23rd Aug2018

Frightfest 2018: 10 Questions with ‘Hell Is Where The Home Is’ director Orson Obolowitz

by Phil Wheat

orson-obolowitz

You’ve done every film related job from producer and actor to cinematographer and editor. Was directing always the goal?

Poverty dictates…I would just take any position I could and figure it out from there, especially when I made The Queen Of Hollywood Blvd. where I just didn’t have the budget and had to take on as many positions as I could. Directing was always the ultimate goal though. Funny enough, the genesis of Hell came from a job I had done years before when I was camera operating on a feature film The Ganzfeld Experiment. It was a crazy production, and my dad was the director. The line producer of Ganzfeld was Julio Hallivis. We became friends and stayed in touch. Cut to five years later, I show Julio my first film The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. and he says “Hey man, I got a script I think you will dig. You want to make this film together?” and that’s how Hell Is Where The Home Is was born.

THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD was your debut feature and tribute to grindhouse. What’s your homage with HELL?

It’s funny because in my head I always saw this film as a noir meeting a giallo. I watched a lot of films such as Desperate Hours, Polanski’s Cul-de-Sac, Private Property, Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, and then mixing it up with Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, Suspiria and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.

in QUEEN, did she want her son to give her another role here?

Haha, yes she did, I love collaborating with her. If Fairuza Balk didn’t take the role of The Visitor, it was going to go to my mom. Sorry mom!

FrightFest’s Alan Jones was delighted to learn you had his book about Dario Argento, ‘Profondo Argento/Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic’ (FAB Press, still available!), on set at all times as a reference manual. You see the movie in Giallo terms?

That book is the damn bible. It’s just a real amazing insight into the mind of Argento (who is a hero of mine), as well as a step-by-step manual on how the film-making process takes place. The feeling in my stomach when I go to the first day of set is like the worse hangover of all time, for some reason Alan Jones’ book was something I could turn to and find a little comfort in looking at Argento’s own process and how he dealt with set-backs on his films. I actually fanboyed out a little when Alan emailed me regarding FrightFest. think what defines the giallo aspects of Hell, at least where I tried to add them are the masked intruders with black gloves. The stylized primary colors, which was directly taken from Bava and Argento. And ultimately, in Giallo films you have a synthesis of genres, mainly being a crime film meeting a slasher, which is really where I think this movie fits. As well as the small elements of camp similar to these which you would find in a film like Cemetery Man or The Church.

Is the main clue that all the home invaders wear black gloves?

The gloves were a definite homage. We also took the machete kill in our film from Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood. I really think the theme song written by Jonathan Snipes Is heavily influenced by Giallo scores as well. We were referencing the score for The Fifth Cord a lot.

What’s your favourite Giallo/Argento film?

Damn that’s a hard one. I mean, Suspiria changed my psyche, and I’ve seen it dozens of times at this point. I’ve watched Opera several times this year, the camera work in that film is so ahead of its time, I can’t really say I’ve seen anything like it before. I may just be inferring here, but I see Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible taking a lot of stylistic cues from Opera with the god-like POV and the roaming camera.

You call HELL “a neon nightmare”, can you explain that a little more?

A home invasion has always been a fear of mine. When I was a kid, I used to sleep in front of the door with a baseball bat by my bed. A weekend a few year ago, I was staying in the desert with my girlfriend and a few friends, we were hanging out outside, I turned to my buddy and said “What would you do if someone just showed up right now with weapons or something?” This film allowed me to explore my own personal fears and put them on screen. In the early stages of the project, my producers and I discussed the best way we could portray the “nightmare” on screen and really embraced this insane vibrant color scheme to intensify the violent descent the characters go on.

How hard was it to cast Fairuza Balk, she hasn’t been around for a while? Does this role signify her comeback?

Originally the role was written for a man, and I wanted to mix it up a little. So we changed it to a woman, we kicked around a bunch of ideas and when Fairuza’s name came up, it just felt right. She was super responsive and a pleasure to work with. My producers Julio and Diego Hallivis would sit on set with me trying to figure out ways for us to write her into more scenes because she just lit up the screen.

What about the other cast members, why did you choose them?

I owe a lot of this to my casting director Jessica Sherman. We wanted to have a strong cast and knew the film had this whole dramatic element we really wanted to embrace to differentiate it from other home invasion thrillers. It all came together very organically, from Zach Avery who has collaborated with my producers on several films and totally had a deep understanding of his character. Janel Parrish, who came in to meet with us and we just had a really good vibe and she just understand the role really well. Jonathan Howard put himself on tape and blew us away. We were having a really hard time finding the right person for the lead of Sarah, and then Angela Trimbur came in. I had seen her in Final Girls and Trash Fire. She kind of has become this indie-horror darling. She just really brought it hard and that’s how it happened.

You chose composer Jonathan Snipes who scored STARRY EYES to write the HELL music. What was the main reason for choosing him?

I just really dug the score of Starry Eyes. The melody he did for the theme song with music box, it was clear that he really cared about his work and had a large set of references he was pulling from. I sent him over the opening of Hell which at the time was temp scored with the Cannibal Holocaust theme song. He went “You had me at the Riz Ortolani song.” And that was that. I just love what Jonathan did. It’s really great to listen to as a stand-alone album as well. I would love to see it put out on vinyl someday.
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Hell Is Where The Home Is plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Sunday 26th August, at London’s Cineworld Leicester Square.

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