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David Spaltro’s smart psychological horror film In The Dark will have it’s Area Premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 30, 2016!!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 01/16/2016

David Spaltro’s smart psychological horror film In The Dark will have it’s Area Premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 30, 2016!!

David Spaltro’s
smart psychological horror film In The Dark will have it’s Area Premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 30, 2016!!

Here is an interview I did with In the Dark Director David Spaltro:

Nigrin: In the Dark is an exceptionally smart psychological horror film where a skeptical grad student and a renowned paranormal specialist investigate a haunted house and the deeply troubled woman who resides there.  Tell us why you decided to make this film.

Spaltro:  It was sort of just fortuitous timing, really. I had been in development on a third feature film Wake Up in New York, and slated to go into production in Spring 2014, but that Winter hit a financing snag that sort of put the breaks on it at the time. I was a little burned out after all that work, and not sure if I should take a break and go back to trying to get that back up again, or look at a different project, when I was contacted to meet with an investor who wanted to make their own feature, a horror film, and needed a script. I took the meeting, thinking it was just to write a film, and ended up being offered the reigns to direct it as well, after pitching a few story ideas and what was possible. It was a mad dash to complete the script, but literally 14 months after that meeting, I was able to hand the investor a completely finished horror feature. I had no real intentions of delving into the genre, at least at that point, but I was starving creatively to try something different, and saw it as a good chance to grow and learn as a storyteller, and add something different to the character drama/comedies I was known for, while hopefully still retaining my particular voice. It was a unique, very rare instance where someone says they have a particular budget, offering a writer-director the freedom to play with that canvas, as long as it’s within the confines clearly of a horror genre film and something they can use commercially.

It rekindled my love for the horror genre, and definitely dove into a lot of old favorites, as well as viewing a lot of films from different periods and international locations. The ones that always stuck out for me, and that I most drew from were the early films of George Romero, Wes Craven, and of course John Carpenter who’s really sort of the spiritual Godfather of this film. A personal favorite of mine that I think is most an inspiration from his catalog was Prince of Darkness which is really about science confronting faith and superstition with just a lot of dread and character work. It’s really surreal, too. Also, the works of Stephen King and how a lot of his stories don’t even become horrific until about 1/3 of the way in, he very slowly draws you into a very enjoyable story with rich characters that you care about, and then when he starts unleashing Hell and darkness on them and the reader, you’re just terrified and disturbed because you totally forgot what you were getting into. I wanted that same kind of mood, atmosphere, and dread in the film. Also early seasons of the X-Files, their camerawork and mood, was something I wanted to reference. In a lot of ways, Lynn is my Scully and this is my attempt at an X-Files episode. Of course, everything lives in the shadow of The Exorcist, so I tried to steer away from too much in that realm, as anything that comes after is just some form of knockoff. It’s untouchable in its ability to not just generate fear, but emotion from an audience. You’re exhausted and moved after watching it, even today.

Nigrin: Your film will invariably be compared to Friedkin’s The Exorcist which deals with the devil invading an early pubescent young girl and the Clergymen that try to save her. But in your film evil finds a home in a mature young woman and here it is twoAcademic women who try to expel the demon. The Exorcist being more paternal and your film more maternal. So do you consider In the Dark a feminist paranormal film?



 
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Spaltro: Well, there is a male actor in the film... kinda. (laughs) I'm sure you could definitely see it as maternal, since motherhood and the relationship whether by blood or mentor wise between the different characters plays a HUGE role in the overall story and their development. I've come to realize that I'm constantly asked about why or how I write such strong female characters, and while I definitely believe there should be more in this day an age, as well as female storytellers; for me it's actually not about TRYING. I always just TRY to write strong characters in general, and I find that if you were to take my films, and just swap out the females for males and vice versa, minus a little rewriting on some non gender neutral plot points... it would all still work, including this film. It would be different, of course, but that to me is interesting. I'm also blessed with some very strong female actresses in my life, so I know that whatever I put in front of them they won't only do well, but they'll elevate it. 

Nigrin: Your previous film Things I Don’t Understand – which won Best Feature at the New Jersey Film Festival three years ago – focused on a young grad student who is trying to figure out what she wants out of life. Here you peer into the mind of another grad student. Do you see any similarities between your previous feature film and this one? 

