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Richard Taylor And The Producers Of INSIDE Move Into THE HOME Of Kristoffer Aaron Morgan And Eric Vespe!

Beaks here...

Like I said back in July when I first learned of this project, I'm incredibly proud of Kristoffer Aaron Morgan (aka "Kraken") and Eric Vespe (aka "Quint") for getting their nursing home horror flick, THE HOME, on the path to production. Six months later, it looks like they are a deal or two away from getting this labor of love up on its feet. As reported earlier by Bloody-Disgusting's Brad Miska, INSIDE's Franck Ribiere and Verane Frediani have agreed to produce THE HOME along with Elijah Wood. Joining them as an executive producer will be Academy Award-winning f/x maestro Richard Taylor. Obviously, WETA will be involved in a big, big way. According to Vespe, if all goes well at the European Film Market in Berlin this week, they should be ready to roll cameras this May. In case you need a refresher, here's the official synopsis for THE HOME:
Written by Eric Vespe and Matt Ward (from a story by Morgan), The Home unfolds after a young man is nearly killed during a horrible accident that leaves him physically and emotionally scarred. To recuperate, he is taken to a secluded nursing home where the elderly residents appear to be suffering from delusions. But after witnessing a violent attack, he soon realizes that the screams behind the walls are caused by more than hallucinations, and the residents are being preyed upon by twisted, monstrous nightmares that lurk within the home itself.
That's a little more than we knew last time. But that wasn't enough for me. So I chased down the reclusive Morgan for a quick statement. Shockingly, he replied!
I'm thrilled to be able to do this story with the creative team we've put together so far. As a horror fan I'm always excited to see the twisted and bizarre brought to the screen. But, all of that has to be tempered in a world where you actually give a crap about the characters and their personal stories. Hopefully, with the help of our creative team, we've been able to strike that balance with our story, paying off the human element and the creepy crawlies. I've always said the really terrifying thing in life is not the bogeyman in the closet... but the idea that someone we care about might get hurt. So we need to care first, then we fear. That's my idea of good horror. Visually everything has to be fresh and exciting as well. You have to treat a creature feature with the same care and respect in craftsmanship that you would treat any other film. My idea is to go practical all the way with the horrors of THE HOME, that's why casting a fantastic FX house like WETA in that department is so vital. They love every creation they make, and you see that in the face of everything they bring to life. The look of the film will also be very specific. The idea is that it will look like it was carved out of darkness, with a color palette representing the infectious and hideous nature of the environment. We're going to work very hard to bring a story to life that will not insult your intelligence, but will also be a thrilling and unique world.
That's all very fancy, but I was still concerned about this "nursing home" stuff. What's the use of making a horror film if you're not going to populate it with castoffs from 90210 and ONE TREE HILL? So I hopped on iChat and pestered Quint until he begrudgingly answered my questions. What follows is an actual, nearly unexpurgated Q&A between two of AICN's senior editors:

Mr. Beaks: So are you hoping THE HOME will be the horror complement to UP?

Eric O. Vespe: What's funny is that for the longest time Aaron and I kept running into people who wanted us to take out the old people aspect. "Could it be set in a juvenile detention facility?" And now it looks like 2009 and 2010 will be dominated by the elderly. I grew up on movies like Coccon and *Batteries Not Included. I loved those films and I definitely think UP will be the beginning of a trend. It's going to be huge, but it's not huge because it's about an old man... it'll be huge because it's Pixar and they know how to focus on character. We have a similar focus on character, so to answer your question. Yes. The Home is now going to be UP 2. I think John Lasseter might be surprised by that, but he'll come around.

Beaks: I remember you guys were having trouble convincing potential producers about the elderly angle. But if you traded in the old folks for emotionally damaged teenagers, it'd probably just be a retread of NIGHTMARE 3. And I understand the old-age home setting holds a particular resonance for Aaron.

Vespe: It wouldn't work without that angle. The appeal of the story is the elderly cast. It's not teenagers, that's the point. If it was teenagers it'd be every other horror film produced in the last 15 years. It started with Aaron pitching a few different ideas. The one that stuck with me was something set in a nursing home, which he is intimately familiar with. He grew up in one. His father owned a nursing home and he spent his childhood in and around it and knows just how scary the place is without any creepy-crawlies - which, going back to the elderly angle, it's more about the setting than the characters, but having a predominantly elderly supporting cast also gives the film a unique identity and will hopefully make the audience immediately empathize with them. I mean, everybody has a grandma and grandpa, right?

Beaks: So what's the tone here? Are you going for atmospheric, slow-burn horror. And, if so, did that scare people off?

