Writer/Director Scott Slone discusses Malibu Horror Story

As we begin to build towards Grimmfest 2022 this October, we caught up with writer/director Scott Slone to share some details about Malibu Horror Story.

What can you tell us about the genesis of Malibu Horror Story?

As far as production goes, it took a little over 10 years to make as we started production on the proof of concept feature in 2010. We began officially shooting MHS in 2012 and went through various edits and reshoots between 2015-2019 as we raised more money and were able to do bigger and better things with the film. 

As far as the story goes, it was really about a missing persons case that never got solved. Although this particular story is fiction, I love unsolved missing persons cases so it was fun to do kind of a “mock true crime” piece where a group of young paranormal investigators go out searching for some teenagers that have been missing since 2012. 

How interesting was it to explore Native American folklore?

It’s a part of US history, so growing up you always hear stories about one place or another all over the country, and especially in the west where I live. Plus a lot of my favorite horror films like The Shining, Poltergeist and Pet Semetary have elements so it felt like the right kind of story to implement those ideas.

Tell us about putting the cast together, how difficult was this?

The original four actors that went missing in 2012 (Tommy Cramer, Veno Miller, Jacob Hughes, and Hector Gomez) all went through a rigorous casting process and chemistry test. That took a good amount of time and we really got lucky finding some unknown talent that really shined in this movie. As far as the Paranormal Investigators (Dylan Sprayberry, Robert Bailey Jr., Rebecca Forsythe, and Valentina de Angelis), they were all either friends or friends of friends, so they did not need to audition as there was already a trust process in place and they are all great talents. Douglas Tait and Troy James were cast because of their amazing abilities to play creatures, so we got really lucky with them! 

How different was the creative process from Retreat?

Retreat is actually a short film. MHS is actually my first feature, so it was very different from my other short films like Old Man Music, Retreat!, and Limbo. 

The creative process was very different on this one as we really had to find a good way to weave a mockumentary, a traditional horror film, and a found footage film all together to make one seamless piece. We shot on over 30 different cameras over a 10 year period, so when it came to the editing of the film, it really felt like we were making a documentary and the story started to really unfold as new footage was implemented. 

Are you a fan of the found-footage sub-genre?

Yes, very big fan! When we started filming the proof of concept version in 2010, there were not many found footage films that had a wide release before. The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity were all that was really out there in the mainstream and I really enjoyed both of them. But over the years, especially between 2012-2016 found footage really dominated at the box office and the genre got more attention. Still to this day, it is the most profitable subgenre ever based on budget. I also feel like it might be the most impactful way to make a horror movie as you can really put the audience right in the middle of the action. As Above So Below, Cannibal Holocaust, Creep, The Blair Witch Project, REC, Phoenix Forgotten, Troll Hunter, and Lake Mungo are some of my favorite found footage films.

With a film like Malibu Horror Story, how do you play with audiences’ expectations?

I think it’s just a fun ride, very different from your standard found footage film as it is actually a hybrid.  There is a lot of true crime mockumentary and traditional horror movie composition as well as found footage. It’s basically a found footage film, wrapped in a ghost hunters show, wrapped in a traditional horror movie. 

Can we expect some jump scares and tension-filled scenes?

Yes. We have a lot of those once the story starts to unravel. 

How good is it to be premiering at Grimmfest later this year?

It’s amazing and truly an honor! I am a huge fan of the festival and we are really excited to be having our international premiere at Grimmfest! I’m also a big folk horror fan and have always felt like the UK is the mecca for horror so it is really a special honor to be screening it outside the US for the first time in such a special place.

Malibu Horror Story screens at Grimmfest 2022.

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