Spaltro: (laughs) Well on a purely surface level you could almost say this is the horror genre twist of one of the main plots of Things I Don't Understand--what with the grad student with a tortured past searching for meaning and instead of cancer, the young girl (also played by TIDU's Grace Folsom) has a demon in her--for me though, I really wanted to play with the idea that whatever genre I'm fortunate enough to play in, it's really all about character and story. No matter how much you stretch the reality or the extremes of any convention, for me the similarity is every person, big and small, is a full human being with a past, and all of it is valid and important to how they are portrayed, as well as interact, in the narrative.

Nigrin: Your film is really wonderfully atmospheric and very composed all while using a mostly hand held cinematography. Why did you use this style?

Spaltro: Gus Sacks (our DP), Andrew Hubbard (our Gaffer) are a brilliant team, and they added so much style and production value. Because of the shorter shooting schedule we had, and also a lot of the coverage we'd need for some of the bigger dialogue scenes, going handheld was a great asset. Narratively it gives it a sometimes very personal point of view feel, bringing the audience into the horror and awaiting what's coming from the shadows, as if they were there themselves. 

Nigrin: The acting ensemble in your film is terrific. Tell us more about the actors who play Bethany, Veronica, Lois and Joan and how they came to be in your film.

Spaltro: I’d worked in a larger capacity with Grace Folsom on Things I Don't Understand who just continually blows me away with her work, growth, and strength. She was to me, not to take away anything from the rest of the ensemble cast, just the all-star of that film, and the core of why it really worked. I knew if I was going to pull off what I wanted to with this film I’d need her strength and ability to make it work. Lynn Justinger is another fantastic actress who I worked with on “Things” in a much smaller capacity, but is just “glue”. She’s so strong and natural, there’s a real ability to express humanity and warmth while at the same time something very stoic and guarded about her that I really wanted to use in this film as a counterbalance to the other characters. She reminds me a lot of Gillian Anderson, and not just because in this film she’s playing “the Scully”. Catherine and Fiona are two tremendous actresses that I was lucky to meet while doing workshops at One on One in NYC and some other facilities, and literally wrote the roles with them in mind, and asked them to audition for the producer. Catherine is just such a wealth of emotion, and Fiona is fascinating in the layers and gravitas she can add to a role. My favorite scenes is when two or more of them are all playing off each other in the film.



 
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Nigrin: The music really propels your film while also underscoring the creepiness. Tell us more about the composer and his work on your film.

Spaltro: Fritz Myers is an absolute genius, and a great collaborator. I was introduced to him by a mutual film friend, and had been wanting to work with him for awhile on a project. He was more than game to come on board, and just bouncing ideas off of him, giving him space to create... It was a great experience. He really brought so much to this film. Horror is an interesting genre because no matter how well you shoot, direct, light, act; it lives and dies on it's sound design and score. This was the first project that even after picture locking, I really didn't see what it was until it was mixed with score. It makes such a huge difference, and I was so fortunate to have Fritz on the team.

Nigrin: How long did it take you to make this film and were there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can rely to our readers? 

Spaltro: From the day I signed on to the film til the day I picked up the hard drive of the finished master from our post facility took about 14 months...which in many ways is crazy fast, it's almost impossible, but it was a mission. It was a war. This last year and change was some of the hardest battles and struggles I've ever had personally and artistically. There's a lot I'm really proud of, the work of myself and others involved in this process, and I learned a ton which is another reason I agreed to do it. It's definitely opened me up to other possibilities in terms of filmmaking and storytelling, but also really affirmed a few thoughts I have on the business, who I want to collaborate with, and also what I want to do or not do moving forward.

Here is the trailer for In The Dark:

https://vimeo.com/125284698

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The terrific short film Pitter Patter Goes My Heart will be screened prior to In The Dark. Here is more info on this screening!

Pitter Patter Goes My Heart - Christoph Rainer (Klosterneuberg, Austria)
In this surreal short film, Lisa tries to win back her ex-boyfriend, a successful commercial photographer, at a photo shoot. A modern fairytale filled with bitter romance. In German, subtitled. 2015; 20 min. With an introduction and Q+A session with Director Christoph Rainer!

In The Dark – David Spaltro (New York, New York)
In this exceptionally smart psychological horror film, a skeptical grad student and a renowned paranormal specialist investigate a haunted house and the deeply troubled woman who resides there, whose afflictions may be beyond the capacity of human understanding. 2015; 81 min.  With an introduction and Q+A session with Director David Spaltro!

Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482;
www.njfilmfest.com

Free Food courtesy of Jimmy Johns of New Brunswick will be given out prior to this screening of the New Jersey Film Festival!

 



 
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Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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