Vespe: That's pretty right on the nose. The main focus is on character. The idea being that if you care for someone then you don't want to see them in danger. That's what makes horror films really hit home. Look at the best of the genre, like Exorcist. You are scared because you care. I love films like FRIDAY THE 13TH, but they're not scary. You can jump, you can love all the gore, but it's not something that sticks with you. That said, there is a disturbing trend I've been noticing over the last few years where horror is either watered down or super extreme. What happened to movies that could admit to being a horror film, deliver on the creatures and the gags, but also focus on character? That's what Aaron, Matt Ward and I have been focusing on during the screenwriting process. Have you seen the image going out?

Beaks: I saw the one at B-D. Love it.

Vespe: That's our favorite, too. We love that one and the silhouette piece that broke in July. We were worried people would think it's a killer doll movie, so that's why the silhouette piece went up first.

Beaks: How did you guys get Ribiere and Frediani on board? I liked INSIDE, but that is very much "super extreme".

Vespe: That was through Elijah, who worked with them on Alex de la Iglesia's OXFORD MURDERS, which they also produced. I have known Elijah for over 10 years now, having met him during his time in Austin when he was shooting Faculty. I wouldn't say we were best friends, but we saw each other when he'd come into town. He knew about Weta's involvement and asked to read the script right after Fantastic Fest last year. He read it, really responded to it and said he wanted to produce the film, taking it to Franck and Verane - which I was really psyched about, because I think Inside is one of the best horror movies of the last 5 years. They read it immediately, flew to Austin to meet with Aaron and myself and said they wanted to do it. This was great news for us. Now we know we don't have to worry about the gore in the script! It's not gonna be PG-13 with those guys producing

Beaks: So with Elijah producing, one wonders if he's interested in playing the young protagonist.

Vespe: There was certainly talk about it, but I think he's wanting to stay behind the camera, which I can understand. If he's wanting to produce he can focus on one thing: producing the movie... and not have his attention divided.

Visually, what is Aaron drawing on?

Vespe: That's probably a question better suited for him. But I can tell you that we're wanting to put a lot of emphasis on production design and making the film look much bigger than the budget. It's very important to all of us that this thing looks fantastic. We're shooting film, not HD... I mean, if Richard Taylor's bringing his A-team, we can't let them down by making it look like some direct to video movie. We've also had initial meetings down in NZ with some amazing people who have worked with the biggest in the business. The script is striking a chord with them, which is good. There's a lot of enthusiasm for the project down there.

Beaks: Love that you're shooting on film, but what about the gore? Are you going practical with the f/x, or will you be mixing in CG.

Vespe: Practical. Practical. Practical. I think we might need to use CG for some wire removal and possibly for some set extensions, but all the creatures will be built by Weta. Nothing kills horror faster than CG monsters. They're just not scary.

Beaks: So real, live creepy dolls. Good.

Vespe: Indeed. that's where rod-removal is going to have to come in. Old school in-camera tricks is what we want to rely on, not CGI. There's room for happy accidents going practical and to me... all that stuff is where the real magic of the movies comes into play. That's the illusion. When you have a team as talented the guys at Weta you have to trust them and let them run wild. They're already coming up with better things than I ever could just in the design phase. They're really nailing the tone we're going for in those production art pieces.

Beaks: Do you find yourself wanting to rewrite stuff to build on their contributions?

Vespe: Not so much, but the devil's in the details... so I guess that makes Weta the Devil. It's what was so great about their previous work. They made you believe you were in Middle Earth and that the outfits were well-worn and buildings have been there for centuries. They know detail and their artists are taking the script as a jumping off point and coming up some some amazingly creative designs that perfectly capture what we want the end product to resemble.

Beaks: kay. Now the obvious question: what does this mean for your future as a contributor to AICN? You were coming into your own as a critic with the AMAD series. Are you ready to trash all that just to selfishly pursue your own career as a screenwriter/filmmaker?

Vespe: Haha... I knew you'd hit me with this. It's a fair question. Listen, I've been a part of AICN since I was 15 years old. It's a huge part of who I am and I'd go a little crazy if I couldn't have a dialogue with the AICN readers. I plan on being a part of AICN as long as Harry will have me. I think I will be limited to specific columns, like the AMAD series I did... I don't believe you can serve two masters, so it probably wouldn't work to attempt to be both critic and filmmaker at the same time. I've taken great strides to keep the two lives separate over the last 3 years that I've been developing this project. Hell, I don't think my agent even knows that I'm Quint on AICN. I love the site and will do what I can to keep up that dialogue and be a presence. But I've never done this before, so honestly I'm playing all this by ear. I'm very conscious of not compromising my integrity as either a filmmaker or critic.

Beaks: Just wait until we get the first test screening review of THE HOME.

Vespe: Haha, yeah.

And it's really positive. People will be parsing that fucker for your voice.

Vespe: Bring it on, as Mr. Bush and Kirsten Dunst once said. I know that it's all fair game, and I'd be disappointed if you or any other online source treated us with kid's gloves. I'm proud of what we've come up with and think it's something that movie fans and genre fans will dig. And I'll totally plant a review, just to see if it makes it through.

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