07 Apr AMITYVILLE MURDERS
Freddy Beans here with an interview of Daniel Farrands. (THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS and the upcoming THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE) Having recently seen THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS I can attest to it being the best Amityville movie I’ve witnessed. To be fair, that’s not a high bar. Most of you will recognize Daniel’s work directing documentaries such as: HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13th, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY, and SCREAM: THE INSIDE STORY. We had a great time exploring the mystery that is Amityville together.
Freddy Beans: Hi Daniel. How are you doing today?
Daniel Farrands: I’m doing great, thank you. How are you?
FB: I’m having a pretty good day so far. Um, knock on wood. (Laughs)
DF: (Laughs) Got to keep it that way, right?
FB: Exactly! I watched THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS recently. Can you give us a brief synopsis of the movie?
DF: Sure, I’ll try my elevator pitch. (Laughs) The movie is set in 1974 and it leads to the final days of the DeFeo’s, before the horrific massacre that ended the lives of this American family. It’s seen through the eyes of Butch DeFeo, the eldest son who committed the murders. The movie presents three different scenarios, where we present what we think might have led to him doing what he ultimately did.
FB: Perfect. What was your favorite aspect of this shoot?
DF: I think it was working with my cast. It was really exciting to see them take on these roles. Chelsea Ricketts (Dawn DeFeo) is an actress that I’m really excited about. I think she has a great career ahead of her. I really think John Robinson (Butch DeFeo) knocked it out of the park. He did a terrific job owning the role. Finally, having Daine Franklin (Louise DeFeo) in our cast. She played the daughter in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION, so it was an honor to have her in this and sort of playing the next generation.
FB: It’s respectful to the property of Amityville too.
DF: Sure, we’re sort of paying homage to the earlier films, in some small way. We didn’t want to go too far into that territory. It’s not an official sequel or even part of the franchise necessarily. Although, the franchise is a little scattershot as it is. (Laughs)
FB: (LAUGHS) Too true!
DF: Our film is really trying to get into the psychology of the murders. The family and the dynamics of that family, how abuse covers everything, in respects to the family. It informs the tragedy that happened and everything leading up to it. I was most interested in that. How these characters related to one another. How that break in sanity occurred. The real Butch DeFeo has changed his story so many times. Now that he’s a product of the prison system, I think he sits in jail and thinks up ways he won’t have to take responsibility. Certainly the reason he’s been in prison all these years is because he did do it. I think the film doesn’t take away from that while looking at all these different scenarios of how it all manifested.
FB: Yea. It’s a unique perspective. Just the title alone lets the audience kind of know what we’re getting into when we start this one.
DF: Sure, there’s no mystery over what’s going to happen. For me again, it’s more about these people and how did this build to this point of no return? We don’t go too far into the supernatural. For me it plays out more like a Darren Aronofsky (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) film, where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. They may be imagining all of this. Butch is not a reliable narrator if you will. So we don’t spend time saying this is the way it was, while using our basepoint as his testimony. While the movie dives into the realms of the fantastic, it also delves into the everyday lives of the family. I took a lot of the familial aspects from personally growing up in Providence, Rhode Island. I moved to California when I was pretty small but that’s my family in a way, you know? I informed it with a lot of my memories, like the marshmallow fluff coming out of the sandwich, that’s a very east coast thing.
FB: We do that on this side of the coast too man! (Laughs) Thanks for sharing that. To play the flipside of that, what was the hardest part of this shoot for you?
DF: I think some of the effects. This was my first film as the feature director. I’ve done a lot of documentaries, written a lot of movies, and produced a lot of movies. Taking on a movie in the director’s chair, where we didn’t have a large budget. There were some pretty ambitious effects to pull off. What I didn’t realize going in, was just how difficult it is to corral background talent and make all of that work. There’s that opening scene where the family is having a barbecue in the backyard. I remember that feeling the most chaotic because there’s so many people. There’s so much going on. It felt a little, ‘oh my god, what am I doing?’ It was definitely trial by fire on that day (Laughs)
FB: (Laughs) You did a great job man. That scene grabs you in the way that the party grabs you in GODFATHER. You even have similar behind the scenes stuff going on, that the camera lets us in on. Not to compare it to GODFATHER of course. It’s my favorite Amityville film, though you’re fighting some nostalgia on the 2nd Amityville, personally speaking.
DF: Thank you sir, I appreciate that! It’s quite a compliment. Listen, I grew up with those movies. I’m an older generation but we were terrified the devil was everywhere. EXORCIST. AMITYVILLE. ROSEMARY’S BABY. Everywhere we looked we were being terrorized by the devil. Every marque or movie theater had something to do with demonic possession. I wanted to stay away from all the Catholic tropes. There’s no priests that come to the house. There’s no, room shaking, violent exorcism. I wanted to keep away from that and keep it within more of the dynamics of the family. The house and the history of the house. There’s a lot of history to that house. That’s not even the first house built on that lot. The first house was picked up and moved down the street by the people that built it. I think the house we know was built in the 20’s. I’ve done 2 documentaries on the history channel on Amityville. My interests in the story and all this goes back over 20 years now. I’ve met many of the original people and gotten to know many of them on a personal level. I think I was able to bring some of that into the story. The legends and the history. There’s a story of a Native American burial ground but I’ve also read stories of an encampment for the insane members of the tribe. I think the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT took some nods from that as well. It’s always scary to think the land itself is tainted. The house that’s just wrong. There was even talk of the father’s connection to organized crime. There’s a lot of questions. The move doesn’t’ necessarily try and answer all of them and instead I think tries to present them.
