Fantasia 2019: Interview with ‘Harpoon’ Writer/Director Rob Grant
Harpoon is part of the official selection of the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, running in Montreal, Quebec. It’s a taut, dark, and often hilarious thriller that will surely catch audiences by surprise. I had the chance to talk with writer/director Rob Grant about the film, its genesis, and why terrible people are just so damn interesting.
You can keep an eye out for my interview with one of the stars of the film, Munro Chambers, and a full film review.
Kelly McNeely: Where the hell did this movie come from?
Rob Grant: Frustration, is maybe a good start! I was talking to my producer Mike Peterson and complaining about the state of movies that I was either making or where I was at. I told him I just wanted make something where I could go for broke, and I pitched him the idea of Polanski’s Knife in the Water by way of Seinfeld characters. I had just finished shooting a previous project, and then it just kind of came out; within four weeks we had a first draft. I’d finished Alive at the end of August/early September, and then I had a draft to my producer Mike by October, and we were shooting by January, so it came together really fast.
And it’s not like the idea just came to me, when I usually write a script it takes me about 2 years from the first idea to the time I put it on paper, so by the time I actually write down the draft, it’s already pretty well thought out. So it’s not like it just came out crazy. But I knew when we were writing it and when I was pitching to Mike, like, I want to do all the things that I’d been too scared or haven’t tried before, in case this is my last movie. That’s kind of how Harpoon started with me.
KM: Had you always intended to have that sort of dark comedic streak to it, or did that come out when you were writing it?
RG: That definitely came out, because the original genesis of it was when I first read about the Richard Parker coincidence and I thought; if these people knew about that coincidence, this would be hilarious. So for me it was always just like, the bad luck is so strong that you can’t help but laugh. That was kind of my first genesis, knowing that it had to kind of be down that road. It’s also one of those things, like… I grew up watching Richard St Clair, I love listening to people talk. I was realizing you need a bit of levity in there, otherwise I’m worried I’m just going to bore people. That’s the thing with genre – I’d love to do straight drama, but I’m scared I’m going to bore people. So, yeah, let’s chuck in some crazy stuff.
KM: It works really well. With the narration, was that something that came out of wanting to shake it up a little bit and make it not so heavy, or were you always kind of intending to have that in there?
RG: The narration was in the first draft. The intention was always – for me anyway – when you have three people who’ve known each other for so long, they have this shorthand that doesn’t tie very well to expositional dialogue. So I really really wanted to relay the two being like “hey, remember the time we did this?”. So the narration was always meant to get all the exposition out of the way, so by the time we get to the characters, they can act the way they should.
Originally it was a lot more on-the-nose, but some of the themes and ideas were kind of dark. We went through maybe 4 or 5 different voices, testing it out, different levels of dry wit and humor. We did test screenings and realized that if the narrator was judging these characters too harshly, so would the audience, so we had to really scale it back. There were a ton of iterations of that.
KM: And how did you find Brett Gelman? Did he come in, did you bring him in…?
RG: He came in a week before we premiered at Rotterdam. So we found out our premiere date on Christmas Day or the day after – Boxing Day maybe – and we were premiering at the end of January, and we still hadn’t finished our narrator or had the writing of it right. So that entire Christmas holiday was spent scrambling, re-writing, and getting it right. And then finally, like the week before Rotterdam, Gelman agreed to come on board.
I had to fly down to LA, record the narration, and edit it on the plane back the same day, and then fly with the hard drive – the only copy of it with him in it – to Rotterdam. Our two management companies – 360 management – that had repped two of the actors, Christopher Gray and Emily Tyra, we have a really good relationship with that company because they’re happy with the project too, so when it came to narrators, they helped a lot. Of course Brett, his dark humor – especially from his Adult Swim days – kind of fit right in to what we were doing and he got it right away. His movie – Lemon – screened at Rotterdam as well.
