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Interview: Director Walter Boholst talks ‘Voodoo Possession’

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In “Voodoo Possession,” which releases to DVD on Jan. 14, Aiden Chase (Ryan Caltagirone) finds himself in a Haitian insane asylum while trying to find his missing brother. The inmates and hospital administrator (Danny Trejo) are all possessed by some voodoo spirit. Aiden must venture into some strange spirit world in order to discover what happened to his brother.

The Chico Movie Examiner recently conducted an over-the-phone interview with the film’s director, Walter Boholst. Check it out below.

David Wangberg: When we meet Aiden, we see that he’s going through a rough spot in his life, in terms of his finances and losing his job and everything. Is he more of a character to whom a lot of people can relate, in terms of the down economy, or is he more of a personal character for you?

Walter Boholst: That’s an interesting point. I think, definitely, in the down economy, it is kind of a sign of the times. What I was kind of going for was we all have experienced moments where things aren’t going right and maybe it’s been happening a lot in your life or maybe it’s been happening your entire life and you don’t know why. Aiden has a chance to find out why, and I think if any of us have that chance [to find out] why our lives didn’t turn out like we thought they would, and we could find out why, then we would jump on that opportunity. That’s not the scenario he was presented with at the beginning of the movie, but over the course of time, he discovers all of these things that he has blocked out in his memories. This is kind of finding out about yourself and why you are like you are, and why you ended up where you did. It is kind of like that story. It doesn’t hit you in the face, but I try to integrate that as a theme throughout.

DW: Aiden and Cody are revisited by their childhood nightmare, The Tormentor. When you were a child, did you have a recurring figure in your nightmares, and has it revisited you later in life?

WB: No. I mean, I think I had basic childhood fears – like the open closet, so someone would have to close the closet. I don’t think to this day, when I walk around in the dark… I mean, I’m a grown man, but there’s just something about darkness and the unknown and thinking that maybe something is going to jump out at you, even though it’s something totally absurd – which is why, I think, some horror movies and things like that work well. I didn’t have anything personal, but it was more of a personality thing where everyone has guilt; everyone has regret; and it kind of manifested itself into creatures. So, it’s kind of a cinematic way of creating something that we all experience, even in our adult lives.

DW: With this film, you make it a multi-genre. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a psychological thriller and toward the end, it’s sort of a monster movie, too. What made you want to mix the two [genres] together instead of making it strictly a psychological thriller or strictly a monster movie?

WB: That’s actually a good question. Originally, this script went through a bunch of different iterations. I wrote a much bigger movie than we had the budget for – that’s for sure, which is an interesting filmmaking experience. But I kind of wanted something that’s fantastical, and in the different levels of the spirit world, I wanted things where parts of our personality and our demons came to light, so to speak. If I kept it in the real world, then it kind of would be more of a psychological thing where [it’s] realistic, so to speak. But since we’re going into these different levels of the spirit world, I thought we could take some chances and be much more fantastical. And obviously, it would have been this way if we had a giant budget. A big influence in this aspect was “The Cell,” where Jennifer Lopez goes into this guy’s mind, and there are all these crazy, wild, [and] interesting things. But that had a [33] million dollar budget. [laughs]

I did want the fears represented in this creature. If they just had confronted their personal demons in a conversation, I don’t think that would have been a big enough payoff. So, I kind of wanted the whole journey into the spirit world to be accentuated into something that is very unrealistic and very out there, but I wanted it to be big. They had to kind of end the conflict literally wrestling with their own demons. I mean, I guess that’s the way to put it bluntly. So, it’s kind of like a cinematic device to make it big in a mano y mano battle, so to speak.

DW: In real life, when people tell us their stories, we get that they had a certain experience. But we don’t have the same feeling they had when they experienced whatever it was. If you could actually go inside someone’s memory and witness what they’re telling you, whose memory would you choose?

WB: [laughs] Oh, gosh. That’s a good question. I don’t know. Brad Pitt’s had a pretty good life. [laughs]

Christopher Nolan, as a filmmaker, can make whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Also, in real life, you read stories where people are life adventurers. An interesting asset would be Paul Walker. It’s a shame he passed away. But when he started this foundation where they go the first responders to these disaster areas, I think, “Wow. What an incredible experience. People actually do this for a living.” [Directors] make movies, but these guys are saving lives. That sounds not only interesting and adventurous, but fulfilling as well. It’s doesn’t necessarily have to be someone famous. I think their lives are very much worth following.

