Interview with Todd and Ashley Mary Nunes: Siblings of Horror

Within the past few years, the subgenre of holiday horror began to see a resurgence. Getting out right in front of this sudden trend was the 2015 release of the indie hit All Through the House with perfect timing. In 2016, we had the pleasure of speaking with the film’s final girl, Ashley Mary Nunes. Less than a year later, we were honored to chat with Ashley’s brother and director of All Through the House, Todd Nunes. As we are approaching this holiday horror hit’s 3 year anniversary, I caught up with the brother sister duo during my time in L.A. Read on to revisit their feature, learn more about their shared passion of horror, how the genre has brought their family together and more!

L-R: Todd Nunes, Me, Ashley Mary Nunes

PopHorror: Hi, Ashley and Todd! Thank you for taking time to speak with me. So, as I’m sure you know, we are coming up on the 3 year anniversary of the official release for All Through the House. Being siblings, how much did you two collaborate on this feature?

Todd Nunes: I would say that we certainly collaborated on what Ashley’s character, Rachel, was going to wear. That was basically her design based on what I wrote in the script.

Ashley Mary Nunes: He wanted an Alice in Wonderland type of look, so I went to where I get my cosplay costumes made, and we worked in our own little design to where it isn’t exactly Alice in Wonderland, but it still gives that feeling.

Ashley Mary Nunes as Rachel Kimmel in ‘All Through the House’

PopHorror: Very cool! I know from when the last time we spoke that you both gravitate towards the horror genre. There are certainly horror titles with the holiday angle, but it does seem to be a little bit of the lesser traveled road in the industry. What made you decide to go in this direction with All Through the House?

Todd Nunes: Oh, making a holiday horror film is something I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I used to dress up as a Santa and chase my brothers and sisters around.

Ashley Mary Nunes: Yep! (laughs) All Through the House was not the first time.

Todd Nunes: So, I’ve always had this fascination with the character of Santa Claus. When I was a kid, Santa was happy yet scary. There was just something that people weren’t talking about. (laughs) Something about letting a strange man come into your house and who watches you while you sleep… and sitting on his lap. There was just something a little off, to me, about Santa, even as a kid. (laughs) I didn’t say anything because I was getting toys, but the creepier side of Christmas time was something I always wanted to explore. And I’ve always loved Christmas! I’m a huge Christmas guy.

Poster artwork for ‘All Through the House’

Ashley Mary Nunes: And Christmas is something that comes around every year. So, there’s always fun things to do to promote every single year, and the film doesn’t get shelved once it’s out. It’s fun to revisit it during the holidays!

Todd Nunes: What’s really exciting is that there are so many Christmas horror films that are coming out now! When we were first thinking about doing All Through the House, there was a handful of Christmas horror, and now there’s just so many of them. So, now we’re part of a legitimate subgenre of the slasher films.

PopHorror: I can see that, for sure! You did really came out in front of the Christmas horror pack that has emerged. So, Ashley, last time we spoke, you mentioned that you quit your job as a probation counselor to pursue film. Are there any regrets and have you ever looked back?

Ashley Mary Nunes: Oh, absolutely not! I mean, I’m glad I had that experience so that I could, on some level, channel it towards my acting and the characters I’ve portrayed. But it has always been about acting for me. You know when something just isn’t right? When something just isn’t you? I always came back to acting. Todd always pulled me back into his projects, no matter where I was and what I was doing. So, that’s kind of how I stayed with it through other chapters in my life. But there have been no regrets at all. I needed to make that move.

PopHorror: That’s very cool, and inspiring, as well! So, Todd, when we last spoke, you mentioned that you have been a horror fan from a young age. Did you have one particular film over the others that influenced you growing up?

Todd Nunes: I would say there would be two films that were major for me. One would be Halloween, because that was the first horror film I ever saw. Up until that point, the scariest film I had ever seen was The Wizard of Oz. And so, I had never known that movies like Halloween ever existed! And I was petrified! And I was in love! It was like love at first sight. Then, the second movie that really influenced me was the first horror film I ever saw in theaters, which was Friday the 13th Part 3. I remember begging my grandparents to take me to see Friday the 13th Part 3. They typically took me to whatever Disney cartoon movie happened to be playing. They insisted that it just wasn’t for me, but I sold them on the 3D aspect of it. I just had to get in and see this movie! And, when I saw this film, I fell in love all over again! I just couldn’t stop. I’d talk about it all of the time and draw pictures. I would try to find other ways to see all these other horror films, because I was really the only one in my family who was obsessed. That has since changed.

