Last week I was able to speak to the director of the new film Cassadaga Anthony Diblasi. Better known for his film Dread and his work as a producer of Midnight Meat Train, Anthony talks about this great horror film. Cassadaga received a limited release this past Friday October 11th. Cassadaga stars Kevin Alejandro, Kelen Coleman, Louise Fletcher, Rus Blackwell, Hank Stone, J LaRose, and Amy LoCicero.
Cassadaga tells the story of Lily Morel (Kelen Coleman), a post-lingually deaf artist, who participates in a séance in the spiritualist community of Cassadaga. But instead of getting closure with her recently departed sister, Lily contacts the vengeful ghost of a murdered woman. As the ghost becomes increasingly angry and violent, Lily rushes to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death – a task that will bring her face-to-face with a sadistic serial killer who turns his victims into human marionette dolls.
I would like to thank Anthony Diblasi for his time.
How hard is it to keep an actor focused on their role when they are portraying a character with a disability?
You know Kelen was very mindful of it. I had some very unorthodox rehearsals prior where I tried to do it in a fun way with the other actors as well. Even with the child actors in the film like her sister and the girl who played Kevin Alejandro’s daughter in the movie. I tried to set up rehearsals that were like games that would keep her in check about watching other peoples lip movements and not reacting to sound. If she’s not seeing seeing someones mouth then she is not hearing them. It was more of a practice thing. Also with Louise Fletcher on set whose parents were deaf, really helped. I didn't even intend for it to be that way. I wanted Louis Fletcher for that part and then after we made the offer I was like I didn't even realize that both of her parents were deaf and she grew up like that. And they got to spend sometime together to talk about that which was a great help with Kelen as well.
How would you explain a film as intense as Cassadaga to a causal horror fan that many think most supernatural films are worthless?
To me it’s a weird thing because it’s like after doing Dread I thought Cassadaga was kind of tame. But then you see people watching it and are noting that some of these scenes are kinda intense. For me I feel like it’s acceptable in the sense that it has a strong story and dramatic element. So it has the kind of mixed bag. I think if you like horror you are going to want the element of intensity when it arises. You are going to want it , and those who don’t will look away. For me I wanted to do a homage to films like The Changeling and movies that are scary but you know also has this kind of emotional spread. For some horror fans they are like I don’t want that but the ones that appreciate it I think they will be happy to see that it does have that kind of story element to it. Its not just a movie of blood and guts.
How much of the true spirit of the town of Cassadaga is found in this film?
Well we shot down there. We shot in the city of Cassadaga directly and then around it and a lot of locations within 30 miles of Cassadaga. So I hope it plays a lot into that. I wanted people to kind of look it up and say “Oh Cassadaga this place is real and it is the psychic capital of the world.” I tried not to be too heavy handed with it in the movie and we talk about it but didn't want it to be like the Travel Channel tour of Cassadaga where it’s like “Hey come see Cassadaga!” It’s more about the people who live there and the people who live near it and how they talk about this spiritual community. It’s an odd place when you really think about it because we spent so much time down there like how do psychics exist there and not all of them are the real deal some are more like carnival side show acts but they are all living here in this pretty small town.
You would think the lottery wouldst be too popular down there!
Yeah I know right!
So how was it working with Kelen Coleman and co star Kevin Alejandro?
It was great I mean the three of us were like the three musketeers on set we were constantly playing pranks on each other. The three of us got along really well it was just this functional relationship. The first day we were down there we all went out and got to know each other far too well and had lots of fun. Kelen is terrified of her own shadow which was great. She is also this super loud screamer so any chance I or Kevin could get to we would try and scare her. At the end of it there are these maggots in the movie and our production team they kept kind of reusing the same ones which got really gross. But they were alive still but the stink of them kept getting worse and worse. And at the end of the movie when I was doing my EPK interview, Kelen got me because I scared the hell out of her during hers. She came up behind me and dumped the whole bucket of maggots on me. I just turned around like “Did you just dump maggots on my head?” It was out last day of shooting and we were down to the wire with production so I was like “Effects are going to be so mad at you Kelen.”
With a film like Cassadaga with so many layers, there is the supernatural element, the serial killer elements that are found in there. What type of response do you expect from genre fans after seeing this film?
I made the film for viewers who do appreciate movies like The Conjuring, The Exorcist, or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a complicated and complex story and it keeps you always guessing and just like every other movie that will get backlash. It’s just not the kind of movie some people want to see, but we just want to tell a story that’s detailed and hits on a lot of different things.
I would like to thank Anthony Diblasi once again for the great interview. Cassadaga is in limited theaters now and also available to watch on most vod outlets. It is rated R and has a running time of 108 mins. Read my review for Cassadaga here. Cassadaga is directed by Anthony Diblasi and stars Kelen Coleman (FOX’s “The Mindy Project,” Children of the Corn: Genesis) and Kevin Alejandro (HBO’s “True Blood,” CBS’s “Golden Boy”). It is being distributed courtesy of Archstone entertainment.