Scott Beck and Bryan Woods broke out in a big way with last year’s A Quiet Place, which was both a critical smash and a huge commercial success. Now, the duo is back with Haunt. In addition to writing the haunted house flick, this also marks the duo’s feature directorial debut. This serves as a major departure from their previous, inventive horror endeavor, but Beck and Woods are all about doing something new and different each time out, if they can.
Haunt follows a group of friends who on Halloween night encounter an “extreme” haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some monsters are real. Additionally, they’ve got their Stephen King adaptation The Boogeyman in the works at Fox, and they’ve been meeting with the likes of Lucasfilm to discuss future projects as well.
I was lucky enough to speak with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods in honor of Haunt. We discussed their desire to tell original stories, why they took on a smaller role with A Quiet Place 2 and much more. So, without further adieu, here’s our chat.
It’s been a crazy year and a half or so for you guys. So what has it been like between A Quiet Place coming out and then you immediately move into doing your first directorial feature?
Scott Beck: Yeah, certainly a quite a bit of a whirlwind that was built off of very humble beginnings and expectations because we rewind to 2016 which is when we were writing the bulk of A Quiet Place. We actually were also side by side writing Haunt at the same time. So Haunt was not necessarily greenlit In the wake of A Quiet Place. They were just two things that we were writing simultaneously, not knowing if they would ever get made and to a certain degree, pillaging little aspects of the A Quiet Place script to put into Haunt and vice versa, in terms of little gags that happened throughout the movie. But in the wake of the release of A Quiet Place we were absolutely floored by the response that audiences had for that film. And the experience was kind of head-turning because we would fly to the premiere of A Quiet Place in New York and be able to celebrate that. But the next day, on Monday morning, we had to fly back and go back into post-production on Haunt. So the movie’s we’re kind of in bed, side by side. We were trying to infuse two different versions of the spectrum where A Quiet Place was very much our M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense in quotes, our “elevated horror movie.” We kind of despise that term. Whereas Haunt was certainly like our love of Tobe Hooper’s Funnouse and then John Carpenter’s Halloween, and try to find a way to address both of those loves of the horror genre.
I was gonna ask you guys what influenced Haunt because it feels more like very much an homage to older, you know, what you would consider to be a very traditional popcorn horror flick.
Bryan Woods: Exactly. It was that kind of dichotomy between two while we were writing because on the one hand it’s like, “Let’s write a prestige elevated horror film,” which is what A Quiet Place was. And then at the same time, we’re kind of rolling our eyes at ourselves because we’re like, “Horror doesn’t need to be elevated It’s perfectly fine the way it is.” And we got excited about just really deep-diving into classic horror and Halloween tropes and iconography and just rolling around in that stuff and just indulging in it. It’s funny, because we were talking about this, growing up when we were young filmmakers you would often find Scott and I like devouring the Criterion Collection. We had so many arthouse influences, like French filmmakers, Asian filmmakers, even stuff like the independent film scene of the 70s was a huge influence, and it’s taken us ten, 15 years to actually appreciate what would be considered more lowbrow B-movie cinema. A Quiet Place has B-movie aspirations on the one hand, but it also has elevated character drama at its heart, which is really important to us. But Haunt, we really wanted to relish in that fun kind of Halloween style.
In your own words, what would you say that Haunt is? How would you describe it to people?
Scott Beck: I think for us, it comes out on Friday the 13th. So it is very much a roller coaster ride horror movie, where hopefully there’s a point in the film where it kind of grips your throat and it doesn’t let you go till the final frame. Those were the movies that we grew up loving in theaters on Friday or Saturday night. These movies that work in the genre and play the audience like a piano, and you can hear the audible reactions to things that are happening on screen.
Bryan Woods: And it should feel like entering a haunted house. The experience of the movie should be akin to the experience of going haunted housing, which is something Scott and I used to do when we were teenagers. We would go out into the middle of nowhere in Iowa to these random warehouses or abandoned churches that were converted into haunted houses. And just that experience that fun, that thrill of, is this safe? is this dangerous? Is it all just fun and games? That’s the experience you want to put on film. Now, if you want the dive deeper, there should be stuff going on under the surface. With Haunt, we talked a lot about the thematic resonance. What would it be? And talking about the Halloween season, it occurred to us that it’s all about putting on a costume. It’s all about putting on a mask and pretending to be someone else, someone you’re not for a month or a week or a day at home. And we thought that we could marry that with this character drama, which our lead character, Harper, she is putting on a metaphorical mask. She’s putting on this front that basically says, “Everything’s fine. I don’t have trauma from my childhood. I’m in a great relationship. Everything is so great.” We thought there’s some kind of interesting metaphor going on there with Halloween and kind of exploring her journey, and her journey is taking off her metaphorical mask, crisscrossed with the monsters and their literal masks. And that kind of darker side that they’re hiding underneath their masks. That’s what we’re playing with under the surface. But mostly it needed to be a fun trip into a haunted house, first and foremost.
