James Cullen Bressack is one of the most hard working independent directors on the Horror Scene. With 14 feature films under his belt, Bressack has made his most accomplished film yet with the psychologically disturbing, Bethany.
For the best part of the decade, Bressack has created several genre films, all achieving scares in different ways, making him one of the most versatile filmmakers in the business. In this exclusive interview, Bressack tells Love Horror what makes a horror movie truly scary, working with an acclaimed cast and why he’s moving away from the genre, for now.
Welsh Demoness: What inspired the idea behind Bethany?
James Cullen Bressack: I was really inspired and fascinated by the idea of a stage mother. Having seen someone close to me pushed so hard by their own mother to be successful, and seeing them reach their breakingpoint and nosedive into a downward spiral. The pressure parents may put on their kids, that’s the stuff of nightmares. No one wants to let down their parents. Atleast I know I don’t. The whole idea really resonated with me and shocked me.
Welsh Demoness: Bethany has elements of classic horror in terms of taking on the “haunted house” sub-genre. Had you always wanted to make this kind of film?
James Cullen Bressack: I kinda always wanted to make a horror movie of every single genre. I really mix genres in a lot of my horror films, but also keep them strongly rooted in drama. I really make dramas with horror elements. This is a psychological drama with a paranormal twist and a splash of body horror. J
Welsh Demoness: Bethany was co-written with Zack Ward. Can you tell us a bit about the writing process as a collaboration?
James Cullen Bressack: Zack is brilliant. I love working with him. He and I write so much together now. Bethany was our second script together, but we have written close to 10 scripts together by now. It’s really something amazing and special. We make an amazing team and work really well together, though I’m sure if he reads this he will be convinced I never actually said this answer haha.
Welsh Demoness: There are some great actors and actresses in the movie namely Shannen Doherty and Stefanie Estes. Tom Green also stars as Claire and Aaron’s therapist. How did they all become involved in the project?
James Cullen Bressack: It’s a interesting story for each of them. Shannen and I had worked together before and became very close friends, so I actually wrote this role specifically for her. When I asked her to do it and explained how I wrote it for her, she was 100% on board. Shes been a muse of mine over the past few years. We really creatively vibe together. I love that woman J
Tom I actually randomly met in passing in an alleyway, I shit you not. We randomly started talking and really connected over a love for film. I went to a few of his standup shows and I just wanted to work with the guy. I saw a depth to him and really wanted to portray it in the film. I think people will be super surprised to see how he is in this film. It’s a great performance and a side of Tom I don’t think many people have seen.
Stefanie is amazing. She actually auditioned for me. I had an open call for the role. I saw over 200 actresses, and wasn’t happy with any of them. It was literally driving everyone in the casting room crazy. But then we randomly got a video submission from stefanie. I watched it, and then rewatched it. I was like “This is it, this is her, get her in here. I need to meet her.” So christian Ackerman, one of the producers on the film, had Stefanie come in for an audition. In the room she blew me away. I knew that she was the movie. I couldn’t see anyone else in the role. I literally cast her on the spot.
Welsh Demoness: What do you enjoy most about creating horror movies?
James Cullen Bressack: I like diving into worlds where my craziest and most violent or terrifying ideas are brought to life. I think of something that would be a nightmarish senario for me, and then I literally create my own nightmare infront of my eyes. That’s such a surreal feeling. I’ve directed 14 feature films and I’ll tell you, it never get’s any less surreal to see actors saying lines you wrote, and cameras moving in the way you imagined, and lighting looking just how you pictured it. There is really nothing like it and I am blessed to even have the oportunity to be around it. I thank my lucky stars everyday.
Welsh Demoness: What is the most challenging aspect of working in horror?
James Cullen Bressack: The most challenging thing of working in horror is toeing the lines. There are so many lines, the farmiliar, the strange, the new, the scary, the weird, the crazy, and the offensive. You have to toe all those lines perfectly or you will upset your audience. Personally I kind of just do what I want a lot of the time, but that-s how you end up making films that get banned.
But in all honesty the most challenging thing in making horror is getting them made all together. That might be a copout answer but it’s true. Getting a film made is never east.
Welsh Demoness: Your genre filmography is very versatile and you’ve covered a wide spectrum of horror from found footage to home invasion to hauntings. What’s the next step for you? Will you continue to create horror or are you thinking of branching out into other genres?
James Cullen Bressack: I will be branching out to other genres. Although I love horror and will always have a special fondness for it and place in my heart, my time with horror has come to an end… for now. I have no plans to direct any horror films in the forseeable future. My movie I’m currently directing is an Animated Musical for children called CARGO, starring Haley Joel Osment, Ed Asner and Melissa Joan Hart. I have a few others I will have coming out soon that I directed as well, like an uban romcom called The Condo.
I wanted to leave horror on a high note, and personally I strongly feel Bethany is my best film. It’s something I’m truly proud of. I will come back to horror one day as a director, I’m sure, but hopefully on a much larger scale than any of my previous outings.