By KEVIN HOOVER
The anthology format is a favored story-telling vehicle for horror properties. Dating back to classics like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, the formula works to satiate the many individual tastes of fans with varying looks into the macabre. PHOBIAS, produced by Defiant Studios in conjunction with Kodiak Pictures and distributed by Vertical Entertainment, is a compilation film built on the bedrock that fear itself is diverse, yet individually inherent, to everybody. Featuring four segments themed after assorted phobias and tied together with a framing story, PHOBIAS offers its own unique twist on the anthology blueprint. Los Angeles-based Maritte Go’s segment, “Vehophobia,” plays on the very relatable anxiety of getting behind the steering wheel of a car, but not quite as straightforwardly as one might assume. Maritte recently discussed her work on PHOBIAS with RUE MORGUE, and told all about her her segment’s stranger-than-fiction real world inspiration.
Share with us your background in horror, influences, and how you came to be involved with PHOBIAS.
Raised in a Filipino household with a family that very much believed in the idea of monsters and the supernatural, my interest in horror began at an early age. As early as I can remember, I’ve always been obsessed with horror, so much so that, at 14 years old, I wrote in my diary that I was going to make a horror anthology! I’ve always enjoyed how horror speaks to audiences. It can give you an adrenaline rush while pushing the boundaries of reality. But I also appreciate horror for the way it handles hot-topic issues, such as racism.
Before PHOBIAS, Eric Fleischman (one of the film’s producers) and I had been working together in different capacities for nearly ten years. I had created some stuff for Crypt TV, and I revealed to Eric that I really wanted to write and direct a horror film. I showed him some of my shorts and he liked them, so we discussed the idea of making an anthology film. When we started pitching ideas, one was that of PHOBIAS. We paired up with some of the other directors on the film – Joe Sill, Chris Van Hoffman, to name a few – and we all started discussing different ideas for fears. We initially came up with our segments, then we pieced it all together with a wraparound story. It was fun trying to figure out how our individual portions would connect together.
Your segment, “Vehophobia,” is defined as the fear of driving, but you steer clear of the literal meaning. What inspired the Christine-like short?
Years ago, I was dropping an ex-boyfriend off at LAX, and afterward I experienced a moment that defied explanation. As soon as he left the car, I remember feeling something sitting behind me. The air turned cold and I felt needles in the back of my neck. As I was driving on the highway, my brand-new car felt as though something was taking control of it. The radio was turning itself off and on, it was speeding up, then slowing down. I was terrified. I was crying and praying that whatever it was would leave me. I pulled over, and eventually the feeling left and I drove home safely. It never happened again. Now, when I get inside my car at night I check my back seat. I’m always afraid that it could come back. That’s what I worry about. Yes, the term vehophobia can be interpreted in many different ways, but when brainstorming ideas for PHOBIAS, it was that real-life experience that helped shape my segment.
Your characters are crafted with a remarkable degree of depth despite the segment’s abbreviated runtime. How do you create multi-faceted characters when you have so little screen time to establish who they are?
The hope and dream is to write characters that matter to the viewer. Movies and their stories don’t connect unless you care about the characters, and I wanted mine to have some depth. It was very challenging to put that all into 12 minutes. But, what I wanted to convey is that our secrets cannot stay secrets. Our dirty deeds will come back to haunt you one way or another. I set out to create characters who have many secrets and layers, just like us.
You’ve worked on several different types of project in your career. Were there any challenges specific to the anthology format?
There were so many challenges! Having this many directors, locations, actors – we had to run it on a TV-like schedule. We were often using the same equipment and crews. By the end, our team was worn out, but I think we’re all incredibly proud of what we’ve made.
Was there anything that you wanted to include that, for whatever reason, just didn’t make it into the final cut?
During filming, we closed down the 6th Street bridge in downtown LA, which is a pretty big deal. Our stunt coordinator, Sam Situmorang, who had previously worked on Baby Driver and The Fast and The Furious and is incredible at his job, was spinning out and doing all these crazy things. We managed to get shots from inside the car, but I wanted to include some from the exterior as well. We just ran out of time. Maybe if we had three extra days or so, we could’ve done it, but as long as people understand the story and enjoy what we’ve created, no one will realize what didn’t make it in.
Did you feel any pressure to create a segment that would stand head and shoulders above the rest?
All of the directors on this film are good friends, and I don’t believe there’s any success that comes with stepping on other people’s heads. I want viewers to enjoy my portion, as I put my everything into it, but not at an expense to anyone else. We were all very supportive of one another on set. We’d come and sit and give advice to each other, anything we could do to help each other. Some of these directors are my closest friends, and we’ll continue to support each other as we grow and evolve as filmmakers.
The concept of PHOBIAS seems like it’s ripe for continuation. Does this feel like something that your circle will continue to explore with additional films?
I’m certainly hoping so! Getting to work with my friends and push the boundaries of what horror can be, together, is exciting. We’ve been working together for years and I’d love to continue doing so as we develop our careers. Being that close with one another allows us to express ourselves in ways that wouldn’t necessarily be possible if working with a crew that we were unfamiliar with. We were also lucky enough to be paired up with Radio Silence, the team behind Southbound and the V/H/S series. When we brought them on, it was amazing because they had such a breadth of experience. They gave us valuable advice, in keeping the same themes, tones, and visuals on the same page. It’s difficult with five directors representing five different voices, but I believe everything came out clearly, and working with Radio Silence was a dream.
For more on PHOBIAS, check out our interviews with the rest of the filmmakers. The Vertical Entertainment film is now available for rental and purchase on most major video platforms.