Eli Roth is a producer on this. He’s obviously a very seasoned guy. He’s done this a long time. He’s done everything you can imagine. What was it like working with him, and how on earth did he get involved in this?
Scott Beck: So he got involved after we already had a draft of the script. Our producers, Todd Garner and Jeremy Stein, call us up randomly one day. And it was kind of surreal because they said Eli Roth, he’s been looking for a haunted house movie to be involved in. He read the script. He really loved it. He wants to sit down and talk to you guys. And we first met him in the editing suite while he was editing Death Wish with Bruce Willis, and was such an ambassador of the genre, and somebody that we grew up listening to all is his DVD commentaries. He would stack three or four different commentaries on a given film, and each would have so much incredible insight into the filmmaking process and the trials and tribulations that he’s been through in his career. And so meeting him and having him as a producer on the film felt like we were being insulated in the process. He was able to lend his expertise in the genre, help us punch up things, whether it’s character moments or whether it’s more of the horror moments. Certainly what we appreciate about his films, not that it just has shocking violence, but he steeps his stories and characters for like, the first 40 minutes, and that was very much a benchmark for us, even if we weren’t going to take that much time. We wanted to make sure that we had characters that people cared about. But throughout the whole process he was a great guiding force that certainly offered us protection and expertise along every step of the process.
You’ve got A Quiet Place 2 coming out next year. Last time I talked to you guys, you had some ideas potentially for where you thought that would go. How involved were you? Were you involved at all in the sequel? Can You tell me anything about it?
Bryan Woods: We have to keep quiet about the sequel, there’s not really much we can talk about. I guess what we could say in terms of our involvement. when the movie kind of hit critical mass, Paramount immediately, of course was like, ” franchise, franchise.” We’re really not those guys. We wrote A Quiet Place to be an original splash in a world where, and again I don’t mean this in a condescending way, we love comic book movies and sequels just as much as everyone else, it’s just not in our DNA and our heart to create that kind of stuff. We love starting new ideas and new worlds. As an example, we went into Lucasfilm in the wake of A Quiet Place and they wanted to talk to us about Indiana Jones and Star Wars. And we’re like, “We wanna talk to you about, what is Star Wars before it was Star Wars?” You guys have a responsibility to start a new franchise. That’s where our hearts have always been, just trying to create original ideas. So in the wake of A Quiet Place, we took that as an opportunity to push several projects, but one in particular, a new original kind of splashy idea into the universe. And so that was our big play. Who knows? We’ll see how it pans out. But we just felt like we would be hypocrites if we didn’t take that opportunity. We’re rooting for A Quiet Place 2. We know that they’re shooting right now. They’re very close to the finish line, and we’re excited to see what it becomes, just like just like everybody else.
I’m sorry I have to pull on that thread a little bit. What did you guys talk to Lucasfilm about?
Scott Beck: Without giving away too much… it was simply ruminating on if we did an Indiana Jones movie, what would we want to see in Indiana Jones? Or if we did a Star Wars movie, what’s that chapter of the whole universe that we would want to see? So it very much was an open canvas talk. It started going down the line a little bit but, again, as Bryan said, it’s just not our DNA. We would rather create what the next Indiana Jones could be. Which is ironic because Indiana Jones was solely created because Lucas and Spielberg could not do a Bond movie. They were not allowed to make a Bond movie. So they were like, “Oh, well, let’s create our own Indiana Jones movie.”
Bryan Woods: And that’s what we told them. We were like, we were so inspired by that story, that Indiana Jones was an original idea that was born out of them not being able to do a franchise. And we were like you as a company, we believe you have a responsibility to create new franchises. Listen, I’ll watch Star Wars still until the day I die. I love Star Wars so much, but I just feel like they have a responsibility to create new stuff as well. And then we feel that responsibility as creators and filmmakers. We want to put new splashes into the marketplace if we can.
Stephen King, in as much as he’s not a brand, he’s one of the biggest names in the business right now, and you guys are attached to The Boogeyman. Where you guys at with that and what’s going on with that?
Scott Beck: We’re writing that to direct for 20th Century Fox, and it’s one of the few projects that we’ve been fortunate has made it through the merger with Disney so far. Fingers crossed. That could change at any day, but it’s still there for now. It’s a short story that we had always kept in our back pocket, and we thought it was horrifying. It was one of our favorites from the Night Shift collection and what we loved about it, kind of speaking to our love of original cinema is even though it builds upon a wonderful story by Stephen King, it is a short story, so there’s a huge sandbox that allows Bryan and I to kind of create a whole new story from the beginning of this 12-page short. So we’re excited to explore some similar territory to what A Quiet Place was. Meaning, it’s a horrifying story about the boogeyman, but also deals with the family grappling with very substantive issues throughout the course of the story.
I did notice on Twitter, you guys said about a month ago you said your next thing is shooting in a month. So if my math is right, you guys are shooting something here pretty quickly.
Bryan Woods: Very soon. Unfortunately, we’re not even allowed to talk about it. We’re working on a few things that are coming out that we’re excited about.
Haunt arrives in theaters, on demand and digital on September 13th.