In James Cullen Bressack‘s film set to release on June 19th three young, beautiful women arrive in Thailand to teach English for the summer, but were unprepared for the massacre that awaited them. The nightmare begins when their new friends go missing, and vivid bloody dreams haunt the young women’s sleep. A stolen statue leads them down a dark path into Thai folklore and magic that has been long forgotten. Their situation becomes worse once they realize it’s not WHAT that is haunting them but WHO: an eight-year girl, brutally murdered and sacrificed by her family decades ago who wants nothing more than to watch them bleed. Gores Truly had the opportunity to chat with the writer and director of the film, James Cullen Bressack about this project and his next upcoming work.
Gores Truly: How is Pernicious different from your previous and upcoming projects?
James Cullen Bressack: I would say that Pernicious is a whole different animal. It takes place in Thailand and is a throwback to, you know, films that I enjoyed from the early 90s and 80s as well as my love and affinity for Asian horror. It has a lot of Asian influences in it and because I set the film in Asia I think I was really able to explore that whereas some of my other films do not.
GT: So would you say that those Asian horror influences, as well as the 80s and 90s films you enjoyed were your primary influences? We were curious about what inspired the blend of different horror elements. What was the inspiration for the mix?
JCB: I wanted to blend the Eastern and Western hemisphere styles of horror. I blended The Grudge and Hostel basically, like Ju-on and Hostel. I wanted that feel of Western horror filmmaking as well as Eastern horror filmmaking so I was heavily inspired by all of those for Pernicious.
GT: Creating films is ultimately a collaboration. How do you maintain strong working relationships across long projects and, in some cases, across several different projects?
JCB: I’m a firm believer that a film is a living, breathing thing and it’s a collaborative medium. As a director you don’t always have every idea, you’re surrounded by ideas and it’s your job to make sure they lean towards a singular vision. I definitely love to collaborate with people, and I love to work with them and I like to take my ideas and their ideas and flow them together and find something that works within the melting pot of what the film will be. I like working with the same people a lot especially because once you figure out how to have those creative conversations together and how the other person works there’s really no point in re-learning that with someone else.
GT: Stemming off of that, were there a lot of changes that branched off of your initial vision for the film based on other people’s input?
JCB: I think that my initial vision of the film is what you guys ended up seeing. Little things here and there which change within going towards the initial vision, but ultimately what the director’s job is, is to harness everybody’s creative energy and push it towards what the overall vision is. Sometimes people have great ideas that fit within that vision.
GT: Is there some part of film or the horror genre that you find especially cliche or specifically try to avoid in your work?
JCB: False scares. I don’t like when there’s a loud noise but nothing actually happens, and it’s like a cat or something. …I’ve never liked those.
GT: What was the most difficult part of shooting Pernicious for you?
JCB: I would say that the most difficult part of shooting Pernicious for me was shooting in a foreign country I mean, I had never been to Thailand before and I’d say that although I love Thailand and it’s a beautiful and magical place we were shooting during monsoon season and so we got flooded. So when they come up to the house on the boat that was originally supposed to be a car driving to the house, but we had to build a pier on the front lawn because it was so flooded that we could actually have a boat come up. So we had to wade through water every day to get to set which was crazy. Ultimately, it was a happy accident because it made the isolation of the house and the characters so much more real and more prominent within the film, but that was not originally a house on the waterfront, it was a house on a grassy field that somehow became a house on the waterfront because of the flooding.
GT: That’s really amazing. Watching the film it’s completely believable that there would be this completely isolated house and they have to boat in, and it’s initially terrifying. I can’t imagine arriving to work and having someone say “oh hey, by the way, you have to boat in.”
JCB: Originally it was supposed to be on the grass but I think that change made the film much better. Like I said, a happy accident. It was pretty crazy. It’s the price we paid, having to wade through water. When I scouted that location it was not covered in water but within the film it totally works and makes it so much better, I think.
GT: Right, was that a scary thing for you guys? Arriving and thinking “Oh no, what do we do with all this water”?
JCB: Yeah it was definitely shocking… We had to build a pier, that wooden pier that they walk on, overnight. That wasn’t there. The landing dock that they get onto, that wasn’t originally a landing dock that was just a gazebo to have outdoor meals on that we turned into part of this pier. …I would say 90% of filmmaking is problem-solving.
To learn more about Pernicious and other works by Mr. James Cullen Bressack you can find him on Twitter @JamesCullenB. Don’t forget, Pernicious will be available June 19th in limited theaters and on VOD. Also, be sure to keep a look out for Bethany, a film which JCB described as a “freaky ghost movie” and “a whole different animal” from Pernicious. He assured us that it is scary and a huge passion project for him. After seeing Pernicious and some of his other work, we can’t wait to see it!