By RICKY J. DUARTE
There are a number of genres that fall naturally under the umbrella of horror. In truth, elements of horror can be found almost everywhere, from the delightfully evil villains of animated children’s musicals to the isolation and mystery of deep space sci-fi. Often undervalued in today’s zeitgeist, the Western genre has the potential to set the stage not only for horror but also the horrific. Showcasing a mysterious, unsettled time and place with few rules and fewer morals, the Western teaches us that danger doesn’t lie only in the setting but also within the people who live in it.
The new thriller HOMESTEAD, written and directed by Ehrland Hollingsworth, is a unique and modern look into the horrors of the Wild West. Seamlessly pulling elements from the horror genre, the film is the promising genesis of a budding new storytelling career.
I was afforded the opportunity to speak with one of the film’s stars, the kind, jovial, and talented Brian Krause (Charmed, Sleepwalkers) about his approach to the film, doing yoga with costar Diamond Dallas Page, and the lasting legacy of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers on the occasion of its upcoming 30th anniversary.
I very much enjoyed this film. You really shine in this movie. It’s a great performance in a captivating role. What was it about this story and the role of Robert that drew your attention?
Considering the timing, you know, it was still 2020. There wasn’t a lot of work, and we were all kind of stuck. Jamie Bernadette [Beth in the film], who I’d worked with years [ago] had kind of reached out on social media and said she’d found Ehrland in something they had done with [producer] Amna Vegha, and he’d written a great script, and it’s a Western, and I said, “What? A Western?!” So that was a big part of it already.
Then, when I read the script and met Ehrland and Amna, I was excited about their vision [and] their future as young people making their first foray into the industry. You know, there’s excitement; There’s talent. And I’m more than willing to help people and help in their project – let’s go! I think they have a bright future.
And then, for me, it was, you know, this idea of doing a Western, which I’ve always wanted to do. Even though I’m not really riding a horse in this or anything, it’s the period. It’s playing the cowboy, especially during the time – 2020. It was a time for us to get together. We were outside! In a very uncertain time, it was nice to kind of bond with people, for sure.
Absolutely! So, are you a fan of Westerns, then?
I am. I’ve been watching them since I was a kid, and it’s kind of what I cut my teeth on as far as watching cinema.
Westerns go hand in hand with genre, with thrillers, with aspects of horror, even. What do you think the Western setting adds to this specific story?
I think it’s its own character, you know, just like we watch in 1883, or any of these [Western productions]. It’s its own element, right? The danger of just living and surviving day to day is its own element. You gotta find water. You gotta find food. There’s snakes and bears and things that can kill you. There’s bandits and guns, and it’s lawless. But I think the element itself is definitely its own character. Not to mention the time period and what law was – or lawlessness – there happened to be. So you wake up with this: “There’s always danger on the horizon!” [Laughs].
Not to mention other people are the most dangerous part, as this movie shows us.
Robert is clearly a man with a past. How much of a backstory did you give him? Were you provided with details of his life before?
I always try to create a bit of something, an internal dialogue, something besides what’s spoken – what I’d been through, what my motivations are as a human being [are]. As Robert, there wasn’t a lot of time to do a super deep dive and prepare for months and months. I just watched a lot of movies and got the tempo and feeling out of that, mostly. I kind of looked at Robert as a byproduct of, you know, the 19th century – the settling of America, if you will – the fight against Native Americans. Possibly growing up as an orphan himself, and, you know, how he found himself in this gang and who his mentor was and what that might have been like. You know, you can really only just play pretend until you try to pull pieces of it out of your own life. In my own upbringing, what this felt like, what that has a correlation to. And then, it’s just really being in the moment. I think the beauty of a period piece like this is that you’re wearing the costumes. You feel different, you know? The setting we were in – it’s all right there to just believe in the moment.
That leads to my next question! The film has an authentic look and feel to it. What was your relationship to the production design of the film and, as you mentioned, stepping into the period?
I didn’t have any say or anything, I mean, I literally show up and they’re like, “Alright, we’re goin’! This is the set we created!” [Laughs] I was like, “Okay!” It was very quick and, you know, Ehrland had done his homework. It’s a beautiful set, the inside of our home. We were in central California, in Hollister, in this beautiful canyon in the back of this property where they’d built the exteriors. We were out there for four days and four nights, just kind of out camping in the elements. You’re out on the land, you know, as far as the eye can see. There was nothing. No telephone poles, no cars … except for behind the camera and everybody in base camp on their phones [laughs].
It feels so isolated. I mean, the cinematography is gorgeous in this movie. So many elements of it come together beautifully. The cast is excellent. There are a lot of great performances, yours included…
Well, thank you.
You’re very welcome. Thank you! Betsy Sligh gives a notable performance as Robert’s stepdaughter, Irine. What was it like working with such young actors in such a mature story?
