Writer/Director Patrick Meaney & Actress Tiffany Smith On the Horror/Fantasy ‘House of Demons’
House of Demons is a supernatural thriller feature film about four estranged friends who are reunited to spend the night in a time-bending, haunted house that forces them to confront their deepest fears and overcome a collective trauma that has ruined their lives.
In honor of the film’s release today by Smith Global Media we decided to speak with one of the stars, Tiffany Smith and writer/director, Patrick Meaney about the process for creating the stimulating House of Demons.
Patrick, How did House of Demons first came about?
Before House of Demons, I’d made several documentaries about the world of comic books, like Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and The Image Revolution. But, I always wanted to make narrative film, and I wanted to come up with an idea that would be feasible on a low budget, but still let me dive deep into character and have some crazy visuals. So, over a year or so, I worked on the script, then spent a while hunting down financing for the film.
Once that was in place, I set about casting the film, and wound up bringing in a lot of people I’d met or worked with previously, like Amber Benson, who was in my doc on Grant Morrison, Tiffany Smith, who was in a short film I directed, and Taliesin Jaffe, who’s been in a whole bunch of projects. From there, it was off and running to shoot the film.
As for the film itself, House of Demons is a horror thriller about four friends who drifted apart in the wake of a tragic car accident. A few years later, they’re back together and spending the weekend at a remote house that used to be home to a Manson Family-like cult who did strange black magic rituals in the 60s that start to blur time and space, and bring the subconscious into reality. Ultimately, everyone has to confront their darkest secrets or be destroyed by them.
It’s a psychedelic, trippy movie with a strong base in character, and I think it’ll appeal to people who love movies by David Lynch or stories by Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison.
Tiffany, Tell us a little bit about your character in House of Demons? What were the best and worst parts of playing Samantha?
Oh man, I loved playing Samantha. She is such a different person to who I am in my everyday life so that as an actress has to be the best and the worst of her for me haha. It takes work to get yourself to a place where you can understand why someone is behaving in a certain way, to get inside their mind and though she is not maybe the nicest girl in the world getting to challenge myself in that way was just incredible!
And if I have to pick the hardest part… well I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen House of Demons yet, but one particular scene required some intense effects make up for me. When you are getting it put on the fun is seeing the final product and the changes that make up and talented artists can make. But, when you have to take it off… well that… takes… a… longggggggggggggg time. We filmed super late that night and I just remember being in that house, in the woods, with just one or 2 other crew there late at night and thinking well, this may be the start of a whole other horror film! haha
Patrick, House of Demons is your first scripted feature you wrote and directed. What drew you to the horror/fantasy genre?
I’ve always loved genre movies. Sci-fi and fantasy were my favorites as a kid, particularly the ones that were stranger and more out there. The thing I love about genre is the way that you can use it to amplify the experience of what a character is going through. You can make something emotional that feels like life or death be literally life or death, and that’s exciting. In House of Demons, the goal is to blend a more character-centric grounded approach with some out there, wild genre elements to make a fresh new whole.
Tiffany, You were a field correspondent on AMC’s Geeking Out with Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg. What was your favorite part of that job?
Doing AMC’s Geeking Out was such an incredible experience for me. First off, having Kevin Smith suggest me for the show in general was something that meant so much to me. Being in the geek space is so interesting because I think still there are people who don’t think, based off of how someone looks or presents themselves, they can’t be a legit geek, but when someone who I and tons of other geek fans respect like Kevin Smith says no this is the girl, she knows her stuff! I mean I can’t even describe how that feels! And on top of that getting to know Greg who is one of the nicest guys around was icing on the cake. Being on set and talking to the 2 of them about all the stuff we love and then add in fantastic guests like the kids from Stranger Things or cast of Fear the Walking Dead, it was hard to call any day on set work!
Patrick, You majored in film at Wesleyan University, cut to writing/directing House of Demons. What was one of the most important things you learned while at school that helped you take on this film?
At Wesleyan, the emphasis was on learning how to understand film and what makes a film great rather than on production itself. And I think that’s a great skill to learn. By understanding film better, I’m able to shoot quicker and get things done more efficiently. I also got introduced to a lot of great directors like Wong Kar-Wai or Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Tiffany, Your work in House of Demons is the complete opposite of what you were doing on Geeking Out. Which job was more challenging for you and why?
What I love about hosting is that I get to be 100% my authentic self, happy, light, excited and curious. When I am hosting it is really all about who I am talking to and much less focus on me. And since I have been lucky enough to get to do it for a while it feels pretty natural to me at this point. But, with acting, especially with a character like Samantha who is so drastically different than I am, I get to explore and experience life in a whole new way. How does this person walk, talk, view life, interact with others? Those are all things that I get to play with more as an actress. So, I think because there is so much more focus on me and what I am bringing to the screen as an actress there are a lot more things for me to think about and consider and develop. It’s hard to say either really is a “challenge” because I get so much joy and life from both! And that is definitely not something that Samantha would say haha.
Patrick, was there anything that ended up in the film that was not written in the script?
Yes, with each scene we would do a rehearsal/blocking then discuss what we could do to make the scene even better. Sometimes, that meant tweaking a line, other times, it was adding a lot of material. The scenes with Chloe Dykstra and Kaytlin in particular were almost all improv that we worked through on the set. I would also usually have the actors start a scene with a little improv before getting into the scripted lines so that it flows more naturally. Most of that didn’t wind up in the movie, but sometimes it would.
Tiffany, I read that you are a big fan of “nerd culture” like Star Wars and Justice League. What attracts you most to those types of stories?
My dad was who introduced me to superheroes and that whole world as a kid. From my Dad giving me comics to my Mom dressing up as Wonder Woman for Halloween, it’s always been such a special part of my life. But, what I think has kept me coming back is the hope and adventure in all of the stories. Fantasy, usually at its core, is a story of good vs evil, heroes and villains. We get to watch, read and experience the choices these characters make and maybe even be inspired by them to make heroic choices in our own lives. To me, there is something that is just so magical about that.
Patrick, What would be your dream project to direct?
I’m hoping that my next project will be a horror/thriller with Tiffany that I wrote with House of Demons producer Amanda Sonnenschein called The Contribution, which we’re all very excited about. Beyond that, my real dream would be to make a sci-fi epic that resonates in the way that Star Wars does today. I want to make the kind of movies with new, original, exciting ideas that resonate so much that people will be remaking and rebooting in forty years.
You can order the film here