Kelly McNeely: You guys did have a bit of that 80s elements at the beginning of the film, because it starts 35 years prior. Why that jump, 35 years?
Brett Pierce: I mean, honestly, it was a weird thing where we shot the whole movie, and we always had this thing because we knew we had a lot of rules to establish for the witch, and things to set up. And we had written an opening, but we didn’t really like it that much. And we got really close to shooting and we’re like, let’s just not shoot an opening, which was kind of dumb. But we were like, we’ll shoot one later, because there’s so many twists and turns and rules that if something doesn’t make sense, maybe we can do an opening that helps surmise or fill in those gaps a little bit.
Sometimes you, as the writer, have dumb questions about the story that you think the audience is going to be worried about, but they actually aren’t worried about. But again, you have to put them in there. I think Drew and I just wanted to say “the witch has been around for a long time”. We wanted to show a microcosm of the whole movie, just in one little scene that sets it up.
Drew Pierce: And if you rewatch the movie, in so many ways, I think you can glean so much information from the entire movie, even the opening. There’s so many things you don’t understand, like mini mysteries, that make perfect sense.
Brett Pierce: It was also like, we finished and hadn’t edited the movie. And we’re like, “we don’t have a horror grab at the open”. We need something, you know, so we revised it to fit.
Drew Pierce: Openings are always tricky, because you always need to establish the tone and the feel of everything in the movie. So if anything’s going to be funny in your entire movie, the opening needs a little bit of funny. And if it’s gonna be scary, you need that; you kind of have to do everything.
Brett Pierce: Yeah. Plus we had a lot of family drama in the first 25-30 minutes, so you’ve gotta pace your horror beats so you don’t overdo it on that, and people go, “well wait a minute, am I watching a horror movie?”, so you gotta tell them the movie they’re in for with that first scene.
Kelly McNeely: And you’ve created this great rewatchability with going back to the beginning and doing it that way; you set up those things that, when you rewatch it, make more sense.
Brett Pierce: We’re very curious about what people’s opinions are of it the second time they see it, even people that maybe the first time they saw it kind of go, “Enh, I don’t know if I’m into it”. I think some people might actually like it better when they watch it again.
Kelly McNeely: And out of curiosity, just popping back for a second, you mentioned that your sound designer did one of the Resident Evil games, was it Resident Evil 7?
Brett Pierce: Yeah, it was the last one.
Kelly McNeely: That sound design was incredible, it’s terrifying!
Brett Pierce: Oh, yeah! It’s amazing! That kind of witch spider woman in the house who’s hunting you? Yeah, that was why I was like, I gotta call this guy, I gotta figure out where he’s at.
But it’s actually really funny with sound design because like, sometimes he plays something back, and I’m like, “oh, where’d you get that? How’d you record that animal?” And he’s like, “nah, man. That’s just me with a microphone”. [laughs]
Drew Pierce: It’s almost like he was excited to trick us.
Kelly McNeely: When you were younger, you mentioned you watched a ton of movies. And obviously, you grew up with horror. What really scared you when you were kids? What was the thing about horror movies that that made you want to keep doing horror movies when working in film?
Brett Pierce: I mean honestly, when I was a kid — I was a little older than Drew, like two, two and a half — and they were doing the effects for Evil Dead in the basement. I snuck downstairs because I wanted to see what dad was doing. And there was a screen setup down there and they were projecting the finale of Evil Dead — the big meltdown sequence. And they didn’t realize what was there, and I watched it, and I was horrified. And they turned on the lights and they just saw this little kid just terrified. So I actually had an irrational fear of horror movies after that. I wouldn’t go into the basement at all.
Drew Pierce: We had the scariest basement of all time!
Brett Pierce: I would never go in that basement. I didn’t watch Evil Dead until I was like 16 because I had this fake version in my head where it was the worst thing that ever happened. I saw some other horror movies, but I kind of avoided them til about 15-16. My transition was watching Aliens, because it’s an action movie but also a horror movie. And then after that, I got obsessed. And I think being so scared by a horror movie in that way made me obsessed with horror movies and wanting to scare other people.
But I also think it’s just that horror movies are the most fun to make. Because you get to do special effects, you get to play with people’s expectations, get some tension. And when you’re shooting a horror movie, it’s the most fun because — no matter how dark the horror is — everybody’s laughing and having a good time. They’re all getting excited when you’re like, “oh, today, we’re gonna rip your head off and the thing is going to crawl out of your body”, and it was like, [excitedly] “oh, that’s today?!” And everybody comes and watches it. Horror movies are hilarious, it’s the best feeling.
Kelly McNeely: And that kind of answers my last question, but what do you love about horror?
Brett Pierce: I feel like it’s the way you get people the most involved by telling a story. You have the most cinematic experience in horror movies. Because what I love about horror movies is that dialogue is one of the least important things; it’s all about what the sound design, and music, and the visuals are all telling you, and building up tension. It’s always so exciting and always firmly plants me in the shoes of whatever character I’m watching.
Drew Pierce: It embraces cinema better than any other genre.
Brett Pierce: Which is a bummer, because it gets looked down upon. But I actually think it’s one of the hardest things to pull off.
Drew Pierce: In so many ways, I love dramas and I love comedies and other genres, but a lot of them work better — like especially dramas — they work better as novels, because you can get that inner monologue, and it’s so much more powerful. It’s hard to communicate that comparatively to horror. And they’re audience movies too. The thing that’s so exciting about making a horror movie — just as far as going to these festivals — is that you get a reaction.
Brett Pierce: It’s just the most exciting, it’s the most fun. Horror movies have traditionally been not as expensive to make, so I’m almost always pulling for horror because I know they’re scrappy, and everything that’s in them — whoever made it — is fighting to make it work.
Drew Pierce: The thing that usually hooks all of us horror filmmakers is when you are a kid and you’re daring your friends to watch a horror movie but they won’t. I think that moment for people that are actually horror filmmakers has just resonated so strong that they’re still trying to dare their friends to watch the horror movie, and trying to chase that feeling, because it’s just so powerful.
Kelly McNeely: You don’t get that same kind of atmosphere with a rom-com, that same energy and involvement. There’s something really beautiful about that with horror.
Brett Pierce: Yeah. It’s the best, man [laughs]. I love it.