Exclusive: House of Purgatory director on one of 2016’s scariest Halloween movies

The doorman at The House of Purgatory, which knows your deepest secrets — whoever you are
The Skeleton at The House of Purgatory, which knows your deepest secrets — whoever you are

House of Purgatory promises to be one of this Halloween season’s scariest movies.

From first-time writer/director Tyler Christensen, it is based on a terrifying urban legend he used to hear as a child in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The story sees four mid-western teens go looking for the mysterious House of Purgatory on Halloween night. It somehow knows their deepest secrets and starts to use them against them.

The movie stars Anne Leighton (Grimm, Nashville, Criminal Minds) alongside Laura Coover (How To Get Away With Murder, Castle) Aaron Galvin, and Brad Fry — with Brian Krause (Charmed) as The Skeleton.

We spoke with Tyler ahead of the movie’s release on VOD tomorrow.

Monsters & Critics: Tell us about why you made House of Purgatory. It sounds like a scary story to hear as a kid. 

Tyler Christensen: House of Purgatory was an idea that had long been churning in the back of my mind.

The story goes that every Halloween, a haunted attraction opens it’s doors; a truly one-of-a-kind haunt that is ten stories tall, and gives you a portion of your admittance back for each floor you can handle.

It is so scary, however, that nobody has ever made it all the way to the top floor.

Ever since I first heard the urban legend while growing up in Wisconsin, I wondered ‘what could be in that place that’s SO scary that people can’t make it through?’

I realized that the only way it would be possible would be if the house knew exactly what it was that scared each patron, and tailor-made the experience to them.

And if the house knows our deepest fears, it would know our deepest secrets, and a lot of times those two things are intertwined.

M&C: Were there any scary moments making the movie? Did anyone pull pranks on set?

TC: We were working at such a fevered rate on this film — we shot the entire feature in twelve days — that nobody really had the time to pull pranks.

The only scary moments were those when we thought, a few days in, that we’d have to cancel the rest of the shoot when a huge storm came through and absolutely ravaged our outdoor set pieces.

The complete exterior of the House of Purgatory was destroyed, the entire network of cables strung in the trees to hold up all the jack-o-lanterns had been ripped apart, and every production truck sunk about a foot into the newly-wet mud.

It definitely made for a couple tense moments. That’s when shooting in your hometown where you have a lot of friends becomes a godsend.

M&C: What made you cast Anne Leighton as Melanie?

TC: I really loved the work she had done. A lot of really memorable roles in a handful of great TV shows. And as soon as we talked, we clicked.

Our first conversation was just easy and she really understood not only the character, but had an appreciation for what I was trying to do in the film.

She really became an invaluable part of the movie — taking her character to dark places that may be easy to put on page, but are really a sight to behold when they play out in front of you.

And she, along with the rest of the cast, were such great sports about a lot of really cold, really long, night shoots.

Anne Leighton in House of Purgatory
Anne Leighton as Melanie with Brad Fry as Ryan and Aaron Galvin as Nate

M&C: You’re a first time writer/director. What drew you to the horror genre, and what horror films did you use as inspiration for this project?

TC: I was really inspired by Halloween. It’s the use of music, the simple yet terrifying story, and the fact that Michael was just The Shape — this evil being with no rhyme or reason behind him.

It’s so much more terrifying NOT knowing why something is happening.

I have been drawn to horror for as long as I can remember. Since a very young age, before I understood that movies were things that were “made”, I loved scaring people.

My poor younger sister Rachel was the victim of most of those plots. Whether it was hiding under her bed and waiting for her to crawl in so I could gently scratch at the bottom of the bed frame; or tapping on the windows from the outside as her and her little friends were watching a scary movie, or building fake monsters out of blankets and jump rope that would swoop down at her when she opened her closet door.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea why she still talks to me at all.

M&C: Can you tell us a little bit about your other work as the author of Bryan the Scarecrow Who’s Scared of Everything?

TC: As much as I love scaring people, I also adore kids, and I think at a young age they have a hard time identifying exactly the role fear has in terms of bravery.

A lot of times children get ashamed for being afraid, thinking it’s an embarrassment to have no courage. But the exact opposite is true — courage cannot exist without fear.

It is only when you are afraid that you can be brave. I think that’s a powerful message that while may seem common sense to us, is hard to wrap your head around as a child.

So Bryan the Scarecrow was created to teach that lesson. And because I figured all the sketching I was doing when I should have been working could serve some purpose!

M&C: Why should fans watch House of Purgatory?

TC: It is a different take on a classic archetype. I think a lot of people find elements within the film that they relate to or that strike a chord or familiarity in some aspect of their lives.

It’s one of those films that kind of seeps into your subconscious and leaves you thinking, which I think a lot of modern horror films do not do.

Plus, it’s a Halloween movie! Does it get any better than that?

House of Purgatory, produced by Watching Eye Productions and distributed by Terror Films, is released tomorrow, October 21, on iTunes, Xbox, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, PlayStation, YouTube, and Vimeo On Demand. It is set to be released on Amazon Prime, 24-Hour Movie Channel on Roku, DVD and Cable VOD at a later date

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