A Chat with ‘A Killer House’ Director James Treakle and cast members Chris Bower and Jacob Andrew Ewers
This is not my first time writing about the awesome indie horror anthology Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. I appreciate all the work put into these films, how each story blends seamlessly into the next, and I totally love the retro horror vibe. So, getting a chance to talk to some of the makers of one of the segments ‘A Killer House’ was really exciting.
A Killer House is one of 7 segments and is the wraparound story in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. A Killer House, introduces us to the realtor selling the very house, the horror anthology revolves around. We watch as our wily real estate agent, Mr. Stine, (Christopher Bower) who obviously has an agenda, shows the house to an unsuspecting couple. (Jacob Ewers and Erin Troutman) Meanwhile, he tells them some interesting historical tales about the home he’s attempting to trap them in (I mean sell to them).
For those of you new to the Volumes of Blood anthologies, here is a quick description.
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is the newest member of the Volumes of Blood family. Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is an anthology, just like the first movie. This time with 7 stories of horror that revolve around a haunted or possible cursed house, in the same neighborhood as the first film. The synopsis: A couple plan to purchase an old home, but would like one last tour before the closing. They’re guided around the estate by a creepy realtor that may have more in store than they bargained for. Searching floor by floor, they begin to discover the remnants of its sordid and terrifying past.
Since there are so many different directors, producers, and cast involved in an anthology, I was asked by producer P.J. Starks if I wanted to talk to the cast of A Killer House, and I was totally happy to. So here is my chat with Chris Bower (Mr. Stine and a Co-Producer), Director James Treakle and Jacob Andrew Ewers who plays Ash.
Interview with the team behind ‘A Killer House’
Los Angeles Zombie Girl: So how did you all get involved with Volumes of Blood- Horror Stories?
James Treakle: “I had been contacted about directing the wraparound segment, A Killer House, back in 2015. P.J. Starks had seen the first feature film I directed, Ezekiel’s Landing, and was enthusiastic about recruiting me for the Volumes of Blood sequel. I hadn’t seen the first Volumes of Blood, but several of my friends had worked on it and I heard good things.”
Chris Bower: “Producer P.J. Starks got ahold of me because we are both Kentucky based filmmakers and he was looking to crew up for VOBHS. I have been making films in Western Kentucky out of the city of Paducah for a number of years now and my regular crew and I jumped at the chance to be a part of the project.”
Jacob Ewers: “I was referred by someone in the industry that works primarily out of our area. The producer, PJ, was in need for an actor that had similar physical qualities that I had. He messaged me and asked if I would be interested and I was. So, I auditioned and got the part!”
LAZG: Is this your debut in films or do you have other credits?
James Treakle: “Back in 2014 I crowdfunded, wrote and directed a sci-fi drama feature called Ezekiel’s Landing, which my friend Kate Chaplin executive produced. It was the culmination of several years of self-taught filmmaking; I had produced twelve short films in 2013 and viewed Ezekiel’s Landing as sort of a capstone project. It was an absolute blast to make. Due to the price of cameras, sound recorders and editing hardware and software dropping like a stone, aspiring filmmakers from all walks of life are empowered to tell their stories. The medium is democratizing like never before. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be making movies at a microbudget level.”
Chris Bower: “I’ve been acting for a decade or so. Many short films and features. I love being on set and apart of the creative process.”
Jacob Ewers: “This is my very first film experience.
LAZG: Actors: How did you prepare to play your characters?
Chris Bower: “Stine is a very complex character. He has a job to do and has responsibilities and someone or something to answer to. But he struggles with his own humanity and what he has sacrificed. So, I approached the character as if he were a ticking time bomb, quiet on the surface but with chaos bubbling just underneath. Our director James worked with me to peel back the surface during certain scenes to expose Stine’s struggle. He was a challenge and a blast to play.”
Jacob Ewers: “My preparation simply just started from cold reading the next over and over while trying new things. Each time I read the script I wanted to say it in a different way till I found the way that was most natural for me. Ash does have a little more going on behind the scenes than people realize, like with the passing of his mother in the kitchen scene. For parts like that I tried to relate as best I could and just try to put myself in the character’s shoes. Easier said than done.”