KM: And now with the cast that you have, did you have any actors you wanted to work with in particular? Munro Chambers is phenomenal, and I know he’s Canadian, which is great to have some Canadian talent in there… did you have any actors in mind when you started or did you sort of find them as you went?
RG: Well thank you very much, because we also think the exact same about Munro. Without spoiling he has maybe the toughest turn to take. When I was writing? No, I didn’t have anyone in mind. We cast Richard’s role first, and the hardest one I had was casting that Jonah character for reasons that will become obvious for anyone that sees the movie.
It was, again, my producer who said “you should really look at Munro”. I had edited Mike’s last movie, Knuckleball, which Munro was in. And for some reason I just thought, with him as the villain in that, it wasn’t computing in my head. Like, “I don’t know, I don’t think that he’s right, there’s a lot of different levels to this character”. He was like, “trust me, just look at Munro”. So he got Munro to make a tape and send it to me, and as soon as I saw the audition tape, it was like “ok, it’s him. We got him”.
Mike allowed us three days of rehearsal at the hotel before we started shooting, which is so rare for an indie movie, but that made such a difference I think just in terms of how prepared they were, and how the three interact with each other, and it allowed us to refine a lot of that dialogue and lines beforehand. So by the time they got on set, they’d be shooting it like it’s a stage play. They’d be running full 12 minute scenes in one single take. That’s how I feel like a lot of their performances were dictated just based off of those three days.
KM: I was going to say, especially with those long takes and big chunks of dialogue, it’s such a character driven piece that it does feel a lot like a stage play, but just in the most extreme circumstances possible.
RG: Absolutely. That’s why there’s a part one and part two, it’s not in thirds. It was done very specifically that way. Like I said, I like listening to people talk, and it kind of felt like if this wasn’t made as a movie, I could potentially do it as a stage play, so I kind of treated it like that. It also made the actors think that way, too.
We got to shoot all the interiors in order, then we reset and shot all the exteriors in order, and I think that not only helped build their performances as they slowly got more and more exhausted, but also just going through 10 minute scenes of really intense stuff over and over that at the end of the day I think they were nearly falling over, they were so tired and exhausted emotionally. It sucks to say, but I knew it was working really well for the state they had to be in.
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America’s Most Haunted House Isn’t in Amityville
There is a haunted house in Bridgeport, Connecticut that doesn’t get the attention the one in Amityville does, but in 1974 it caused a media stir that captivated the country, and nobody ever talks about it, not even genre movie folks.
By the end of this story, you–like the many witnesses in 1974–will wonder what’s real and what isn’t.
What did happened inside this tiny house in the middle of the block on Lindley Street?
Before we get to that, let’s talk about the recent upswing in ghost story cinema and celebrity paranormal investigations, starting with James Wan’s Conjuring universe (a fourth film is currently in the works).
The Conjuring franchise has given us some great scares over the last decade. These “based-on-a-true-story” earmarks on haunted America, and across the pond, have re-invigorated the poltergeist pop culture phenomena that was so popular in the 70s.
Based on the real-life case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring cinematic universe started with the Perron family in Rhode Island.
Although Mr. Warren died in 2006, Lorraine served as a consultant to The Conjuring. She maintained before her death in 2019 that she didn’t allow the filmmakers to take too much creative license. She asserted everything you see on screen is actually how it happened.
The sequel, Conjuring 2 moved to Britain and documented the famous Enfield haunting. That case involved two young sisters who were tormented by a ghost that threw things, spoke by way of possession and was just an overall supernatural baddie. Cops, priests and social workers went on record to confirm the reports. Lorraine also helped with that case.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Lutz family was battling their own demons on a now-famous lot in Amityville. Again, the Warrens were on hand to assist.
966 Lindley Street
But there is another chilling tale that the Warrens were involved in that nobody talks about. It took place in Bridgeport at 966 Lindley Street in 1974 and it caused such a media circus the neighborhood would go on lock-down.
Reporters, witnesses, and other professionals would go on record saying they saw furniture move without provocation, hovering refrigerators, and physical attacks.
