This past weekend, writer/director Brendan Muldowney celebrated the world premiere of his latest feature film project, The Cellar, at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. Co-starring Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken, The Cellar is centered around the Woods family as they move into a mysterious new home so that parents Keira (Cuthbert) and Brian (Macken) can be closer to their work. Their kids aren’t entirely thrilled about the new housing arrangement, but after the Woods’ teenage daughter, Ellie (Abby Fitz), goes missing after going into their new abode’s cellar, Keira is bound and determined to bring back her child by any means necessary.

While in Austin, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Muldowney, Cuthbert, and Macken about their experiences working on The Cellar together and more during a press day at the festival. Here’s the first part of our chat with the trio; be sure to check back here next month when we run the second installment of our interview with this creative team behind The Cellar when the film gets ready for its theatrical release and same-day Shudder debut on April 15th.

Brendan, I was wondering if you would start off at the beginning. Can you talk about taking your short The Ten Steps and the process you underwent creatively as you turned it into this feature, The Cellar

Brendan Muldowney: Well, it’s gone through many different versions. I tried to extend the short, but it didn't work. I tried it as a prologue. I tried many different versions until I finally settled on this story, which was obvious really, where a child has gone missing and there’s a mother trying to look for her. So, then the other bit that took a bit of time was the mythology. I went through many different versions of why this could have happened. At some stage, I just said, "You know, this should be related to mathematics." And I googled “math” and maybe “supernatural math,” or “math and the devil” or something. But then evil numbers popped up and I did a bit of research on that. It didn't go anywhere, but it was the starting point. Then, I came back to one of my other obsessions, which is quantum physics, and things like string theory and dimensions. I don't fully understand all of it, but I do like to sit there and let my brain think about it. So, there were a lot of things, really.

So, after all those years between the short to the feature, you finally get to this point where you're like, "All right, we've got the script and everything, but now we're in the middle of COVID." Did that end up changing how you were going to approach this project at all, or was it still just game on, the way you'd always intended?

Brendan Muldowney: Look, for everybody in the world, COVID was just something that nobody knew what to do about. And I mean, I heard Richard Linklater say it yesterday. I'm paraphrasing him, but he said, “Look, we're filmmakers and filmmakers just adapt.” And that's really it. And after the first day, you don't even think any different about everything; you just get on with it.

Elisha Cuthbert: I don't know how we were able to even get it off the ground, just to film it, but we did. I mean, it ended up like where at any point you felt like, "Oh, if someone tests positive here, the movie's over." ​​So, you're on a cliffhanger the entire time, but I think it adds a heightened stress to it all. Especially for the producers, but really for us, too. Everyone in the crew made it so great for us, though. As soon as we got there, we had to quarantine for two weeks prior to filming, but we were quarantined at the house that we were filming at.

There was this amazing feeling where I could immerse myself with the script at the location for two weeks uninterrupted. Which is like, what other film can I do that on? And I mean, the producers were bringing us groceries because we couldn't leave. Everyone was waiting on us. For me, it was a different experience, but for the producers, it was probably pretty crazy. So, everyone had a different experience, but that bubble was really cool for us to be able to experience, to make the film. It was like a nice little family and it was just, for me anyway, a great experience.

Eoin Macken: ​​Yeah. I think especially when you're doing a horror movie like that, that is in one central location, the atmosphere of the story was getting amplified by the fact that we were all there together away from everything. I think that because of the way they ran everything, that just heightened all the elements that helped us with being totally sucked into what this story was about.

[Photo Credit: Above photo courtesy of SHUDDER / RLJE Films.]


Go HERE to catch up on our coverage of the 2022 SXSW Film Festival!

In Theaters & Shudder April 15th

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.