By MICHAEL GINGOLD
At the Boston Underground Film Festival last weekend, RUE MORGUE spoke with Rory Abel, whose short HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRENDA (pictured) played as part of the Trigger Warning block. The filmmaker, who also helmed 2014’s PHOBIA, gave us the scoop on his next feature, a grisly shocker called THE HOLLOW.
Abel will be reteaming with GUT and AYLA director Elias, who exec-produced PHOBIA and will be a co-producer on THE HOLLOW; the two wrote the script with Corey Stephens. “When I was done with PHOBIA,” Abel tells us, “I decided that I wanted to do something completely different from what I normally do. My films have always tended to be much more restrained, with some sort of message or psychological underpinning, and with this one I want to go as balls-out as I can, and make something very gory, very violent, very over-the-top. I’d like to stretch creative muscles I don’t normally use.”
He also provided us with THE HOLLOW’s synopsis: “Hoping to overcome childhood trauma, Jax visits the family cabin where, years earlier, his father murdered his mother. However, what is meant to be an opportunity for catharsis ends in tragedy when both Jax and his fiancée Lucy go missing. A week later, Jax is found wandering the forest miles from the cabin, with no memory of what happened or what became of Lucy. When traditional methods fail to retrieve his lost memories, Jax once more ventures out to the cabin with his therapist, Howard, in tow. Unbeknownst to Jax, Howard also encourages Jax’s estranged sister Shanon and best friend Andy to join them as a support system for him. These four, along with Shanon’s girlfriend Rue, converge on the cabin—but they’re not alone in the woods; a supernatural entity, the Hollow, stalks the forest that surrounds the cabin. A woman in appearance, she possesses a bottomless hunger that requires constant sustenance. So great is her unending appetite that it affects everyone around her. Jax and his friends are no exception, and slowly they surrender to her influence.”
“It’s a cabin-in-the-woods horror movie,” Abel acknowledges, “but the big difference here is that the monster isn’t the threat. It’s the individual characters. Basically, everyone slowly loses their minds and turns on one another, so it’s sort of like EVIL DEAD merged with CABIN FEVER.”
And although the Hollow is a succubus, there won’t be as strong a sexual component in her movie as in others dealing with such beings. “There was more of that in the initial drafts; we’ve actually pulled that back,” Abel notes. “The more we worked on it, because we tried to be very representative with our characters—we have a strong gay female lead—I became a little uncomfortable with all the sexual violence directed at women. That’s something I think is way too prevalent in horror, and we cut back on the sexual element of the film. There is some there, but it’s much more about physical hunger, and cannibalism and eating people.”
Appropriately, Abel is hoping to bring Feast Effects, which worked on HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRENDA, back to do THE HOLLOW’s special makeup. He’s also reteaming with his BRENDA co-producer and star Theodore Copeland on the project, and they’ve already reached out to a few actors, including a familiar genre face. “We have approached Tristan Risk [AYLA, AMERICAN MARY] about playing our monster, and she’s very interested. Elias sent her the script, and she got back to him in a day and was like, ‘Oh, I want to be the villain, the forest fairie monster!’ We’re 100 percent thrilled to have her. She’s an amazing talent.”
And yes, he’s aware that there have been a few horror films in previous years called THE HOLLOW (or THE HALLOW), and reveals, “We’ve gone back and forth with a lot of titles. THE HOLLOW is actually a name I’ve kicked around on multiple scripts, and our monster is called the Hollow. But odds are that at some point, it will have to change, because every time I Google it, there are like a half-dozen other HOLLOW films. We just haven’t found a title we like better at this point!”