A Place in Hell” is a new horror thriller that was inspired by a real serial killer who
existed during the 1980’s in Philadelphia. The film is a very suspenseful comedic story
with multiple story threads. Nicole Hart, played by Noree Victoria (Quarantine 2:
Terminal) plays a post grad student who befriends her college roommate who is part of
a group of film students who decide to venture out to a fright farm to complete their
senior thesis project. The additional story thread is the character of Detective James
MicInis played by Lewis Smith (The Heavenly Kid, Wyatt Earp). MicInis is a grungy and
emotional detective who has been searching for the serial killer for the past five years at
great personal sacrifice. The weaving of these story threads is what makes the film
special because it’s part crime drama, part horror thriller and even has a touch of
comedy to it. I feel audiences will find this movie exciting because it blends genres in a
way that few other films do while maintaining true to its horror film fan base.
Where was the concept for this movie born?
I drew from years of fascination of serial killers. Guys like Ted Bundy, The Green River
Killer and others have always struck a curiosity in me because they are just so bizarre.
In addition, I have always been such a fan of films like Silence of the Lambs which blew
me away the first time I saw it, so I wanted to make a movie that involved a serial killer
but at the same time drawing on my past as a film graduate from Rowan University, I
knew I wanted the story to also involve a group film students. I realized that in order to
connect the two that I would need a local killer from the Philadelphia area to bring the
story together. Through my research I discovered a serial killer named Harrison Graham
who was an African American serial killer in the late 80’s. I thought the African
American serial killer had never really been portrayed in cinema before and wanted to
add that fresh and original element to the film. I began to research Graham and was
inspired by his story and experience. That mixed with the film students and an obsessed
detective, the story began to take shape and as I built out the screenplay all those
elements were involved.
What filmmakers and/or movies inspire your creativity?
There are quite a few, too many to name them all but for the sake of this genre,
Filmmakers that have inspired me the most would be John Carpenter, George Romero,
Wes Craven and even Sam Remy. Films such as Evil Dead, Halloween, Friday the 13th
and Scream. I think in this film you’re going to see a lot of all of those influences
because those are filmmakers within the genre that inspire my creativity. John
Carpenter’s scores and the way he would put industrial music and the energy he
infused into his films, I put a lot of that into “A Place in Hell’. Outside the genre? Ridley
Scott, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Martin
Scorsese to name a few.
Where was it filmed and how important was location to the story?
The film was shot across two states, NJ & PA. The majority if the film was shot at Creamy Acres Farm Night of Terror located in Mullica Hill NJ. The fright farm was instrumental to the filming process because we were not working on a big Hollywood budget so we had to be crafty and figure out a way to get Hollywood production value. So, what better way than to go to a place that had free standing sets and structures that were custom built for a fright farm? If we had to build those sets ourselves it would have been out of our budget range. An unusual amount of locations were used on a film at our budget level. We shot in and around South Jersey, including Rowan University, Collingswood, Maple Shade and Voorhees to a custom built, worn looking Police Station we erected in Bensalem PA. So location was very important to the story because when you watch “A Place in Hell” you are never looking at the same place twice. I wanted to avoid the film looking stale which I find in a lot of independent horror films as they many times only use one location to tell their whole story. I wanted a freshness and energy infused with each new location and as the story is unveiled to us, so are many new locations and with new locations is the mystery of not knowing a place and not knowing what’s around the corner which led not only to the pacing of “A Place in Hell” but the actual delivery of the film in its total presentation.
What was your greatest obstacle during the filming process?
Definitely overcoming the weather. We began filming in New Jersey this past January and it happened to be one of the worst winters since 1906. Our first day of filming we had 16” of snow. The logistics of filming in bone chilling temps and snow affected every aspect of the production including the company moves to different locations around NJ and PA. Oddly enough the impact of the cold weather and snow caused a espirit de corps amongst the cast and crew I can’t emphasize enough how great everyone was during principle photography
What was your proudest moment while working on “A Place In Hell”?
That’s a tough one to pinpoint. Well, my first proudest moment was during the first script read when I heard my words on the script come alive. If you asked me my next proudest moment I would have to say watching the cast and crew of over 40 people overcome the weather and all obstacle’s to get through principle photography, then my next proudest moment was to see the film edited in its first rough cut and as I am now moving the film into Post Sound and VFX I am sure there will be many more proud moments to come so it’s a very hard question to answer and I will probably have to get back to you on that question after the film releases and is done its run.
Is there anything in the movie that you would change – if you could?
I have to honestly say no. The lessons that were learned through the process of making the film are only going to move forward into my next film. I feel all the things that were supposed to
happen while making this film happened. Sometimes by going left instead of right it improved the film. There were so many decisions that were set one way but we went another, but all for a reason and so I can’t say that there is anything I would change at this point.
How important a part do conventions (Monster-Mania and Bizarre AC) play in getting the word out?
I have been attending Horror conventions for about 14 years now and I am always excited to see the fans that come out to support their films, especially the horror genre fans because I find them the most enthusiastic. I feel those conventions are integral in connecting fans to the stars, films and filmmakers and it’s also a place where fans can go to enjoy themselves, relax, have fun and talk amongst one another. I also have met many actors, artists, filmmakers, producers at the conventions. People who were big fans of horror but their interests went across all genres. So yes I believe the conventions are the absolute lifeblood of the horror genre in connecting to fans.
Where can fans see “A Place In Hell”?
Currently the film is in Post Production and should be finished in approx. 3 months. We will then be submitting to various film festivals that take place in early 2015. So, I can’t give you a definitive date as it will ultimately be up to the distributor that comes aboard at which time a release date will be set.
What other projects are you working on?
Actually I am working with Producer Clay Pecorin of Two Ton Films (The Bucket List, The Big Wedding) on a Supernatural Thriller called “The Underground” which is a present day thriller set around an incident that occurred during the underground railroad. I also have written and will be directing a religious drama called “The Purity Code” which is a period piece set in the mid 1970’s. I have other projects in development as well through my company Frame Level Films.