The Control Group is a genre bending horror film that gripped my interest from the start. It begs you to invest yourself and makes sure you don’t regret it. Director Peter Hurd was more than willing to answer the questions I was begging to ask. In our interview, he answered questions that dealt with filming, casting, and the experience of bringing the film to us fans.
PopHorror: When coming up with the plot for this story was there a certain subgenre that you had in mind or did it just sort of evolve in to the great mix of blending them? How did you come up with this idea?
Peter Hurd: The idea for the film began with our location: the abandoned state mental hospital in Fergus Falls, MN. I found it online and knew I had to shoot a movie there. I began to think of ideas that could be shot there: haunted house stories, murder mysteries, etc. But all of them felt too cliché. I wanted something that audiences hadn’t seen before. That’s where the idea of blending many different subgenres came from. By combining familiar story elements in a surprising way, I felt we created something that is surprising and innovative, but still satisfying.
PopHorror: How important was casting your characters for this film? How long did it take you to successfully get everyone on board?
Peter Hurd: Casting was vital to the success of this film and we looked far and wide for the right actors. Most of them came from open auditions in Minnesota, but we also posted casting notices online and got a few actors from out of state through video auditions. Brad Dourif, of course, was our biggest casting coup and was cast directly through his agent. All told, it took about three months to get the cast together.
PopHorror: Was there anything that you wanted to do for this movie that got left on the cutting room floor? If so, what and why?
Peter Hurd: There were many scenes in the script that we never shot for budgetary reasons, especially in the first act when the students are experiencing their hallucinations. We scripted several elaborate sequences that we realized could only be done with a lot of CGI, so we dropped them.
There were also a few scenes that we shot and then cut, mostly to keep up the pacing. A few dialogue scenes were trimmed and one or two action scenes had moments that didn’t work and had to be cut, but there was nothing major that was left on the cutting room floor.
PopHorror: What was one of the most difficult scenes to shoot?
Peter Hurd: The hardest scenes to shoot were the action and stunt sequences. Not only were we working with a low-budget, but I had no experience directing those types of scenes. Thankfully we had a great stunt coordinator, the wonderful Taso Stavrakis, who did all of the stunt work on Romero’s Dawn and Day of the Dead. In addition to playing Agent Torrez and coordinating the stunts for the other actors, he did many of the stunts himself. It helped that the villains in the film wear full body outfits with masks, so we were able to use him for many different characters! I lost track of how many times he died in the film.
PopHorror: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Peter Hurd: I loved directing the gory death scenes! I don’t want to give anything away, but it was great fun to scare the actors and get them covered in blood.
PopHorror: Sometimes when shooting a supernatural movie, there are some weird things that happen on set. Was there anything like that while shooting The Control Group?
Peter Hurd: Well, we did have some strange things happen on set, but I think they can be attributed to squatters living in the location. We had costumes and props go missing overnight when the crew was gone and once, late at night, I saw a shadowy figure walking by an upstairs window. Also, (spoiler alert) in the final shot of the film, if you look closely in the background, you can see something moving in one of the upper windows. I only noticed this myself near the end of post-production and have no idea what it could be, none of our crew were up there…
PopHorror: Woah! That must have been freaky! What happened with the delay in between the film festival in 2014 and getting it released to the public now?
Peter Hurd: Most of the delay was finding the right distributor. Most of the bigger distributors didn’t know what to make of the film, and I didn’t feel that most smaller distributors would give the film the attention it deserved. It was hard to sit on the film after it was finished, but I felt I was obligated to wait until I found the right distributor. Finally, WildEye Releasing came along, and I felt they understood the film perfectly and would give it the release it deserved, so the wait was worth it.
PopHorror: Is there anything you would like the viewers to know, or hope they understand, while watching The Control Group?
Peter Hurd: I only hope that viewers have a great time while watching the film. If they think they’ve seen something new or innovative as well, then that’s a major plus.
I would like to thank Peter Hurd for his time, patience, and candid answers. Make sure to check out The Control Group when it drops via VOD on March 20, 2017. It is well worth the wait and your time. Most films blend one or two subgenres but The Control Group goes across the entire spectrum. This year is turning out to be an amazing year for horror fans and it is all thanks to filmmakers like Mr. Hurd. Let us know in the comments what you thought about the interview and if you plan on watching The Control Group when it releases.