I recently had a conversation with Andrew C. Erin,  the director of the new horror thriller Havenhurst. The film is named after a Gothic apartment building in Manhattan where addicts are sent to recover after being released from rehab. The movie centers on Jackie (Julie Benz), who arrives at Havenhurst and discovers that it is not the benign, nurturing environment that might be expected.

Havenhurst is administered by the seemingly matronly Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan) who allows the recovering addicts to stay as long as they remain sober. Failure to do so leads to “eviction,” which in this instance has a particularly sinister connotation.

During the course of our conversation, Erin mentioned that the film was inspired in part by the infamous case of serial killer H.H. Holmes who built a hotel in Chicago in the 1890’s. He lured  a number of his victims to the establishment and murdered them through the use of a variety of bizarrely constructed rooms and chambers.

Many of Erin’s directing and writing credits are horror films. His films include Clara’s Deadly Secret, Borderline Murder, and Embrace of the Vampire. He said that he has always been interested in the horror genre going back to his youth when ghost stories were told around the proverbial camp fire.

Asked what films or directors he particularly admired, Erin listed The Strangers, The Conjuring and M. Night  Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Although Havenhurst has its own distinctive quality,  I mentioned that there were certain themes in the film that were reminiscent of The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and Psycho. All the films have a basic theme of a large mansion that can be checked in to, but checking out can be a little more problematical.

Erin mentioned that he did not go to film school but is a self-taught filmmaker. Originally from Canada,  he began his career by making short films. A short that he made in 2002 titled Sam’s Lake caught the eye of Hollywood. Financing was arranged and a full length version of Sam’s Lake was released in 2006.

I remarked that I thought that the cinematography in Havenhurst had a distinctive, shadowy, muted quality to it. The cinematographer on the film was Thomas Hencz.  Erin had worked with Hencz before on a short entitled From Darkness. He was so impressed by Hencz’s work on that movie that he asked Hencz to be the cinematographer for Havenhurst. Erin remarked that the lighting levels were deliberately kept low during the filming of Havenhurst rather than creating a shadowy atmosphere in post-production, a procedure which he said was unusual.

We also discussed the casting of the film. Erin said Julie Benz was given the lead role of Jackie after a particularly impressive audition. The actress has had recurring roles on such TV shows as DexterBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and Hawaii Five-0. I also remarked that Fionnula Flanagan was particularly effective as Eleanor, the sinisterly ambivalent matron of Havenhurst.  Erin replied that Flanagan brought a lot of preparation and high energy intelligence to the set in her creation of the role.

Havenhurst will be released on February 10 in selected theaters and Video On Demand.   The film will probably particularly appeal to those who can’t wait until next October to get lost in a haunted house.

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