Well, everyone that I worked with is great. I love Greg Kriek and meeting Diamond Dallas Page … what a treat! I had one night with him. Mike Furguson, who was fantastic, and Jamie, who I knew before, who’s always great. But Betsy…You know, I’d just met Betsy, and when I did my first scene with her, I was like, “Oh my gosh! This girl gets it!” She’s well beyond her years in her performance. I think she’s gonna work a lot. She’s a natural talent. She just listens, and she reacts and believes and she made the job easy.
Sometimes working with children, maybe they’re not “real.” You know, they’re acting … Their mom told them how to say it, that type of thing. But she wasn’t, and her mom’s great, [Michelle Sabella Sligh], who was a producer on another movie I did and who kind of helped with this. Betsy’s really good. It was nice to act alongside her. I’d work together with her again in a heartbeat. I think she’s super talented.
Do you have a favorite moment in the film or perhaps a moment you’re most proud of?
Boy, you know, it’s very hard for me to look at my own work and ever have pride. [Laughs] I guess the pride is that I did it. [Laughs] I like the scene we do at the end. All the scenes– the interiors – we did in one huge night. It was really quick. I had to come in and know lots of pages and just get it. I like what I did with Jamie there towards the end, when I’m screaming at the guys outside who weren’t really there. You know, they were exterior somewhere else. I enjoyed that.
I liked the little scene with Diamond Dallas Page when we’re going through the woods … Dallas was on a very tight schedule, and so he had to come in, then he had a plane to catch. It’s midnight, one in the morning, and he’s gotta go. I was like, let’s just shoot his side out, I’ll know what he did, and somebody else read his lines, and I’ll act to a piece of bark on a tree. [Laughs] It was not my first time doing it, so for me it was really watching what he did and giving him everything I could off camera, so he would give the most, and then just trying to remember that when I had someone off camera who wasn’t necessarily performing that I could react to what I remember. I hope it came out well and matches, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Well, it did, in my opinion. It was actually a moment I was thinking about when I asked you that question, so…
Oh, interesting, well … that was to a piece of a tree!
It sounds like he was only there for a short amount of time. Did you do any yoga with DDP?
Yeah! Mike Markoff, who’s fantastic as well, he’s known Dallas for a while and he’s been doing DDP Yoga for about a year and a half, and you can see in the movie, I mean … he’s shredded. Shredded! And he follows his program and does the thing. It was great talking to Dallas about his life and career and how he found it and why he’s doing it. The amount of people that he’s helped, you know, not just get sober and find their life, [but] find their body again. He’s just a beacon of positive energy. So he held a class at the pool out in the middle of nowhere and everyone’s like, “Okay, we’re doin’ it!” Just the legend of it all was an experience.
That’s so amazing. You’ve worked in a lot of genre productions, and being that RUE MORGUE is a horror publication, I’d be remiss not to bring up that Sleepwalkers’ 30th anniversary is coming up. Can you comment on the film’s legacy and cult status?
Thirty years! [chuckles] Let’s start with legacy. It’s Stephen King, a legend on his own. The amount of things he’s created, from horror to incredible drama like Shawshank. I grew up watching it and then, of course, Mick Garris who’s a legend as well. For me to be in the same breath as those two guys was just an honor. They’ll go down in the annals of filmmaking history and storytelling. I was so out of my element when I got that movie at 22 years old.
I’d watched Beauty and the Beast, so to meet Ron Perlman was, like, everything. Alice Krige, who’s so incredibly talented, and, you know, Mädchen Amick from Twin Peaks … I was very out of my element and very much the rookie.
The one thing I brought from that, and for all you buffs out there that love this, just know that they took me under their wing and accepted me all along. It taught me, going forward for the next 30 years – here we are– that some of the greatest talents and some of the most successful people are really, truly, the most humble and giving and open and want to create art together and, you know, that started with Mick Garris at the top and everyone on down with that script and that movie. It was a good lesson to learn [in my] early 20s. I could have derailed really easily from there, you know, from believing in my “hype.” I’ve learned so much. And to watch Mädchen today just still crush it and Mick … I’m lucky to be a part of it. But, you know, I think the movie itself, the movie side of it, as far as Stephen King goes, it’s different. It’s weird. It’s horror comedy, you know. It still works today. Some of the effects, obviously, are not what we’re used to in the new world of effects, but we did some groundbreaking things back in the day. The story’s just … kind of … funky enough [laughs] that, if you’re a horror buff, it’s a must-watch.
Absolutely. For me and others, it was a staple in cultivating my taste in horror. Thank you so much for being a part of it and doing such a wonderful job.
Oh, man, I was lucky. Thank you for saying that.
Congratulations on HOMESTEAD, I’m very excited to see where it goes and what comes of it because it’s very good. It’s got a very unique, interesting, and forward-thinking tone.
Is it? Good! I’m glad to hear that. Ehrland, I think, is gonna have a career out of this, and hopefully a great one, as well as Amna. Just putting it together. I’m interested in seeing it myself, and seeing what comes of it. I’m excited!
Watch HOMESTEAD now, only on Tubi!