DW: In the beginning of the film, we see the mom going through a box of stuff, and she comes across a voodoo cross and a box of fingers. Whenever you’ve moved, what’s the most interesting thing you found that you thought you threw away a long time ago, or didn’t even know you had in the first place?

WB: [laughs] I think I just experienced that over the holidays, when I was with my parents. There are some things that are heartwarming. My mom kept a lot of our old report cards and old drawings we did as kids, and it’s a part of your life that you feel is gone. Now, you’re kind of re-experiencing it. It’s some of those things. I mean, some things were from my glory days of 8th grade sports [laughs]. I would keep the record of our games, and the score of our basketball games and football games. These are kind of your formative years. To go back to those memories, and to think of what you were experiencing at that time, and how you reacted to it, it’s very interesting and different. Now, as an adult, we react in certain ways to things. At that time, when you’re a child, everything is much bigger than life. Everything is so important and so dramatic. So, to go back with the experience and perspective of your entire life, and seeing what you became because of that is kind of interesting. Maybe, in some way, you can kind of see that throughout the movie. But it just hit home, when I was at my parents’ house, and I was just going through these old boxes.

DW: Is there a memory that keeps coming back to you? You don’t have to get too personal, but is there a memory that keeps coming back to you and you kind of wish you had put it way, way back in your brain – like how the mom tries to do it with Aiden and Cody and their memories?

WB: [laughs] Yes. I had played a lot of sports growing up, and there is one specific play. I played for the Crystal River High School Pirates. I think we were ranked fourth in the state of Florida, and we played one of our archrivals, Upper Hill. And there was a play where their tight end – really big guy – and I think he broke four or five tackles on his way to the end zone, and I think I was one of the last guys that had a chance to tackle him. We ended up going 9-1 that year. We could have been undefeated, if we had only beaten that team. So, it’s the moments that you screw up or you regret that you remember. We were a good team; we were 9-1 that year. There was a lot to be proud about, but that haunts me. [laughs] That moment haunts me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it until the day I die. [laughs]

DW: [laughs] When it comes to genre mashing, you mix psychological thriller and monster movie with your film. With horror films, what else could you see that would be a good mashup?

WB: Oh, wow. That’s a good question. I mean, there’s a zombie thing I’m working on, but once I started looking to zombie things, I feel like there’s a whole lot of unexplored territory with zombie movies. They’re all kind of [set up] where you have to either go from A to B, or you’re trapped in some kind of warehouse. But just the thought of where people are turning into things, and these things might eat you, there’s a lot of drama to be wrestled from that scenario. Most zombie movies are very kinetic and very survival-oriented. And we’re starting to see some of it. “The Walking Dead” deals with some of it, and “Warm Bodies” dealt with some of it. But there’s a lot of dramatic ground to be played with somebody in that condition. I think, maybe, what I tried to do with “Voodoo Possession” is kind of integrate more character-oriented genre things into a genre construct. I don’t know if I need to go necessarily as intense as I did in “Voodoo Possession” – maybe a light touch of it. But I think genre movies can benefit from having a lot of character development and having a rich full back story to explore – rather than just not getting killed by some guy that is chasing you with a sharp weapon. [laughs]

DW: Are you working on anything right now?

WB: Nothing in particular. I mean, I do have a couple projects I’m working on with [“Voodoo Possession”] producer, Mark Burman. One is kind of a gritty cop thriller reminiscent of “Dirty Harry” and some of those old-school things. We’re thinking about a fight movie, and I would also to love to go back to the zombie movie I first discussed with Mark a couple of years ago. It’s a very big movie; I don’t know if it’s studio level, independent, or not. But a couple of years ago, I don’t know if I could have tackled it. But, now that I’ve gotten this horror film under my belt, I’d love to do bigger movies- of all genres, specifically. I love fast zombies. When I saw “28 Days Later,” I kind of fell in love with the idea. That was kind of a mashup for me; it was horror meets action movie. I would like to make that. I’d love to shoot stuff in The Philippines, also, as [I am] a Filipino American. I mean, really, I have a lot of projects that I’d like to do, but with this movie coming out, I’d like to look at every opportunity that I have and then go from there.

This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Walter Boholst for taking the time to talk about “Voodoo Possession.”

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