Anthony DiBlasi, Director of the Occult Flick Cassadaga, Talks on the Challenges of Creating Realistic Horror

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Anthony DiBlasi has earned a reputation for horror films and his newest flick, “Cassadaga,” is no different as he tackles the extremes of a serial killers fantasy through the occult and a deaf woman.

DiBlasi may not be well known to mainstream audiences, or recognizably famous, and yet his unique talent, designed to scare the daylights out of moviegoers, have made him a horror audience favorite.

In 2010, “Dread,” the psychological thriller which he wrote and directed earned him the SPIKE Scream Award for Best Independent Feature. In fact, it was so well received it also got him noticed by “Cassadaga” Producers Scott Poiley and Bruce Wood, who, when they were ready to go forward, called.

Having the opportunity to speak with him as his newest horror flick hits theaters below is an expert of our conversation.

Janet Walker: Hey Anthony. Congratulations on the film.

Anthony DiBlasi: Hey Janet. Thanks. Thanks so much.

JW:  I’m going to jump right in and begin with a few things that really stood out in my mind and I’d like to ask you about them first. The genital mutilation scene in the beginning it is pretty shocking.  So when you got the script and you saw that scene can you tell me a little bit about that? What was your first reaction when you saw that?

AD: The scene with the little boy. I felt like it made sense in the story and character of the bad guy, if you will. We wanted to get him at the moment, the transformation moment. There is a reason for everything in the film. And this is kind of the moment that it happened. And it’s extreme and defiantly extreme for some viewers. My last film was “Dread” had a lot of extreme moments so this was kind of tame. When a film comes out and people are watching it gets that kind of reaction. That scene at the beginning is crazy. 

JW: Tell me about when you first got the script? Tell me about how you became attached to it; in the running? Did you have an audition process? How did you get the director gig?

AD:  The guys, they were independent producers in the Florida area and they had seen “Dread” and they came out to LA and we had a meeting and we talked about the script.  They sent me the script first and I responded to it.

It was a pretty fast process.  I mean we got along really well when they were down here and they liked my approach.  So I flew down to Florida about two weeks later we were moving. It happened very quickly.  

What I liked about the script is that it surprised me in a lot of ways, which may frustrate others viewers. I liked that it bucked against narrative norms.   Things that you would expect to happen or should happen and don’t in the movie.

It had a lot of threads that played in different directions and it didn’t produce the usual payoff that one would expect once you set that up. And I like that it ended differently than most would expect. And I’m glad we kept those elements in the film which I won’t give it away. It happens quite a few times in the film.

JW: What challenged you most about the script and filming?

AD: I think um . . I think I knew the stuff with the Geppeto character would be intense and figuring out how to realistically portray someone who makes human marionettes come to life. And not just someone who actually cut off the limbs and reattaches them.

How do we do that? I didn’t want to use dummies I wanted to use real actors so I knew I have to use both, digital and practical effects.

We were able to get a great effects guy. He just happened to be a local in Florida. We were lucky to get him on the project. Also it was important to have the digital effects team to kind of sell it when we needed to remove the actual combination of the real actress and her fake limbs and set her up on a rig that was useable.

I was essentially saying, ‘if you were this guy and you wanted to use this’ how would you do it so he could control it. So I wanted the actor to be able to control and it not have it motorized. So the actor is actually puppeteering the human.

JW: That’s very bizarre. It’s a very bizarre scene. You know that those types of people are really out there somewhere and you’re just hoping that you never come upon them . .

AD: Cross their path? Yes I know.

JW: Yes. Exactly.

JW: So let’s talk a little bit about casting. You have a lot of fine talent there. Louise Fletcher it was interesting to see her work again. So tell me how that came about.

AD: When I read the script Louise Fletcher was, without a doubt, the first person who popped into my mind when for that part.  I love her. I hadn’t seen her in awhile. I think at the time she was doing some television where she was excellent.

I really wanted to create homage to films I loved growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s. I love that voice from her. For an actress, that when she speaks it almost gives you kind of flashback as if you are back in a certain era of filmmaking.

Her acting style, her acting style is much different than many contemporary actress and I love that. I was lucky enough to get her.  When she had read the script, I didn’t realize at the time when I made the offer that both her parents are deaf. She grew up with deaf parents. So that kind of hit home for her. So not only was that helpful to get her on board but helpful to Kelen Coleman who was portraying a deaf artist in the movie.

JW: If you had a most memorable moment what would it be?

AD:  I think it would be the house where we shot the séance. We had it for a very long time. No one had been living there and without a doubt it felt haunted. Even though we had a very large crew you had to leave to go to the bathroom. The upstairs was sealed off and couldn’t be accessed. You just felt eyes on you in that house. It was as if 1000 eyes were on you. It was bizarre shooting those scenes around the séance.

“Cassadaga,” a cold case horror film, with bloody, gruesome, terrifying scenes, intertwines a deaf artist who longs to hear her dead sister one last time, the resurrected spirit of a serial killer’s victim, the occult and the determination to survive.

“Cassadaga” is playing in select cities and on VOD.

 

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