Ashley Mary Nunes: For me, there was no discovery. I was just born into it. (laughs) So, I don’t know anything else. I don’t know what life is without horror films, and I never had a moment like Todd had.

Todd Nunes: Oh, on that point, I had all the movies on VHS!

Ashley Mary Nunes: (laughs) And he was already making movies!

Todd Nunes: I was making movies with my friends by this time, and I had the masks. My brothers and sisters loved me to scare them! So, I would plan extravagant scares, and it was a lot of fun! It’s just something I never abandoned.

Lito Velasco and Ashley Mary Nunes in ‘All Through the House’

PopHorror: In regards to All Through the House, there were a ton of influences. There’s no denying that. Everything from Sleepaway Camp to Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Todd Nunes: Oh, absolutely! (laughs) It’s my love letter. True horror fans can spot things throughout the film, but I tried to put little things into the film that weren’t so obvious. And I’m still waiting for everything to be pointed out!

PopHorror: Was there one classic that influenced All Through the House over anything else?

Todd Nunes: Surprisingly enough, I didn’t intentionally borrow from Sleepaway Camp nearly as much as many people think. I was far more influenced by Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing. That’s what I had in mind when I wrote certain aspects of All Through the House, including the twist. Personally, I really love that movie. I was a tremendous fan of Wes Craven from back in the day, and Deadly Blessing was one of my favorites.

PopHorror: I never thought about that one, but you’re right! Ashley, when we last spoke, you mentioned that your role in All Through the House was pretty personal due to the passing of your brother, Robert. Was this in mind when the role was originally written in the script?

Ashley Mary Nunes: I don’t think so. It was something that I found in the character. As I read the script, I found a way to connect with her through pieces of unanswered questions. I only knew my brother for about 16 to 17 years. He passed when I was high school. But while he was with us, he was always there. He was always at my track meets and soccer games. No matter what he was going through or struggling with, he was always there. And then he wasn’t. So, I took the emotion from that and put it into my character’s search for her mother.

PopHorror: Would you say there were any other personal influences you would feel comfortable speaking about that went into the film for either one of you?

Todd Nunes: I don’t think there was anything really personal. It really did come from more of an angle of having fun and celebrating the campiness of that era. That is something in the genre that changed over the years, but we were emulating that era. More so, we were emulating the films that were similar to Halloween and Friday the 13th. If you look at Happy Birthday to Me, Hell Night and Terror Train, I feel like we would have been in that mix of films that came out back in the ’80s. The stuff I plan to do next is a whole different avenue. I think I needed to do All Through the House to pay tribute to the genre that gets me excited and that I absolutely love.

Ashley Mary Nunes: I’m just so grateful to have my brother, Todd, here. This has always been my passion. I was born into it. I was born into being a scream queen, and he kinda trained me when I was really young, and just being able to have this opportunity to be a part of his first feature film. I’m pretty lucky! There are many people who come here to L.A. who would die to be in my situation, and I feel very thankful and fortunate.

Todd Nunes: You know, for me, one of the things I discovered in horror films wasn’t just the killer or the killings. It was the final girl. This kickass girl who survives, which is such an important part! Your film is really only as good as your hero and your villain. If Jamie Lee Curtis hadn’t been that convincing as Laurie Strode, the original Halloween just wouldn’t have been the same. And Ashley was really inspired by those girls.

Ashley Mary Nunes: (nodding and laughing) I always wanted to be Jamie Lee Curtis!

Ashley Mary Nunes’ Laurie Strode cosplay

Todd Nunes: It’s how I was able to get Ashley and the rest of the family to watch horror films. I would point out the final girl and tell them that is who they’re going to love. So, final girls are a big deal for our family. We love the final girls.

PopHorror: Speaking of family, unless I’m mistaken, All Through the House extends beyond you two because I’m pretty sure I saw Ashley’s son, Justice, in the beginning. What was it like for him to be on the film set?

Ashley Mary Nunes: (laughs) Yes, you did. Outside of all this, he’s a kid, and you would think he might not be able to follow directions since, at the time of production, he was only 6 years old. But the moment we got him on set, he listened and paid attention. It just comes really natural to him! And he had a great co-star next to him, Jessica Cameron, who was a great with him! I was a proud mama!

