Q&A: Zachary Quinto on “BANSHEE CHAPTER”
Psychotropic horror has been growing in popularity, as the genre further explores the dark side of mind expansion and imaginative filmmakers have found new ways to link these fears to the supernatural. One such connection is presented in BANSHEE CHAPTER, and one of those creators is actor-turned-producer Zachary Quinto, who spoke to FANGORIA about bringing it to the screen.
Blurring the lines between found footage and slow-burn, haunting horror, BANSHEE CHAPTER (currently on VOD, and in theaters this Friday, January 10 from XLrator Media) presents a reality where the infamous MK-Ultra experiments of the 1950s and ’60s had much more sinister intentions. It’s a smart and scary debut for writer/director Blair Erickson as well as the first genre feature for Before the Door Productions, which was founded by Quinto (best known, of course, for portraying Spock in the new STAR TREK features) with producers Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson, and whose credits include J.C. Chandor’s critically lauded MARGIN CALL and ALL IS LOST. As the film makes waves throughout the genre community, Quinto spoke to FANGORIA about being one of the less terrifying forces behind BANSHEE CHAPTER…
FANGORIA: When we spoke to Blair Erickson, he explained how you boarded the project as executive producer. What was it about the BANSHEE CHAPTER script that clicked with your tastes and sensibilities?
ZACHARY QUINTO: Personally, I really enjoyed the historical element, and the fact that there was this nod to our conspiracy past and unknown history. I liked the idea of exploring that, and the mind-expansion part of the script. I’m fascinated by mind expansion and the lengths people will go to experience it, as well as the trouble they can get into as a result. The way Blair talked about BANSHEE CHAPTER sounded like he had a clear sense of the story and how to tell it, so I responded to all of those elements when the script was first presented to us.
FANG: Seeing that you had just come off of your active role producing and acting in MARGIN CALL, was it a nice reprieve to produce a genre film that wasn’t as weighty or tied in to current events?
QUINTO: Yeah. After MARGIN CALL and before BANSHEE CHAPTER, we had produced a romantic comedy called BREAKUP AT A WEDDING, and I felt BANSHEE CHAPTER was a nice step in a diverse direction. That’s one of the goals of our company: to diversify and tell different kinds of stories. I knew I had a fan base that would support this kind of story, and I thought it would be a good way for us to forge into new territory.
FANG: You attached your name to the film as a producer, but don’t actually appear in the film. Was it important to you and Erickson that you not act in the project, or was that aspect not even discussed?
QUINTO: I was otherwise engaged as an actor, but I feel that the nature of the film was such that it wouldn’t even make sense for me to appear in it. Partially because I wanted to start a company not so I could be in all of its movies, but so I could have production experience. So it wasn’t really an option, and it wasn’t possible anyway, so that wasn’t a discussion that we needed to have.
FANG: What exactly did your role on BANSHEE CHAPTER entail? Were you hands-on and on set, and did you moreover help the film come together early on in the process?
QUINTO: Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit the set at all, since they were shooting in New Mexico and I was working in LA on a project, so I wasn’t able to get out there. While they were in production, Corey Moosa, my business partner, oversaw the daily physical production. I helped at the beginning, bringing the project together and facilitating conversations for the financing and casting as well, which is an area I like to be involved in.
FANG: After reading the script, was there anything that you specifically wanted to contribute to the project so that it would stand out from other horror films?
QUINTO: Well, my philosophy as a producer is that my job is to support my directors, and the way Blair spoke of the movie, it was his commitment to it that would be responsible for BANSHEE CHAPTER standing out from other horror offerings. I wanted to make sure I gave him a good environment, and supported him in a way that allowed him to do that. I was more interested in backing his vision and helping him execute the story. I wasn’t interested in trying to impose my opinions on it. I brought up questions and concerns I had when I was reading the script in the early stages, and those were all addressed as we went along, and we had all of our creative conversations before we went into production. Once the cameras rolled, I felt my job was to support Blair and Corey in any way I could.
FANG: As you mentioned before, the film has a historical significance in its depiction of the MK-Ultra experiments, albeit with a supernatural slant. Considering you were tackling an actual event in U.S. history, were you concerned about BANSHEE CHAPTER’s depiction of that era and its use as Erickson’s inspiration for the horror?
QUINTO: I felt that the historical element was a great launching point, but from there, it was the way Blair saw the story unfolding for himself that would determine where it went. I thought that was one of the interesting things about BANSHEE CHAPTER. The film doesn’t attempt to recreate or redefine history, it’s just using the mystery of the past as a landscape around the interactions of these characters.
FANG: You’ve previously been involved in horror in an acting capacity, including AMERICAN HORROR STORY—and in a way, the sensibilities of that series match those of BANSHEE CHAPTER, in terms of the ever-mounting tension. Is that element important to you when boarding a horror project?
QUINTO: Yeah. The thing I like about BANSHEE CHAPTER is that it has multiple brands of scares. You have the immediate jump-in-your-seat kind, but you also have an overall tension established by the mystery of what happened to one character. There’s the information stemming from that, numbers stations, the eccentric author; I find that BANSHEE CHAPTER operates on a lot of levels. That, to me, is the most engaging type of story, whether it’s horror genre or any other kind of genre. The film has diversity and variety, and that’s something I think is more compelling to begin with.
FANG: When you got to see the finished film, was there anything specifically from the script that you felt translated best to the screen?
QUINTO: For me, the setting of the tone, from the opening of the film through the first scenes. It ultimately blurs the lines of found footage, and the way Blair employs that within the first 10 minutes is really scary, because it sets the audience into unease. You don’t know the perspective from which you should be watching this story unfold, and it keeps changing on you. Establishing that world where the movie takes place was something Blair did exquisitely well, and is a huge part of why I think audiences will respond to it.
FANG: Is the horror genre something your company would like to further explore, including anything Erickson might bring to the table?
QUINTO: Sure. I don’t specify our decisions to any one genre, but we had a good time making this movie and wouldn’t rule it out again. It really comes down to the integrity of the story and what the director’s vision is. That’s how we determine our projects, so whether it’s a horror movie or another kind of movie, we hope it’s something that will engage different audiences on different levels and in different ways.
FANG: What do you or Before the Door have in development at the moment?
QUINTO: We’re working on a bunch of stuff right now. We’re about to start production on J.C. Chandor’s third movie, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, and beyond that we have about five or six scripts in active development or various stages of preproduction, so we’ll have more to say about those projects as we get going with them. There are a lot of things to look forward to, for sure.