Filmmakers have always been fascinated with things that go bump in the night, and Ghost House is the latest intriguing entry into the horror genre.

The film centers on a young couple – Julie (Scout-Taylor Compton) and Jim (James Landry Hébert) – who travel to Thailand. Through a series of misadventures Julie becomes possessed by a malevolent spirit that inhabited a ghost house, a small shrine that normally houses friendly spirits unless abandoned. Jim must race against time to exorcise the evil spirit before it is too late. The clever and intriguing plot, as well as the highly atmospheric music and sound design, make this a memorable addition to horror cinema.

ScreenPicks recently posed some questions to Kevin and Rich Ragsdale, brothers and the force behind KNR Productions, which produced the movie. Rich directed and composed the music for Ghost House, and Kevin was one of its producers.

In addition to being a director, Rich Ragsdale’s credits include writing the music for several of television’s most popular sitcoms including King of Queens and Will and Grace. He has also written the music for many commercials and video games, and also directed the horror film The Curse of El Charro which was purchased by Paramount and Showtime.

Prior to forming KNR Productions in 2006 with his brother Rich, Kevin Ragsdale co-founded Pretty Dangerous Films in 2003. He produced 10 films, including an adaption of David Mamet’s Edmond, starring William H. Macy and Julia Styles, and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things with a cast that included Asia Argento, Peter Fonda and Winona Ryder. Kevin is the executive producer on Amy Heckerling’s latest movie, Vamps, which features Siguorney Weaver and Alicia Silverstone. This is the second feature film that Kevin and Rich have made in collaboration.

What inspired the plot for Ghost House? Do ghost houses actually exist in Thailand?

Rich Ragsdale: Ghost houses do exist in Thailand. Also referred to as spirit houses, they are generally used to pay respect to the dead, often your ancestors, and are not thought of something to be feared. If you abandon the ghost house, a hostile spirit can take it over and that is a terrifying prospect to the Thais.

The initial inspiration for Ghost House came from an experience we had while we were visiting Thailand. My girlfriend and I were walking through the forest in Hua Hin, when we came across what could only be described as a ghost house graveyard. In a clearing there were maybe 60 or 70 discarded ghost houses. She and I began taking lots of pictures and looking inside, and so on. It occurred to us at that point that maybe this was a bad idea, but a good idea for a horror film. Since most Americans don’t know about ghost houses, we thought that would be a great device to build our mythology around.

The music and the sound design were very effective in creating a chilling atmosphere in the film. As the composer of the film, Rich, how closely did you work with the sound designer to create the haunting, eerie audio atmosphere? Was it artistically rewarding to be both the director and composer for the film?

Rich Ragsdale: I am very hands on with the sound. My editor, Jay Gartland, and I spent a long time building up an initial sonic palette that we handed off to our sound team. They did the foley [ambient sounds in a film]  and added a lot of additional design. By the end they were probably really sick of me because I was very demanding, but I think it paid off. Sound is everything in a horror movie.

Yes, composing the music was very rewarding. It is hard to score your own film – it’s a lot of work to do while managing post production. Also, there is no director to push back on your ideas if they aren’t working. I relied on Kevin and a few other trusted peers to give me honest feedback. We recorded the score with an orchestra which is unusual for a film in this budget. It added a ton to the workload but I think it totally paid off. The film has a very organic look and I think the sound of the orchestra really matches it and gives it the eerie sheen it needs.

Scout-Taylor Compton and James Landry Hébert as the young couple at the center of the film have a very believable chemistry. How were they cast?

Kevin Ragsdale: We hit up our casting director, Shannon Makhanian, and gave her our list of hopefuls. She saw Scout’s name and got very excited because she’s a friend of hers and set up a meeting. After meeting with Scout it was quite obvious that we had found our female lead – we were lucky to get her.

James came from recommendations from several friends who had worked with him. My producing partner, Veronica Radaelli, had just done a film with him. James had also recently completed a movie with Scout and they know each other quite well, which gave us confidence that they would already have some good chemistry between them. We loved working with both of them.

What was it like to film on location in Thailand? Some of the scenery is quite atmospheric.

Rich Ragsdale: Filming in Thailand was amazing. We basically shot everything on location, never on stages or sets. We wanted to shoot the side of Bangkok that tourists never see. The dark alleys, the jungle, the older hospitals, the seedy clubs, the burnt out buildings, etc. it meant moving production to a new location almost every day, which is very hard on the cast and crew, but in the end was worth it. It gives the movie a lot of texture.

Can you give us some background on your production company KNR Productions? When was it formed and what types of projects does it produce?

Kevin Ragsdale: We formed the company (which stands for Kev’n’Rich Productions) back in 2006. The first project we produced through KNR was a 35mm black and white feature called Phantom Love, directed by Nina Menkes. That premiered at Sundance in 2007. We returned to Sundance in 2009 with John Maringouin’s documentary Big River Man. We’ve done 20+ music videos for bands ranging from “Theory of a Deadman” to “311” and have created several short films. It’s all been leading up to Ghost House.

What advice would you have to give to those who are trying to break in to the production side of the film business (as opposed to the acting side)?

Rich Ragsdale: Just do it. In the early stages of Ghost House we couldn’t get a lot of love for the project, there were a lot of naysayers, but Kev & I persevered and forged on. We stuck to our guns and pushed forward and eventually got it made. In other words, if you wait around for someone to come along and make your movie, it’s probably never gonna happen, so scrape together whatever resources you have at your disposal and go make the damn thing.

Is there anything in general you would like to tell us about Ghost House?

Kevin Ragsdale: We didn’t set out to reinvent the ghost movie, Rich and I just wanted to make a fun entertaining film that looked good and sounded good. We hope that people enjoy the film and have a good time.

Would you like to share with us what your future projects are?

Kevin Ragsdale: Well, if anyone who enjoys Ghost House and has the means to make a sequel, then we’ve got some great ideas for it. Other than that we have a zombie project we are working on and have some television stuff in the works. And as usual there will be more music videos on the way. Come like KNR Productions on Facebook and follow what we’re up to!

Ghost House opens this Friday in limited release and VOD.

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