Hitting the streets on January 23rd is The Devil’s Well courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing and writer/director Kurtis Spieler, best known for his indie horror film Sheep Skin. We caught up with Kurtis to talk about his latest film and what horror fans can expect from his take on the found footage paranormal flick.
Horror News Network: The Devil’s Well centers around a paranormal old legend. Being based out of Connecticut, with New England being such a hotbed of paranormal activity, how do you think that shaped your view on this type of plot?
Kurtis Spieler: Connecticut, and New England in general, has its their fair share of paranormal stories and supposedly “haunted” locations. Growing up in Connecticut, I heard the stories and folklore surrounding these places, and they very much served as inspiration when writing The Devil’s Well. There are so many places in Connecticut that teenagers love to sneak off to at night in order to try and scare themselves. I’ve even been to a few of them myself. Most of the time, these kids would come back and tell stories (true or not) that would spread and help add to the mystery of these places. As I was writing, I thought about these places and the stories I’ve heard about them, and I tried to create a fictitious location that reminded me of them. Even the name, The Devil’s Well, is meant to emulate the types of nicknames that these places get labeled with. Whether or not these places are actually haunted is up for debate, but the stories alone help create an air of mystery that makes people want to go and see for themselves. And that’s really what this movie is all about.
Horror News Network: Can you tell us a bit about how the characters develop throughout the film and how it unfolds?
Kurtis Spieler: The movie itself is about a woman named Karla who goes missing while on a paranormal investigation with her husband. I decided to tell the story in two parts. The first half is set up like a documentary with interviews from Karla’s friends and family talking about her disappearance. The second half of the movie is about a team of paranormal investigators that head back to the location with Karla’s husband to see what they can uncover. Telling the story in two parts like this, I feel like you get a better setup to the mystery surrounding Karla’s disappearance as well as some back story on those involved…especially her husband.
Horror News Network: With many hardcore horror fans rolling their eyes at the found footage sub-genre. How did you approach making a found footage film that would stand out?
Kurtis Spieler: I myself have mixed feelings about the found footage sub-genre. I think the style can be really effective when done right, but unfortunately too many other filmmakers have tried and failed. In this case, I thought that the found footage style really suited the story, which is why I decided to make it this way. During the whole process, I tried to be very mindful of not making the same mistakes that I feel have given found footage movies a bad name. I think two things help separate mine from others. First, I think separating the story into two segments helps break it up and make it different from other movies. The movie plays as half faux-doc and half found footage movie. Secondly, I tried to create characters that are a little more interesting and not so two-dimensional. I’m always a firm believer that you need interesting characters to help propel any story forward, otherwise the viewer won’t be invested. I hope that the little details help make my characters a little better than what you’re used to seeing in other movies similar to this one.
Horror News Network: Your last film, Sheep Skin, was really well received by the horror community. Did you feel any pressure to have this please the horror audience?
Kurtis Spieler: I feel pressure on any movie I make. I always want to do my best and try to create something that the fans will appreciate. However, shooting found footage style did actually help create more pressure. Because of the bad rap that other found footage movies have gotten, I felt extra pressure to make something better if I wanted the fans to pay attention. Also, I’ve never shot anything found footage style before. Some people might claim that it’s easier, but that’s not entirely true. I actually had to consciously shoot differently than what I’m used to. As a filmmaker, you always want to make things look good or cinematic. But, with the found footage genre, that can actually work against you. Even though they appear to lack style, found footage movies actually have their own style which is something I had to learn. I had to go against my normal filmmaker instincts in order to try and make this whole movie work. Hopefully, I did make it work…and hopefully the fans all enjoy it. It’s now up to them to decide.
Horror News Network: Indie filmmakers have many challenges, but also a bit more freedom. How has your experience been so far on each side of the spectrum? What advise would you give filmmakers just starting out?
Kurtis Spieler: No matter what, there are always going to be restrictions when making a movie. Time, money, resources, etc. You’re almost always going to have to make compromises somewhere. Especially, if someone else is funding the project. The only real advice I can give is: stick to your vision the best that you can, but know that sometimes you have to compromises in order to get the movie done. There are always going to be roadblocks that will get in the way, but if you want to be a filmmaker, you have to be a good problem solver and come up with creative solutions that will help you get the movie done the best way you can. If I waited to get all the money or all the resources that I wanted to make a movie, then I wouldn’t have a movie made at all. Sometimes, you have to look at what you have available and say “ok, how can I make this work?”. And if you’re any good…you’ll figure out how.
Horror News Network: Thanks Kurtis! The Devil’s Well hits DVD January 23rd.