From The Signal to rebooting Hellraiser : David Bruckner's life in horror

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·7 min read
From The Signal to rebooting Hellraiser : David Bruckner's life in horror
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In director David Bruckner's Sundance-screened horror film The Night House (out Aug. 20) Rebecca Hall plays a teacher whose home becomes a lot spookier following the death of her husband.

"The Night House finds our lead character, Beth, several days after the very unexpected loss of her husband," Bruckner tells EW of the film, which was written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski. "He has taken his own life, with a gun that she didn't even know that he owned, and she's reeling. She becomes obsessed very quickly with finding out why he could do what he did and begins to uncover a secret life, and amid all that she is visited by several entities."

Bruckner's previous horror credits include 2007's The Signal (which he co-directed with Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry) and 2017's Rafe Spall-starring The Ritual. The director became familiar with the genre from an early age, albeit reluctantly at first. "My father used to watch a lot of horror movies," Bruckner recalls. "I remember just trying to escape. He'd watch them at night and there would be nowhere in the house to go that I wouldn't be able to hear them."

Below, Bruckner breaks down his life and work in horror.

Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images David Bruckner

The Signal (2007)

"We were so young we didn't know what we didn't know, and there was something beautiful in that. We were able to do so much at that time. I mean, we shot that film in 13 days, which just astonishes me. It was a huge collaborative process. I had been making films with that community in Atlanta, that was really my film school, just shooting stuff on the cheap and then we would screen it at local venues. We were very disconnected from the Hollywood machine or any kind of professional route to making films. We were just making stuff because we could and because we wanted to. We made that film for $50,000, sent it to Sundance, got in. I'd never even met a professional filmmaker until we showed up at Sundance, so it was quite a ride."

V/H/S, "Amateur Night" (2012)

"I'd known Brad Miska [founder of the horror website Bloody Disgusting and V/H/S producer] because he was very supportive of The Signal. When I heard the idea of a found-footage anthology I thought, 'Sounds perfect.' I really loved found footage. I really appreciate simply believing what I'm experiencing, so the immersive quality of that subgenre really interested me. I was a big fan of [Adam] Wingard and Ti West and Glenn McQuaid and Radio Silence and Simon Barrett. So I jumped on board and had a weird idea, and we fought for it. We shot that in five days for really cheap. I saw the entire film for the first time at Sundance and really had no idea what the other filmmakers had done."

Southbound, "The Accident" (2015)

"At that time, Roxanne Benjamin [filmmaker and V/H/S producer], Patrick Horvath from Radio Silence, and myself, we'd been in the game a little bit. I think many of us had studio projects that were idling that we couldn't get across the line. Somewhere in the midst of that, Radio Silence and Roxanne were like, 'Let's go [make] another anthology, we'll do it on the cheap.' I had just moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta when that came together. I remember we ran out our location scout budget in like the first week. And it's a very location-based movie. So basically every night I would drive out to the desert looking for a perfect road to shoot and visiting desert locations. So I got to study the topography of California on my own. There's a certain magic to doing your own scouting and standing alone in a vast nothingness. There's plenty to draw on if you're going to put a camera to it later."

The Ritual (2017)

"Rafe Spall was so down for proper horror. I thought I was down for a forest movie. We found this beautiful spruce forest in a national park on the Bucegi Plateau in Romania that we thought could double for Sweden. We went up there for six weeks of shooting and we were really immersed in the location, and everywhere you looked there was something amazing. It was an embarrassment of riches in that regard, you could put a camera on any of it. [But] it was very cold weather. Hailstorms. Bears. We had a legitimate bear problem. It was just an exhausting shoot. It took everything out of us. I'm glad I make horror films, because the duress that the filmmaking process puts on you, and the anxiety of trying to get the shot, at least that's topical to the material. You're wearing it on and off screen to some degree or another. I can't imagine making a comedy."

Creepshow TV series, "The Companion" and "The Man in the Suitcase" (2019)

"That was quite a ride. Creepshow was something a watched a lot of, especially Creepshow 2. I found the original Creepshow later. I don't think the tone of that has been recreated anywhere. So hearing that Greg Nicotero was involved, and I had done so much anthology work when it came about, I was just rabid about being a part of it. [I] had gotten my name in the hat a little bit and just sent Greg a long email of all the reasons he should hire me to do it. [Laughs] He just responded, 'We're cut from the same cloth, Let's do this.' So I got to go down to Atlanta, where I'm from, and I think they found the tone perfectly. Creepshow shorts are like roadside attractions, little delicate morality tales in some ways, and often there's a real sense of Americana to them, and it was just great to be a part of it.

The Night House (2021)

"I met Ben and Luke years ago. They're also from Georgia. They had adapted [my] short film from V/H/S into a feature version called Siren. That was really the first time we worked together. I think they wrote The Night House originally in 2014, and there was another filmmaker involved for a while. It freed up in 2017 and Ben slipped it to me and was like, 'You've got to read this, it's going to be your favorite stuff ever.' He was totally right. I was like, 'Oh my God, we've got to do this!'

"We sent Rebecca the script knowing it would be incredible if she wanted to be part of the project. It was an offering to the movie gods, and she really took to it. I think she understood something in Ben and Luke's writing and I think she was up for the challenge. The movie is very singular. It's a drama which focuses on this one woman very much and she's in this very sacred space. Most films about grief cut in six months after the funeral, when some certainty has come upon the characters. This is in the days immediately afterwards, and emotionally she's all over the place. She's very confrontational, she's frank, she's darkly funny, and she's putting herself in peril the deeper she goes. I think Rebecca was just really excited about the challenge of taking that on."

Hellraiser reboot (release TBD)

"I'm kind of astonished that I get to be a part of this. Look, it's a dream come true. The Hellraiser universe is deep and dense and vast. Like any horror fan, I feel like there's more stories to tell there, so I'm really enamored to be a pert of it, and to be a part of it with Ben and Luke."

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