In the book “The World’s Most Haunted House,” writer Bill Hall takes a deep-dive into this case. What’s staggering is not only the bizarre happenings that took place, but they were so well documented by so many trusted sources.
Respected Witnesses Document Their Experiences
Firefighters and law enforcement agents have gone on record to say they witnessed everything from chairs moving on their own, crucifixes being ejected from their wall anchors, and knives being thrown by an invisible force. The activity seemed to center around a little girl.
Gerard and Laura Goodin lived in the small bungalow when they adopted their young daughter Marcia in 1968. It wasn’t long before strange things began to happen in the house–little things that people usually ignore. Still, the activity was strong enough to captivate the family.
People said when Marcia was around the events would intensify but even when she was gone things could get crazy.
The Goodin’s were subject to a loud rhythmic pounding in their walls, the source could never be located. Items would disappear from where they were left, only to be found in another spot in the house. Doors would slam. Police investigated the incidents but even they were perplexed after finding nothing.
The Media Frenzy
In 1974 the property was a hotbed of activity not only from the poltergeist but media attention. The Warrens were called in as was the American Society for Psychical Research and the Psychical Research Foundation.
Police were on hand 24 hours a day and interviewed the family. At that time there were reports of TVs being pushed from their stands, window blinds snapping up and down and shelves falling off the walls.
The public frenzy had started too. Onlookers would crowd the street in front of the haunted house to see if they could witness something for themselves. One citizen even tried to burn the house down. The entire street had to eventually be cordoned off.
At this time the entity reportedly showed itself. According to Hall’s book, it “resembled a large, cohesive assemblage of smoky yellowish-white ‘gauzy’ mist.”
The Cat Talks
Not only were there physical manipulations there were also audio phenomena. People reported hearing Sam the family cat say weird things like “Jingle Bells,” and “Bye Bye.” Outside plastic garden swans reportedly made frightening noises too.
The website Damned Connecticut also wrote about this story. In their comments section one person, Nelson P., claims to have worked in City Hall in 1974 in the records room of the Bridgepoint Police Department. They had this to say:
“…we gained a copy of a written report by an officer who was present when the paranormal s*it hit the fan on Lindley St. The most chilling account was when in his writing ‘and the cat said to the officer “How’s your brother Bill doing?, and the officer looked down and replied “My brother’s dead.” The cat then scowled “I know” swearing repeatedly at the officer then ran off. Other visual events in the report include a levitating refrigerator and an armchair that flipped over and could not be lifted back into place by the officers. One officer who witnessed it all took an immediate leave of absence having been that shaken by the experience. I today firmly believe these events took place in the home.”
Levitating Frigidaires and creepy cats aside, the whole thing came to an abrupt halt when a police officer allegedly saw Marcia try to tip over a television set with her foot when she thought no one was looking.
After questioning, Marcia eventually admitted to doing everything in the house on her own and the case was closed; deemed a hoax. Or was it?
Although her parents disputed the claim, Marcia was quick to admit her part in the “haunting.” But questions remained about how she could be in two places at once.
How respected witnesses saw things happen when Marcia wasn’t even in the house and why things continued to happen even after her confession.
The case was eventually forgotten and regarded as fraud.
Bill Hall’s book “The World’s Most Haunted House,” is the quintessential story about the Lindley haunting. His book includes unprecedented interviews from firefighters and other reputable witnesses who were there. They speak about their experiences and what they saw.
It’s been reported that Marcia, the girl behind the haunting, died in 2015 at the age of 51.
The house still stands in the same spot it did over 40 years ago and looks the same as it did back then. You can visit it personally. You can also type it into Google Maps.
But instead of bothering the current residents keep a safe distance away if you decide to go.
Whatever you believe, this haunted house case was definitely one for the history books if only for the attention it got from the public and the details professional eyewitnesses documented as it happened.
This story has been updated. It was originally posted in March 2020.
