Sean Stone has a lot to live up to. The son of a very famous director (Oliver Stone), Sean begins carving out his own niche in film making with his horror film Greystone Park. One of the many current releases that employs the found footage device, Greystone Park, an abandoned mental institution, is a real place which Sean says he and his crew broke into, and is truly haunted.
Having seen the film, I can say it does indeed contain some genuine scares, and Sean exhibits an ability at creating tension and frightening the audience. What he had to say about the process of creating his first feature, and his own beliefs in the supernatural was quite interesting. Believe him, don't believe him, either way this is a solid entry in the genre, and perfect for putting on this Halloween season.
Check out my conversation with him, and decide for yourself if he's nuts, putting us on...or if there really was something sinister going on inside the walls of Greystone Park.
TWITCH: With the flood of the POV horror film what sets GREY apart from the flood.
SEAN STONE: Well first off I think the fact that our film is based on truth. We shot in real haunted locations, we spent a long time making sure we could get the most authentic, really spooky places and a lot of the reactions you see from the cast are actual reactions. We spent over 6 months breaking into these places and exploring and ghost hunting and had some really neat experiences. Even some of the sounds we piped into the film are actually caught in the real locations. It was our story, not a Blair Witch type thing that was concocted.
The pacing was a bit different, it moved really quickly, and you also played around with actual narrative which I thought was cool. I was pretty impressed by your cast as well, who were very believable. Can you introduce the readers to the cast? You're in it too, and I was wondering, are you all really friends? (laughs) Well it's hard to believe, I feel like the boy who cried wolf. I met Alex Wraith, and it was very much like the dinner scene in the beginning of the film. He'd been to Greystone before, which is again a real place, and he was talking about it, and felt excited about the fact that it would make a good project. He said it was really haunted, and we all decided "Well let's go find out!" so he and I broke in. When we were going to break in the first time I called Antonella, who I'd known for many years, our grandparents were friends, and we kind of grew up together. She's an aspiring actress, she was at NYU at the time, and I felt she had this kind of haunted quality to her, like a young Christina Ricci or something... there's something about Antonella that is not quite ordinary. I felt it was something she'd be interested in, and that first night I called and invited her along, but she was busy that night. As soon we had the basic story though, I wrote her into it. She had always had a fascination with mental hospitals, and she'd seen shadow people since she was a kid and all that, so she was perfect.
It sounds like you truly believe in the supernatural...
Oh for sure.
You hear about the making of films like THE EXORCIST or POLTERGEIST, and hear these stories about weird occurrences that happened while filming. I'm on the fence personally, even having grown up in what some might consider haunted places. I wonder now if it was external or internal though, but I'd love to hear about any weird things that happened while you were running around inside Greystone Park.
Well to comment on what you said, that's the question of the film in a large part. Is it happening inside the characters minds, are they cracking up and going mad like the patients that once inhabited Greystone, or is there something outside of them that's messing with them that is demonic and truly dangerous. That really is the perspective that helps make this authentic to anyone that has experienced paranormal phenomenon. It's the fact that I don't know for sure. In terms of running around inside Greystone...the thing is with that place...I believe I've seen my friends get possessed, I've dealt with that kind of situation. In the film you judge for yourself. Like when Alex goes running off by himself, and we find him totally out of it, and he turns around to us with a smile on his scary face. That was not scripted. But it's up to the audience to decide if he's really all there or not.
The weird stuff really started, after we got home. When we started the production for example, when I sent to the script to Antonella she got a really weird phone call. Heavy breathing, electronic blips, and a sound something like a body dragging across the floor. SO at that point she says "I'm really freaked out but I think you're onto something and I have to make this film". In pre-production I was also getting the same kind of strange calls, weird sounds, all from unknown numbers. We then incorporated those sounds into the film.
So what was the flashpoint for you as a horror fan?
Well when I was four years old I demanded my mom to take me to see Pet Semetray (laughs), I mean what kind of four year old has to see Pet Semetary?
Dudes named Sean!
But I really loved scaring myself. I loved Nightmare On Elm Street, I think there's something very primordial about the dream monster, and I had Freddy Kruger dreams even. What it is that I love about horror is the fact that there are real monsters in the world but here's an opportunity to face them and fight them. There's terrorists, Wall Street creating financial terror, etc but with scary movies it 's like there's the bad guy, he's in front of you, and you have to man up and fight him...or die.
What do you think about the modern state of horror, especially domestically. For example I love the Satanic Panic sub-genre, but it maybe doesn't work as well as it used to. Nowadays people are more scared of the church than the Devil in many cases.
It's funny that you say that, because my partner and I are now working on a project that's basically a horror comedy, kind of like The Exorcist, but it has humor running through it. Essentially this priest is teaching kids to fight demons, and the kids are just laughing because they have no respect for that realm anymore. We take it with humor now. When I talk to people about demons and getting evil phone calls and whatnot they laugh about, and even when I play it for them half of them are terrified and half of them just say "Oh that's your friends messing with you." but I think there are ways to go about it and still have a sense of humor, while still scaring people. As for the modern state of horror films, you know I didn't like the 2000's. It was a decade of terror, the torture porn and all that. I don't like it when you know from the beginning everyone is going to die, you basically expect for no one to make it out alive, and it's only meant to terrorize the audience. That's not what horror is meant to be about for me. It's about good fighting evil, and to have elements of relief in humor. Or it's psychological and the question is 'are you the monster, are you creating this circumstance?' The best of horror though is about empowering the individual, facing their own fears and paranoia, and beg to question what do you look to to help fight it.
See Greystone Park On Demand or on DVD available now from Arc Entertainment in stores in time for Halloween!