PopHorror Interviews Union Furnace Director, Nicholas Bushman

Nicholas Bushman’s Union Furnace (read our review here) is an intense and unique take on a stale genre. When I found out that I had the opportunity to interview him, I couldn’t wait. This was one of the better films I’ve seen all year, and one of the first flicks in awhile to really get my heart pounding. I don’t really find myself being afraid when I watch horror films anymore, but I do notice when my heart starts to pound. That’s become my sign of a good horror film. Union Furnace is one of those good films. Check out what Nicholas Bushman had to say about the film below. 

PopHorror: Hi, Nick! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

Nicholas Bushman: Of course. Thanks for having me.

PopHorror: Great. First off, could you give us a description of what Union Furnace is about?

Nicholas Bushman: Yep. So Union Furnace is basically a white trash giallo. That was the hope, at least. It’s like a southern Ohio, southern-fried version of an Argento film from the ’70s. It’s about a car thief, Cody Roy McCloud, from Union Furnace, Ohio. He’s at the end of his rope and gets himself involved in a series of life and death games. That’s my 25 words or less description (laughs).

Behind the scenes of ‘Union Furnace’

PopHorror: So you actually answered this already, but I’m going to ask anyway. Where did the Union Furnace title come from?

Nicholas Bushman: The town the film takes place in is called Union Furnace. There’s a really quick shot in the beginning of the sign leading into the town.

PopHorror: Oh, okay. I definitely missed that! What inspired Union Furnace? It’s very different from the standard battle royale type of film.

Nicholas Bushman: I first had the idea while finishing up another film, Sandbar. I wanted to come up with something that I could do right away, and something that could be done cheap. You know, the series of underground games kind of worked on multiple levels. It was a practical, low-budget film. Pretty much one location, while still being very visual. From a structural standpoint, each game could almost be seen like a completely different movie.

PopHorror: That’s interesting. You used board games as one of the games they had to do. That was really surprising.

Nicholas Bushman: Yeah! “Whoops!” was the game (laughs). We wanted each game to be surprisingly different from the last. We’d do something like musical chairs, and then we’d do something horrific next. We wanted the stakes to get increasingly higher. I didn’t want Union Furnace to just be the standard battle to the death. Like I said earlier, I wanted each game to feel like a completely different movie. It’s life or death stakes, but you don’t know what the hell is coming next.

Mike Dwyer and Cody Roy McCloud

PopHorror: One of the things I noticed was that there really wasn’t a true villain in the film. No one was forced to be there, either.

Nicholas Bushman: Desperate people to desperate things, basically. Like you said, no one had to be there. I wanted to come from the most realistic perspective as possible. Things aren’t so black and white in real life; they’re way more complicated. There aren’t always just good guys and bad guys.

PopHorror: I guess, technically, Seth Hammond’s character, Lion, was the villain of the film. Him or, near the end of the film, you see the man in the top and he forces the final two to play the final game.

Nicholas Bushman: Yeah, Seth did a really great job playing Lion. We really wanted to avoid the standard film cliches. Cody, Mike Dwyer’s character, isn’t the most likable at all, and he’s the main character.

PopHorror: Lion almost reminded me of one of those old game show hosts. He was incredibly likable and charming.

Nicholas Bushman: (laughs) He’s basically Richard Dawson!

Seth Hammond as Lion

PopHorror: Yes, he was! That’s accurate. I wanted to touch on some of the other characters quickly. Jim from Kentucky. Holy shit, he was annoying.

Nicholas Bushman: Oh man, he was so annoying! I’ll have to tell Lyle (actor who played Jim) about this. That’s a sign that he did a good job. He was supposed to be annoying. You look at the scene in the green room. Everyone’s just standing around, trying to keep to themselves, and Jim from Kentucky is just talking up a storm. Then the next game, it’s dead silent and whoever talks first loses. Of course he’s the first one to speak.

PopHorror: I also wanted to talk about Keith Davis. When I was watching the movie, I saw him and I knew I recognized him. The voice sounded so familiar. Then I went on IMDB and saw that he was in my all time favorite film, Requiem For A Dream, and I instantly could picture his role in that. He did a really great job in Union Furnace.

Nicholas Bushman: Yes! He is so great to work with. You know, Requiem For A DreamThe Thing, etc. He’s just amazing. It was really just an honor to work with him. 

PopHorror: Awesome. Was there anything else you’d like to talk about?

Nicholas Bushman: I’m just really excited for everyone to see the movie and see how hard we worked on everything.

PopHorror: Thanks a lot for your time, Nick!

Be sure to check out our review of Union Furnace here, and be sure to pick up Union Furnace on DVD and Blu-ray August 15th!

About Matt Stumpf

My name's Matt, and I love all things horror. Books, movies, video games; you name it, I like it. Martyrs is my favorite horror film, and everyone should watch it. I also have a soft-spot for those cheesy 80's slashers. I'm still slightly convinced that Faces of Death is real.

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