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Q&A: Creators of the Home-Invasion Horror “INTRUDERS”

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Director Adam Schindler’s approach to the psychological horror film INTRUDERS (on DVD today from Momentum Pictures) incorporates something borrowed, but something quite new. It follows an expected framework, only to twist into an unexpected game of cat and mouse. But who is the hunted and who is the prey?

Anna Rook (Beth Riesgraf) suffers from agoraphobia. She is trapped, by her own panic and dread, in her father’s house—an old mansion with just as many secrets as she holds close. A burglary occurs when she ought to be away at a funeral: Three men invade her sanctuary, looking for riches they believe are stashed there. As they attempt to break her down, it is revealed what else is hidden in the house… The film (reviewed here) also stars Rory Culkin (interviewed here), Jack Kesy, Martin Starr and Joshua Mikel. FANGORIA spoke to Schindler, Riesgraf and executive producer Brian Netto about their exercise in the unexpected…

FANGORIA: What led you to make this film?

ADAM SCHINDLER: Brian and I are partners; we have our own company, Type AB Films, and we’re friends of 26 years, so we’re kind of like one head, so to speak. The script came from our manager. He also reps the writer, and we were in a unique situation: We had done our first film, DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN, and had met producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman, who wanted to find a project to do with us, and this screenplay was available. We had read it a couple of years prior and absolutely loved it, and were in the weird position of actually having the money before we had the project. We were just looking for the right one, and this script showed up. Everybody read it, we fell in love with it again and here we are.

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FANG: How did you come to cast Beth Riesgraf in the lead?

SCHINDLER: You start the film really feeling sorry for Anna, Beth’s character, and by the middle to end, you’re conflicted: Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? You know, when she flips it from being the prey to the predator, and it goes back and forth. I hadn’t really seen that in a film, and we took on the challenge of telling a story that flip-flops a lot. We read a lot of scripts, and often the twists and turns are telegraphed and we can see them coming, but with this one we found ourselves guessing the whole way through.

Beth was the first person we auditioned for the role. It was such a tough part; she has to be in control at some points and almost childlike at points, be the prey, be the predator. When Beth read for it, she blew us away immediately. Most people know her from [TNT’s] LEVERAGE, as this quirky cat-burglar type, and she’s got great comedic timing. She came in to the audition raring to go; she dyed her hair, she was a totally different person. It was quite a turn for her.

FANG: How do you work together as a director/producer team?

BRIAN NETTO: I directed and Adam produced DELIVERY, and on this film I produced and he directed, and because we’ve known each other for so long and are friends outside of making films together, that helps because we know each other’s tastes, and we know what each other is thinking before it has to come out of our mouths. I was kind of an extension of Adam—we had a really short shoot, 15 days, and it was a matter of just delivering information to people who needed it if he couldn’t get it to them directly, because we had to move so fast. It’s a question a lot of people have, and for us it feels like it’s a very natural working relationship.

SCHINDLER: They say the director’s job is to see the film from 30,000 feet, and it is. The director sees it at 30,000 feet, but in our relationship, Brian was at 50,000 feet, so we would share looks on set, or he would pull me aside and notice something that I wasn’t privy to, or make a side comment about a very minute detail. It kept everything in line. It’s nice to have somebody you trust 100 percent with the vision of the film, to be there to catch something if it slipped through the cracks because we were shooting 15 days. It was a mad rush.

FANG: How did you approach the look of the film?

SCHINDLER: I went through it with our DP Eric Leach, who did a phenomenal job, considering our time. We spoke a lot about PANIC ROOM, and talked about some of Fincher’s ways of shooting confined spaces. We wanted to film in widescreen because we wanted to show the characters move within the environment. It was very important to us, since you’re going to be in a constrained space, this house, for the entire film, to shoot it basically from Anna’s perspective, not really leaving the house unless she does, for the most part. Luckily, we were able to find a house in Shreveport, Louisiana that fit the script to a T. [James] Wiley [Fowler], our great production designer, really came through. On 15 days and a low budget, you have to be able to find ways to reuse things. The biggest deal for us was obviously the basement, which we had to build. Hopefully, you’re not going to find that exact basement somewhere [laughs]! That was a set.

FANG: What are the practical keys to filming in confined spaces?

SCHINDLER: A lot of lower-budgeted horror-thrillers tend to shoot everything close up to hide the environment, because they don’t have a lot of money and a lot of times they’re repurposing rooms and other things. So we made the decision to shoot it widescreen, which allows you to capture three or four characters all standing within one room..

NETTO: It gives you geography, also. Often, you just don’t know where you are in a film, and we could not have that in a film like this. You had to know where you’re going, what you’re entering, and have a better sense of where Anna is in relation to that, because if you didn’t feel as if she was either closer to or farther from the intruders in the chase sequences, it wouldn’t have the same effect.

FANG: Beth, can you recall your reaction when you first read the role?

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BETH RIESGRAF: I loved the script. It was a real page-turner for me. I had never done anything like it, and was excited to tap into that headspace.

FANG: What were the first notes you made when you read about her twist and her headspace?

RIESGRAF: I broke it down as much as I could, did a lot of research and just created my own world with it. I came up with a backstory, did all my homework. In terms of actual notes, it was just about finding the truth of her character, the truth of her situation. She’s at her most vulnerable point, which makes it even worse when the intruders show up, because she has just lost everything. I tried to play the truth of the moment, and not judge it.

FANG: How did you create and maintain the on-set momentum of the scenes of violence and terror and trauma?

SCHINDLER: Films are shot out of order, and we didn’t get much time to prepare, but what Beth and I did have a chance to do, over the course of one day, was go through the entire script, scene by scene. We picked out the points we thought would be the toughest scenes, the ones that were really going to become the emotional center of the film, and focused on what her mind-state was in those. So in terms of the pacing, and getting to that tension, we were on the same page moving forward, and it was just a matter of having the camera capture it.

RIESGRAF: I also think that having that small crew, everyone worked as a well-oiled machine, and that’s how you have to do it. Nobody was going off to take breaks in their trailer. We all stayed on set and were ready to go, constantly.

About the author
Heather Buckley

Heather has a dual career as a Producer (Red Shirt Pictures) and a film journalist. Raised on genre since the age of 13, she’s always been fascinated by extreme art cinema, monster movies and apocalyptic culture. Her first love was a Gorezone no. 9 bought at Frank’s Stationary in Keyport, NJ. She has not looked back since. Follow her on Twitter @_heatherbuckley

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