Interview with Adam Schindler the director of Intruders

vbbbbAfter seeing the movie way back at FrightFest 2015 the brilliant and twisted horror Intruders originally titled Shut In is finally being released to invade homes across the UK.

I was lucky enough to chat to director Adam Schindler as well as his film making partner the executive producer of Intruders Brian Netto about their terrific and terror ridden movie. We talk about title changes, breaking character conventions and how Rory Culkin enjoyed being everyone’s punching bag.

Warning spoilers ahead!

Love Horror: When I saw the movie awhile back it was called Shut In, why the name change to Intruders and which do you prefer?

Adam Schindler: Firstly we’re just happy the movies coming out whatever it’s called but I’ll be completely honest I prefer the title Shut In. It was originally what it was named that’s what the script was written as but we leave it up to the distributors and marketing departments to what they think is gonna reach the widest audience and I think that’s why they made that choice. The movie is the same we didn’t change anything.in

Love Horror: That’s good to hear. I really love the poster art, it really sells the film all on its own it’s such a striking evocative image.

Adam Schindler: The concept art and the poster which was originally our preview art when we were trying to sell at Cannes and what have you has stayed the same so it’s literally the only poster we’ve had as it’s the first poster they came up with. Millennium films did all that art work and that was phenomenal so we were really happy with that.

Yeah you know you’re always nervous. We were still editing when they were doing the art work and stuff and we just thought “Oh the art work should be coming tomorrow” and we crossed our fingers and when we saw it we were high fiving because we all thought it was awesome. It sells the movie, it doesn’t over sell the movie it’s a striking image for sure.

Brian Netto: We were just happy it wasn’t a bunch of floating heads!

Love Horror: Where there any other names you had in mind if it couldn’t be Shut In or Intruders?

Adam Schindler: No not really. The distributors were really gracious in allowing us to throw ideas out there and try to come up with something. Some people responded quite negatively to Intruders as a title saying “It’s so similar to this that and the other thing” but I mean it’s definitely a title that when you hear it you go “Okay that’s a thriller” and I think that’s what the purpose was.

Again I would have preferred it to be Shut In because that fits the film a little bit better but I’m not going to complain, its being distributed and people are being able to watch it so that’s all we hoped for.

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Love Horror: Intruders offers a refreshing variation on Home Invasion horror which is an extremely popular sub-genre of horror. Why do you think people keep making and watching these stories of in house terror?

Adam Schindler: It’s the type of idea that it could happen to anybody you know. It’s like a random act for the most part it seems like a random act in most of these films where it starts off as a random invasion which turns out to be something much more. Just the fact that it could actually happen to you that’s what Brain and I find the most interesting when it comes to horror or thrillers those ideas like Jaws it makes you scared to go swimming because there’s a shark there. With Paranormal Activity you are home and there’s just a noise in your kitchen downstairs and that can scare you.

It’s the idea that this could all potentially happen to you, you could be home alone one day doing whatever watching TV and somebody random could break in and that’s just a scary terrifying idea and it’s what would you do if that happens.

Love Horror: How did Intruders come into being then and how did you get involved?

Adam Schindler: The writers of the script T.J. Cimfel and David White are under the same manager as Brian and I so we had actually read the script a couple years prior to making it. It had already been optioned at that time and Brian and I where always reading scripts and getting our hands on whatever we can to see what’s out there and see what people are doing.

xzcxcWe read the script and we loved it and we were like “Congratulations guys this is awesome” then flash forward a couple years we had done our first movie Delivery (The Beast Within directed by Brian Netto) which had gotten us in good with a couple of producers that where looking to work with us on a project and Shut In was available and we jumped at the opportunity to make it.

Our manager was like “Do you remember this script? What do you guys think of this?” and it checked all the boxes of what the producers were looking for and checked all the boxes of what we were looking for which was something original, something unique, a kind of genre mash up which is what we like to do. We read the script again and it was as good as we remembered it as and we were shooting the movie I think 2 months later.

Love Horror: It’s a great concept to set the majority of the action all in the house because of Anna’s agoraphobia. Where there any challenges creating that environment in pre-production and while filming to keep it all in that one place.

Adam Schindler: There wasn’t any challenges to keep it in that one environment just because the script was that way T.J. and David had created such a great blueprint for us that it was all there on the page. That’s all the actors responded to and everyone involved in this project they wanted to do the movie based on the script.

The only real challenge as you have with all movies was basically time. Our schedule was very very tight, we only had 15 days to shoot the movie so that was the hardest part. You didn’t get a lot of time to explore on camera or a lot of takes. Our actors had to be ready to work coming in and ready to really lay it down.

We got a little bit of time pre-production to go through the script with Beth (Riesgraf who plays Anna) scene by scene and figure out kind of what the heart of each scene was and make our notes for that and then on the day we would just kind of go with what we had talked about prior. We didn’t have a lot of opportunity to second guess ourselves which I think sometimes you can get stuck with second guessing yourself thinking “what if we do this?” or giving yourself too many options. That can be a bad thing.

We didn’t really have that luxury it was just kind of “Go, go, go!” and everybody from the actors to the cinematographer Eric Leach, producer Erik Olsen who was one of the creative producers on set with us who is really good, everybody was really game in trying to make sure that we kept to the 15 days and we were able to get everything we needed. I think that time constraint was actually a blessing in disguise.

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Love Horror: So you think the short shoot time made you more creative and decisive in a weird way?

Adam Schindler: Exactly, exactly it’s the same thing when they say a smaller budget you have to get more creative. We didn’t have much budget, we didn’t have much time so you’re forced to just kind of find creative solutions in camera and try to figure out ways to simplify things because sometimes things can get too complicated or you try to do too much. We just stuck to what was on the page and go, go go. I feel like that energy kind of permeates itself in the film that kind of amped up energy of what will happen next.

