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Q&A with Travis Laidlaw, Director of “Dead House”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
The Blob. Absorbing everything I come across but making very slow progress toward my goals.

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I have so many ideas, all the time, spilling out of every orifice. And I always believe that each one is THE ONE. Literally every time. I find that if I just take some time away from the idea in the early stages, let it marinate in the background for a couple weeks before coming back to it, I can usually see it much more objectively. Suddenly all the holes and weaknesses become painfully apparent.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I consider myself part of ‘the’ horror community in general, but as far as specific smaller groups I haven’t really dug in. One of my biggest weaknesses as a filmmaker is getting away from my desk, out of the dark room and out of my head. I love to ideate and develop, but that’s a very isolating endeavor for me. So my daily resolution is to get out of the dark and socialize with like minders more.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I am always listening to film scores. Like, always. I get most of my inspiration there. Im the friend that no one wants to have control over playlists because inevitably we’ll all suddenly find ourselves trying to dance to Mica Levi’s ‘Under the Skin’ score.
When I start to get on a certain idea I begin creating a playlist with music that seems to fit with the developing tone of my idea. Then I listen non stop as shots, scenes and worlds manifest themselves in front of me (not literally of course…although theres another idea…hmm).

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I would stay away from the basement. Nothing good ever happens in the basement. And doors. Doors seem to also lead to the basement. So stand still and close my eyes is my answer I guess.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Evil Ash leads the team. Pennywise and The Blair Witch conduct psychological warfare. The Thing and the Xenomorph swoop in for the physical attacks.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy. He’s more complex and dare I say…dreamy. H.P. Lovecreaft. Big ancient stuff is scary. Practical when allowed. CGI when needed. Pre Apocalypse. I want to see stuff fall apart, not arrive after the fact.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I use pillows, black garbage bags and mop heads duct taped to a big actor. Put him in shadows and boom, he’s a weird brooding monster. Hopefully you cant tell on screen that’s what I did…
Because of my post production background, specifically with compositing, I really enjoy the process of layering. I think that process applies well with props and wardrobe specifically. I often will walk the aisles at Home Depot and start visually building things in my head with items I see on the shelf. A switch that will work for this, a conduit casing that will work for that. I toss it all in my cart, get it home and just start putting things together and slowly building the thing. Often it works but sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Dead House I built the countdown locking mechanism this way as well as the monster (as mentioned above), the wrist band and the keycard device.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
That’s a hard question. The most formative scary movie for me was Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963). I watched that at a young enough age that it left a serious mark. To this day I consider it the scariest movie in my opinion. Whose hand was she holding!?
My ‘favourite’ scary movie is probably Army of Darkness. Not overly scary per say but it is a ton of fun. I saw it before Evil Dead (I or II) so it was my introduction to Ash and his one liners.
Oh and Poltergeist. Can’t forget the Spielberg…err…Hooper classic.
Oh man, now that you’ve opened this can of worms I could really go on and on but I’ll leave it there.