FB: You do a great job here. You mention the mob, which you touch on in the movie. We really don’t know anything though. We simply see a package and then that’s the end of it.
DF: Yep. The movie shows it and eludes to it at the end but mostly just says hmmm, what do you think?
FB: Yeah, there’s a lot of assumption I think you play pretty masterfully with.
DF: Thank you for that. In the end, there’s a lot of questions about what went down and the only person that will ever truly know is Butch. He’s never going to tell the truth. I think it’s one of those, the truth probably lies somewhere between fact and fiction. I think the lore keeps growing. There’s the question of how the hell he murdered 6 people on different floors of the house and not one of them got out of bed when those gunshots go off. It was a marlin 336C hunting rifle. Unlike most of the films, the houses are situated right next to one another. There’s no great distance between their neighbors and them. How didn’t a single neighbor wake up either? If I heard seven rifle shots from across the street of my house I’d jump up out of bed. It’s one of those things that doesn’t make sense. Investigators are still unable to explain it. He didn’t have a silencer. No one was drugged. What the hell happened that night? Which of course lends credence to the lore of maybe the house is haunted. Or a dark energy that sort of permeates this house or his mind. Maybe it infected all of them in some way. Again, it’s all questions we’ll never get the answers to.
FB: You were a writer on THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. That book kept me awake at night, though not as insomnia inducing as his OFFSEASON novel. Did you get to meet Jack Ketchum while making the movie? What was that set like? It’s such a horrid and depraved story.
DF: I did. I was on set for most of that shoot in Jersey. Boy that was a tough one. I’m glad I didn’t direct that one. I don’t know if I could have made it through that. You’re aware, since you’ve read the book how dark that story really is. While adapting that, to take my mind out of it, I would watch old episodes of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and I LOVE LUCY. To bring some levity to it, because it was just awful. I’m proud of the movie and the work we did during it, it’s just one of those ones you don’t need to revisit. A lot of people have seen it and I think it speaks on child abuse powerfully. I read stories to this day that are sad to me, just beyond comprehension. The movie was never an attempt to exploit it, it was an attempt to bring light to it.
FB: Absolutely. It’s just a horribly brutal tale. The bad guy is the girl’s aunt of all people.
DF: It’s horrible. I read a story the other day, where a child was starved to death in a basement his whole life. That family horror kind of interests me as a filmmaker. The family dynamic behind the hard story. I think that one has an interesting parallel to Amityville in that sense.
FB: What is your favorite horror movie Daniel?
DF: HALLOWEEN, hands down.
FB: You thinking HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS here Daniel? (Laughs)
DF: I’m definitely not going to say the one I wrote. (Laughs) I’m absolutely going with the original!
FB: I also got the privilege of seeing THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE recently. Would you please give us a little information about that one? (I also asked for some information on THE MURDER OF NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON but Daniel couldn’t speak on that one yet)
DF: I’m very proud of Sharon Tate. We actually just won three awards at the Hollywood Reel Film Festival for that one. Hillary Duff won best actress. I won best director. It also won best horror film. We’re excited about it. I would like people to go see the film, as I think it’s getting prejudged a lot. It’s not what people think it is, at all. It’s a movie where the real story has no redemption and I think the movie does. I don’t want to give anything away but there’s sort of a twist ending to the thing. That was not however a movie where we went out to exploit the deaths of Sharon Tate or her friends. It was the reverse. The movie gives the Manson clan what they maybe deserved, all along.
FB: Like I said, I’ve seen it and I know exactly what you mean here. It reminds me a little bit of your DEVIL’S REJECTS, using perspective here and talking around giving anything away of course.
DF: I hadn’t thought of that connection but that does make sense. I tell people all the time, “The real inspiration for that movie, was a movie Francis Ford Coppola made at my high school while I was there called PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. Tonally very different of course. What attracts me to it, is the question if you could do things different, what would be the choices you made? Can you change your fate? Your life and the way it turned out? Can you rewrite your own book? That’s what that movie is about. Peggy Sue was about the same thing, except in a much lighter way. In ours, it’s Sharon asking those questions and rewriting her own story.
FB: That’s a great connection! Thank you for your time today man. I really enjoyed talking with you.
DF: Me too! Thank you so much for the kinds words, I really appreciate that!
FB: Absolutely man! Good luck with all your…Shit, you got a trifecta of movies coming out this year right? (Laughs)
DF: (Laughs) It will be a year and a half or so. It’s been pretty crazy. I appreciate your kind words. I’ve been a fan of AINTITCOOL since the beginning and read it all the time.
FB: Well, thank you for that man! That’s fantastic to hear. Take it easy Daniel!
DF: You too Fred.
THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS is currently in Theaters, On Demand and Digital.
THE HAUNTING OF SHARON TATE will be released in Theaters and On VOD on April 5th
Til next time kids
Freddy Beans (AKA: Ken Lewis)