Love Horror: Definitely I agree. There is a sense of momentum to the movie with events gaining speed that carries the audience along right up to the climax. You mentioned the cast they are all amazing especially Beth Riesgraf and the film features quite a few actors playing totally against type like Rory Culkin and Martin Starr. How did they get on board and what was it like working with them?

Brian Netto: First it was the script first and foremost it really attracted people also they liked our first film but mainly they were attracted to the script. I think for the character of Anna in particular Beth said she just found herself really engrossed with the character. She is this mix of predator and prey, she’s vulnerable and afraid in one moment and the next she’s this lioness and I think Beth was really attracted to that.dfff

T.J. and David the writers did a really good job creating the characters. I mean the three intruders could have been just one note, they could have been just moustache twirling villains but they have so much more going on and the dynamic between the three of them you felt like there was a history there and they were all very different personalities.

Because of that we were able to attract people like Martin Starr who is more known for improvisation and comedy he was able to bring his own very unique persona and presence to a role I don’t think most people are expecting from him.

For Rory Culkin he has a role that requires a lot of physicality as he is literally everybody’s punching bag and when we found out he was interested we were over the moon as he is a great actor, he’s very sympathetic he has a very unique persona himself. He fits with Anna as they are these two lost souls who sort of find each other. He was so completely game for everything that happened to him in that movie that it was never a conversation or concern that he was writhing on the ground for most of the movie, he loved that part of it, he loved that idea of just being a mess the entire movie. When everyone is there for the right reason it makes our job a lot easier.

Love Horror: Intruders really plays with the audience toying with their expectations with its twists and turns. How have people reacted to it?

imgresAdam Schindler: Yeah I think that’s exactly what people are responding to in the film it’s the unexpectedness of certain things and how the movie starts out in one place and ends on a 180 degree change basically. That was what really drew us to the script, we read a lot of scripts and it was one of the few I have read at that time that had me turning pages and not knowing what was going to happen.

The whole idea of playing with who is the predator and who is the prey, who is your protagonist and who is your antagonist was fascinating. Sometimes they will switch within the movie, sometimes they switch within a scene. All of that was really interesting for us to try and play with and to try and make it work as it’s not an easy thing to balance because a lot of time people want to know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy and who they are cheering for.

In this film sometimes you cheer for the bad guys. Then you have to bring it back around so you are cheering for Anna again, that’s what we charged ourselves with, we tried to do that as well as we could and make sure that in the end people are still sympathetic to Anna but also be a little sympathetic to the intruders.

Sometimes in films like this they will have their cookie cutter characters and the evil moustache twirling guys and we wanted to make the guys more human than that. Argue amongst themselves, confused and very much like what you would expect if you were thrust into this situation where you go into a house expecting one thing and totally get something else. How would that work? What would be the dynamic between the intruders? It was fun to play with all that stuff.

Love Horror: Those more complex fleshed out characters really ups the realism of the whole film. With the idea that a home invasion could happen to anyone by having more rounded and nuanced intruders makes it much more relatable and accessible to the audience for sure.images

Adam Schindler: I’m glad you said that because that was the hope, hopefully people can see aspects of themselves in all the characters not just the good guys.

Brian Netto: It’s also the way the film draws you into the characters with a slow build up. Before the trailer came anyone who saw the film at a festival wouldn’t have known anything about the film outside of a still they would see on a website and they would have been sucked in. The moment the stairs retract in the basement you can see people have a physical reaction either clapping or recoiling in their seats. At that point I think they thought whatever they knew about this movie they didn’t.

Fortunately everyone agrees the film should start the way it does and we weren’t approached to ramp up anything earlier. I think a lot of the impact the film has is because it does start off one way and it kicks into high gear at the end of the first act. It requires patience but its definitely rewarded.

Adam Schindler: We call it a drama that turns into a thriller that has horror elements. (Laughs)

Love Horror: What are your favourite horror films and did they influence Intruders at all?

imacvvgesAdam Schindler: We are genre fanatics so we watch everything but you go back to the classics The Shinning, The Exorcist those are the ones that still resonate with me. I wouldn’t say anything directly relates to this movie. The only movie that we really used which I guess is considered a horror movie and is one of my favourite films is Silence of the Lambs where you just have a dread that permeates that entire movie.

We were hopefully trying to distil our movie into that kind of creeping dread. Even early on in the film when you’re not quite sure what’s going on, even before the guys show up there is a solemn weird feeling that something bad is going to happen. That’s one thing we were trying to accomplish, I hope it comes across I think it does.

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Love Horror: What’s next for you? Do you have plans for more horror or something completely different?

Adam Schindler: Intruders 2, 3 and 4… (Laughs) no I’m kidding. Yeah we have a sci-fi script that we are getting ready to go out with in the next couple of weeks it’s called CANAAN and it’s kind of a high concept movie about artificial intelligence. We are really excited about that hopefully we can put that together and I hope that will be the next project.

We’re genre fans, we’re just film fans I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t do any type of film but our ideas tend to skew towards genre, genre is for us thrillers, horrors, sci-fi, action, crime you name it we love all that stuff.

Love Horror: Well good luck and it’s great that after all this time Intruders is finally getting out there and I hope it finds the audience it deserves.

Adam Schindler: We appreciate that and thank you to yourself and websites like yours that really push films like ours, our film is not a very big movie so it needs that word of mouth. We need the people who like it to yell it from the mountain tops to get other people to see it.

Love Horror: We will do our best and thank you for talking to us.

Adam Schindler: We appreciate it and thank you!

Intruders is out now and you can read our review right HERE

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Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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