By MICHAEL GINGOLD
There’s a stretch of street in Westchester County, New York called Buckout Road that is said to be haunted by everything from the spirits of executed witches to flesheating albinos. Actor-turned-director Matthew Currie Holmes has turned those tales into the feature BUCKOUT ROAD, and gave RUE MORGUE some exclusive words about it.
An award-winner for Best Horror Feature Film and Best Screenplay at the current Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (where we caught up with Holmes), BUCKOUT ROAD was scripted by the director and Shahin Chandrasoma (from a story by Johnny Passucci) and stars Evan Ross, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, Henry Czerny, Danny Glover and Colm Feore. Ross plays a young man who returns home to stay with his psychiatrist grandfather (Glover) and finds himself caught up in the legends of Buckout Road, which seem to be fatally coming true. Holmes, whose onscreen credits include WRONG TURN 2 and the remake of THE FOG, next plans to direct the vampire thriller SELF STORAGE from his award-winning screenplay, but right now is looking forward to more audiences having the chance to visit BUCKOUT ROAD…
How did BUCKOUT ROAD become your first horror feature as a director?
It was already in development, and the producers, Brad Clark and John Gillespie, had Danny Glover and Evan Ross signed up, and a start date. What they didn’t have was a script that they felt was ready to shoot, so Paul Weber, the casting director/co-producer, reached out to me. Having read a lot of my earlier stuff, and been involved with some of my other screenplays, he suggested me to take over on the script. I pitched them a page-one rewrite, and to their credit—I mean, the train was on the tracks, it was ready to go—they said, “Let’s do it.” They trusted me with it, and I rewrote the movie from beginning to end.
Midway through the process, they liked what I was doing, the vision, and they started asking me, “What do you see for this? What do you see for that?” Instead of as the screenwriter, they were talking to me more in terms of the directing, and eventually they asked, “Do you want to direct this? You seem to have a very distinct idea of how you want to do it,” and I said, “I would love to.”
How much research did you do on the real Buckout Road, and how did you settle on which of its many urban legends to include in the film?
Well, the cannibal albinos were a no-brainer—it’s albinos who kill people and eat them! The most famous of the Buckout Road legends is the one about the three witches being burned at the stake, and as we know, no woman accused of witchcraft in North America was burned at the stake, so that has become a thing of folklore. I felt that if I didn’t include those two, at the very least, people from Westchester would beat me to death! And then, we only had room to really do three, so what I pitched was, instead of doing a single third one, we’d do an amalgam of a bunch of urban legends and create our own that encompasses all those things. It’s a sort of Easter egg for all the people who know the Buckout Road stories, so it includes things like the lady in white, the slave owners and the Albert Fish house. I smushed them all into one urban legend, and I always say that we have 10 great facts about Buckout Road, and three that I totally invented.
You also tackle themes of religion and psychiatry in BUCKOUT ROAD; it’s fairly ambitious in that sense. How did you keep that all balanced while telling your story?
What I thought was important was… When I read the first scripts, it was sort of straight-ahead horror—just kids going into the woods and getting killed by cannibals. Not for nothing, we’ve seen that, and that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. What I thought was so interesting was the fact that there’s this stretch of land that is home to so much evil—it’s kind of like a Hellmouth—and I was wondering, what kind of place has this much bad mojo? And then I started thinking, what if the urban legends themselves are the bad guys, or the collective antagonist? What would be the opposite of that? Well, an atheist, and he doesn’t believe in any of this, and the urban legends go, “Fuck you, I don’t care what you believe.”
So then, the theological debate springs from that. I’m a student of theology, have been my whole life, so incorporating all those themes helps endear us to the characters as they go on this quest, because a lot of it is quite existential. And then it becomes chaos, but prior to that, they have to arm themselves with at least some of the knowledge beforehand. That’s what fascinated me the most.
Did you ever visit the real Buckout Road, and consider shooting the movie there?
Well, it’s not that we didn’t consider shooting there; of course we did, we wanted to. Unfortunately, it just didn’t make sense financially. It’s a Canadian company, I’m Canadian with a CAVCO number, so I’m worth x amount of points in the tax credits, and we received a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, which is a fantastic incentive for filmmakers to shoot up there. So it just wasn’t feasible for us to shoot in New York, unfortunately. But that said, we did all our 2nd-unit photography in White Plains.
Where does the film go from here?
Right now we’re at the American Film Market, and we’re going for the brass ring: We want a theatrical release. My producer John is so forthright in his vision of how he wants the movie to be rolled out, and I’ve got to commend him for it. We’ve had a couple of great offers from very reputable companies, but John has a vision for it, and I’m going to support him in it. Hopefully, we’ll get a really good domestic release, and sell a bunch of foreign territories too. But as of now, we’re doing the festival circuit. We have Blood in the Snow later this month in Toronto, we have Raindance in Vancouver in the new year and we’re trying for more, like Sundance, Slamdance, South by Southwest, Berlin. We’re going for the bigger festivals, and it’s nice that we’ve won some awards, so we can come with a little bit of positive baggage and accolades moving forward. So hopefully we’ll hit some of the bigger festivals and get more of an international audience for the movie.