Todd Nunes: (laughs) He had no idea he was making a horror movie.

Ashley Mary Nunes: (laughs) He knows now!

Todd Nunes: Yeah, he knows now, but at the time, we were trying to protect him from the whole Santa killer thing. So, he thought he was doing something else… until he saw the movie.

Ashley Mary Nunes: (laughs) We couldn’t hide it anymore because, you know, he lives with us.

PopHorror: Some people may not see horror films as bringing family together, which is fine, but what would you say horror has done for your family?

Ashley Mary Nunes: Tradition.

Todd Nunes: Yes, I would say that’s a big one. It started off with me introducing my mother to horror films, but I was so relentless when it came time to rent films from the local video store. And little by little, I started to notice that my mom getting into them. And once you start a franchise, you have to finish the rest of them. (laughs) And she’s pretty good! She knows her trivia, and she’s really excited about the genre. And then my brothers are just as much into horror because we did haunted houses and we did short films ever since I was in high school. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for them when they hear that I’m making a horror film.

Ashley Mary Nunes: And I had my own Chucky before Chucky was even around in the form of a Chubbykins doll.

Todd Nunes: I did a short horror film about Chubbykins coming to life and killing everyone. (laughs) We showed it to our grandparents. They never quite got it.

PopHorror: (laughs) Well, you can’t win them all. What would you say was your favorite part of production for All Through The House?

Ashley Mary Nunes: Filming the movie was very fun because all the action is right there, but it was the quickest part of the process. During pre-production, we spent a lot of time collecting stuff, which was exciting. Our house was decked out at Christmas time. Probably the most exciting moment was driving a big u-haul full of Christmas stuff to our primary set location.

Todd Nunes: I mean, there are three parts to making a film, so it’s hard to pick just one moment. Every point along the way has so many exciting and thrilling milestones. Just seeing it come together is an incredible experience!

Ashley Mary Nunes: And I have to say, the premiere was incredible. It was magical! We couldn’t have asked for a better premiere here in L.A.!

Stephen J. Readmond, Lito Velasco, Todd Nunes and Ashley Mary Nunes at RIP Horror Film Festival

PopHorror: I’m glad it went so well! Since the release of All Through the House, you have received 7 awards and 4 nominations. Did you have any idea that it would make such a mark in the indie world?

Todd Nunes: At the time, we just wanted to have fun and create something we believed in, but the thoughts of success didn’t really come until we really started putting the film out there. We were like, “Awards!?”

Ashley Mary Nunes: The start of it all was when we were accepted to our first film festival and received our first review!

Todd Nunes: And then around the holidays, we started realizing we were getting on people’s Christmas lists, and things got really exciting! It’s very exciting when we started seeing our film sitting in a list next to other films we admire. As exciting as it is, you always think that you can do better.

Ashley Mary Nunes: And you always want to do better.

PopHorror: Well, I for one, absolutely loved All Through the House. Are there any upcoming projects that either one of you would like to discuss?

Todd Nunes: Well, we have a BIG upcoming project called Death Ward 13, and we’re in the process right now of developing something, which I can’t really say much about. There’s a little bit of a delay with the project, but we have come across an amazing opportunity, and we’re getting our ducks in a row. It’s very exciting, and so much more complicated that what we did with All Through the House. Originally, it was going to be just that one film that we were developing, but early in the development process, something far greater happened.

Poster artwork for ‘Death Ward 13’

Ashley Mary Nunes: It’s going to be another exciting experience! As for me, I’m getting ready to film a horror movie in Kentucky with director Chase Dudley called Beasts of the Field. We met Chase at our premiere for All Through the House, and I’m very excited to work with him!

PopHorror: That all sounds incredibly exciting! Are there plans for you two to collaborate in the future like you did with All Through the House?

Todd Nunes: Oh yes, for sure. Ashley is going to be in Death Ward 13, and there will be projects in the future, I’m sure.

Ashley Mary Nunes: (laughs) I mean, If I’m not in it, I’m going to be part of it in some way.

Meeting these siblings and discussing a shared love of horror was both an honor and a pleasure. I admire their brother/sister relationship and the passion of horror that keeps them close. You can be sure that we will bring you more details on their upcoming projects when they are released right here on PopHorror!

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