LAZG: What was your favorite part of A Killer House?
James Treakle: “P.J. Starks and Eric Huskisson put together a hardworking, friendly, and very creative team for Volumes of Blood 2. Working with a crew that’s prepared to not only film the screenplay but to constantly improve upon it, that’s driven to make the best movie they can without letting ego get in the way, is a director’s dream. I wasn’t able to meet with any of the crew before arriving on location, but I was blown away by how accommodating and professional they were. Starks and Huskisson know that a great film comes from a great filmmaking experience, and on that they delivered.”
Chris Bower: “Working with new actors and Director James Treakle was a highlight. It’s always fun to work thru a scene and be a part of the evolution from page thru performance.”
Jacob Ewers: “The experience of working with the other actors and the crew. This group was a very humorous and entertaining group; never a dull moment.”
LAZG: Chris and James- What else did you do on A Killer House?
James Treakle: “I did work with Starks to pare down the original script, which began with a longer introduction to the couple before Mr. Stine arrives to show them around the house, and also came up with the idea to give the house a spectral point-of-view inspired by the Evil Dead films. Some of the “House-Vision” sequences were cut from the final edit, but it still changed the tone and made the house more of a character.”
Chris Bower: “As a Co-Producer, my responsibilities were mostly during pre-production in regards to lining up key crew members. But during one of the segments directed by my creative collaborator John Holt, I did a bit more hands on producing for his contribution “Feeding Time”. I love producing and helping to make the directors vision a reality.”
LAZG: What are some of the challenges of doing just one part of an anthology?
James Treakle: “You have to have faith in the team. Even reading the other scripts won’t help you if you don’t trust the producers to deliver a complete package that preserves your contributions in harmony with filmmakers you might not even meet until after the film is done. Thankfully, trusting Starks and Huskisson’s team became pretty easy when I saw how well they worked together and how quickly they adapted to my style of direction.”
Chris Bower: “The challenges are plentiful especially in doing what’s called “the wrap around story”. Our segment has to be the guide to the other sections of the film all made by different directors, and each with its own voice. So, our job is to “introduce” each segment in the proper voice but to tell our own story while doing so. But everyone brought their A game and we pulled it off.”
LAZG: How did you get involved in making movies?
James Treakle: “One Christmas at my grandparents’ I remember seeing an old behind the scenes documentary on the original Star Wars trilogy. Seeing the way Lucas and his team made magic blew my five-year-old mind. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a part of that world. As a teenager, I shot and edited short films on a cheap camcorder, gradually teaching myself the trade. I just kept going.”
Jacob Ewers: “I’ve always been interested in acting since a young age. After I graduated from college I started to reflect back to those thoughts and basically told myself why not. Started taking private lessons and networking for about a year now. Loved it ever since.”
LAZG: Any upcoming projects?
James Treakle: “After completing my segment of VoB2 I left the midwest for Austin, Texas, which is the mecca of independent film. I now work as a freelance editor on much larger scale productions, and I’m learning how the film industry works outside of the microbudget world I came from. There’s also a few personal projects I can’t talk about quite yet, but suffice it to say it’s very exciting time. Oh, and my latest work as an editor, Rooster Teeth’s comedy panel show What Do You Know?, which features Emmy-nominated comedians, Internet personalities and experts, starts airing on Verizon’s go90 app on January 30th. So that’s cool.”
Chris Bower: “Yes, I’m producing and acting in a Dark Comedy called ‘Sam Sam’ directed by Dallas Lee Blanton. We start filming in LA January 2017.”
LAZG: Anything else?
James Treakle: “Chase your dreams. Never give up.”
Chris Bower: “Keep an eye out for more Kentucky based horror later in 2017 and the years beyond. We have some exciting projects planned and some of the most dedicated and talented folks to pull them off!”
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories recently won Best Horror Anthology at the Fright Night Film Festival in Louisville, KY. For more info on where to see the movie go to their Facebook page.