In the grand scheme of things, Boaz Yakin is hardly new to the horror game. Once upon a time, he was partners with Eli Roth and Scott Spiegel at Raw Nerve Productions.
The company was responsible for the birth of the Hostel franchise, and had a hand in bringing the Robert Englund and Lin Shaye led remake of 2001 Maniacs.
“The company went away but I always felt like doing a horror movie on my own was something I really needed and wanted to do,” Yakin told iHorror in a recent interview. “I had this idea that embracing the things about yourself that you might be ashamed of and owning them is important. That’s where the idea for Boarding School came from, really.”
The writer and director mined that theme for everything it was worth in bringing the film to life blending genres and creating something rooted in genre archetypes yet somehow greater than its parts.
In the film, twelve year old Jacob (Luke Prael) becomes obsessed with the image of his deceased grandmother. Much to the dismay of his mother and stepfather, he revels in her music, tries on her clothes, and sees the story of her life play out in his head over and over again.
Before long, he finds himself shipped off to a super secretive boarding school with seriously sinister motives, and he has to find that strength within himself to protect himself and his classmates.
“For me, I’ve struggled for a big part of my life with the fact that I have a very strong feminine side,” Yakin explained. “In film, most hero journeys involve finding your father’s sword. I wanted to turn that convention on its head. Jacob doesn’t find power that way. It’s not his father’s sword, but instead his grandmother’s dress that empowers him.”
That’s exactly what he did.
But he was doubly lucky when it came time to cast the film, however, in finding Luke Prael to embody the role of young Jacob, however. The actor was only 12 years old when filming began but he brought a maturity to the role far beyond his years, and Yakin could not have been more impressed with the young man’s performance.
“This was his first movie and he was really raw, but he has this incredibly strong light about him,” the director pointed out. “He also has this very internalized strength. He keeps what he’s feeling very close to him. I like those kinds of performances.”
The director didn’t only find himself lucky in casting Prael, however. He hit a veritable gold mine in securing Tammy Blanchard (Into the Woods) and Will Patton (The Puppet Masters) as the Shermans, the couple running the school.
“When you read the script, there wasn’t much for Tammy’s character to do, but then she showed up on set and suddenly everything she does, every movement, suddenly had this weight to it,” Yakin said. “And then Will, man, one of my favorite things about the film is his performance. He was amazing.”
There was a final piece to the film’s puzzle, however. The sets for the school had to be perfect, but Yakin and the producers were already facing budget constraints. While scouting for locations, the director found exactly what he was looking for only 45 minutes from his home in Manhattan.
The woman who owned the property agreed to filming and soon, Yakin, Prael, and the rest of the cast were ensconced in what Yakin described as something out of a Kubrick film. It also allowed him to pay homage to one of his filmmaking idols.
“With that amazing location, we were able, with a limited lighting kit, to reproduce the look of some of Mario Bava’s classic films,” he enthused. “The reds and blues could be more extreme and impressionistic and it would help raise the tension level of the entire project.”
Yakin’s vision came to startling life in the finished product. It is both terrifying and moving, a rare combination in the genre but one that is most refreshing.
You can see Boarding School in its limited theater release and on VOD right now! Check out the trailer below!