Paranormal Games: Red Door, Yellow Door
Let’s play a game: Red Door, Yellow Door
Also Known As Doors Of The Mind
Spooky games that border on the paranormal are a mainstay at slumber parties around the world. From light as a feather, stiff as a board… Doors of the Mind
to the classic Ouija board, we’ve all played at least one, but there are others out there, perhaps less well known, and one of the spookiest is Red Door, Yellow Door. Doors of the Mind
What is Red Door Yellow Door?
Sometimes this paranormal game is called Doors of the Mind or Black Door, White Door, and well, any other combination of colors, you can think of.
Red Door, Yellow Door takes two to play. However, it’s perfect for a late-night audience of scared teens, so it’s no surprise that it’s made a resurgence in recent years.
The Game Rules
The rules are simple, but the outcome could be dire, or so the urban legends claim.
One player is the guide, and the other is the subject.
- The guide sits on the floor, cross-legged with a pillow in their lap.
- The subject will then lie on the ground with their head in the guide’s lap and their hands raised in the air.
- The guide should, at this point, begin to massage the subject’s temples in a circular motion chanting, “Red Door, Yellow Door, any other color door” over and over again, joined by any witnesses to the game. Doors of the Mind
- As the subject slips into the trance, they will find themselves in a room in their mind and at that point, they should lower their arms to the floor signaling the guide and any witnesses to stop chanting.
The game has officially begun.
At this point, the person acting as the guide will begin to ask questions to the subject in order to get them to describe the room.
Any witnesses should be silent so that there is no sound except for the voice of the guide and the voice of the subject answering the guide’s question.
The instructor might ask what colors the doors to the room are, how they feel about the doors, and instruct them to go through varying doors into other rooms.
The subject is encouraged to answer all questions honestly until the guide decides to end the game, but there are some warnings and signs of danger to keep in mind.
Dangers To Keep In Mind Doors of the Mind
According to Scary for Kids:
- If you encounter people in the room, it may be best not to interact with them. They may be evil and try to trick you.
- If you find yourself in a room full of clocks, leave immediately. Clocks can trap you.
- You can go wherever you want, but it is safer to go up than down.
- Light things and light colors tend to be better than dark things and dark colors.
- If you should find yourself trapped in a room, you must try to wake up. If you don’t, you might be trapped forever.
- If you die in the game, you will supposedly die in real life.
- If you encounter a man in a suit who makes you uncomfortable, end the game immediately.
- If the guide is having a hard time waking the subject from the trance, they should shake them roughly to bring them into wakefulness.
Sounds creepy, right?!
The whole point of the Red Door, Yellow Door, seemingly, is to explore the inner workings of your own mind and to also understand that there are also dark sides to everyone.
Some of the things you might encounter inside the game may be those very things about yourself that you don’t wish to face.
Have you ever played Red Door, Yellow Door or any variation of this spooky game? Let us know in the comments!
This article has been updated. it was originally posted in February 2020.
Jean-Claude Van Damme Rumored to Appear as a Ghost in ‘Beetlejuice 2’
During The Hot Mic Podcast, the crew spoke about Jenna Ortega in talks to play Lydia’s daughter. Well, it turns out that the guys on Hot Mic also heard that an aging action star is set to play a ghost in the sequel as well. Over on Arrow in the Head, the direction of the aging action star immediately took the shape of Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, there are options out there that may point to other action stars like Sylvester Stallone. To be honest we would be totally fine with either of these guys coming to the world of Beetlejuice and playing a ghost.
The synopsis for Beetlejuice went like this:
After Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck haunting their country residence, unable to leave the house. When the unbearable Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones) and teen daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) buy the home, the Maitlands attempt to scare them away without success. Their efforts attract Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a rambunctious spirit whose “help” quickly becomes dangerous for the Maitlands and innocent Lydia.
We can’t wait to find out if this bit of info is true. So far, we know that Jenna Ortega has been in talks to play Lydia’s daughter in the Tim Burton directd sequel. It will also see a return of Michael Keaton.
We will be sure to keep you updated on future Beetlejuice sequel updates.