra little atmosphere. We also used a haunted attraction, Green Bay Fear, in the days right after Halloween. There’s definitely something a little spooky about being in one of those places after they’ve closed their doors for the season.
What was the shooting schedule like on this film?
Tyler Christensen: Brutal. That about sums it up. We shot the entire film in twelve days. It was all night shoots, half of which were exteriors in November in Wisconsin. I only remember bits and pieces because I was running on about two hours of sleep a night and nothing but adrenaline and that half euphoric, half terrified feeling that comes with your first feature—being immensely proud but feeling like the wheels are all going to come off at any given moment.
It looks like House of Purgatory features both psychological and physical horror. Were you aiming to incorporate both types of scares into your movie?
Tyler Christensen: Yes. The psychological horror always scared me much more than the physical. And with House of Purgatory, even the physical horror is a byproduct of the psychological terrors these characters are experiencing. When you care about someone, it’s that much more horrific seeing them being terrorized.
What was it like to work with Brian Krause, who many horror fans know from his role as Leo Wyatt on Charmed?
Tyler Christensen: Brian was amazing. The moment he walked on set, you could feel the energy level go up. He has an incredible talent at bringing the talent of those around him up a notch. The character he plays, referred to in the script only as The Skeleton, is a mystery. His motives and backstory are unknown, but what Brian did was bring this emotion depth to him that even took me by surprise. There are a couple moments where in watching Brian’s eyes, and the way he looks at others, you can see there is so much more to this painted face.
When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly funny or memorable moment that stands out?
Tyler Christensen: Shooting back in my hometown, it was a real treat to me to use a lot of my oldest friends as extras in the movie. There’s a handful of guys that I grew up with that all came out to help out, and it made the experience that much more fun for me.
Were there any films that inspired or influenced you while making House of Purgatory?
Tyler Christensen: Any time you shoot a film that takes place on Halloween, you have to give credit to John Carpenter’s original. Also set on Halloween, and more of what I feel HoP is cut from the same cloth as is Trick ’r Treat. House of Purgatory becomes almost a bit of an anthology film as the characters get split up to face their own secrets. I love that about Trick ’r Treat—and the fact that each of these stories has one central face of evil who seems to be pulling the strings.
Is this a world you would be willing to return to in a potential sequel?
Tyler Christensen: I definitely would. It would be a matter of coming up with something completely original and not just another paint by numbers rehash. There are no shortage of secrets we keep, so there is certainly no shortage of horrors House of Purgatory can instill.
With House of Purgatory out now, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you on social media?
Tyler Christensen: I’m currently working on a slightly different take on the ghost in the basement haunted house story that I am really excited about. I’m tweaking the script and looking for the right producers for the project to team up with. And as far as social media, I’m not the crazy social media type, but I do occasionally pop up on Instagram at Just_TC_83. House of Purgatory can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/House-of-Purgatory) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/PurgatoryMovie).
To learn more about House of Purgatory, check out the film on iTunes, and watch the official trailer below: