Dream House

2007, DV (1.78:1), Horror/drama, color, 14 minutes.

Caite Noyes (Jessica), Kevin James (Gary), David Luce (The Beast), Lindsay Garrallo (Nicky the Apparition), Craig Shannon (Frank), Tom Hinchey (Ted), Ryan Murphy (William), Deirdre Yee (voice of Jessica).

Producer/Director/Writer/Cinematographer/Editor/Art Director/Special Effects/Sound: J.L. Carrozza, Producer: Kalle Ruonala, Music: Sergio Pena, Assistant Director: Ryan Murphy, Makeup (Ghost): Lindsay Garrallo.

    After Little Red Riding Hood, I experimented with a bunch of different ideas and made a Kevin Smithey film I am now rather ashamed of called What the Fuck Did You Just Show Us, before settling on Dream House. The idea was my own this time, I started with the idea of newlyweds moving into a haunted house inspired by Chu Yuan's segment in the obscure Shaw Brothers horror anthology Haunted Tales and expanded upon the idea from there. The original script was only about 15 pages long but I told myself that I wanted a "bigger film than Little Red Riding Hood". It was finally lensed starting in June of 2007 with friend Ryan Murphy's collaboration. This was shot pretty much concurrently with No Place Like Home, his Wizard of Oz spoof which stars myself as the Cowardly Lion, depicted as a fur coat wearing samurai warrior who speaks in a badly dubbed voice. We would devote some weeks, weekends and days to Dream House and some to No Place Like Home. Not only that, but actor and collaborator Kevin James was making his film Hip, Hop Cherry Pop around that time too (in which Ryan also starred and I cameo), so really we were making three films all at once. Shuffling between film set to film set was at times hectic but always fun and kept my mind off the heinous job I was working in the mornings.


    Visually, for this film, I went away from the martial arts and splatter comedy aesthetic of Little Red Riding Hood and more toward the horror genre in general. Mario Bava was a big influence on this film, as was Dario Argento's mid career stuff and American filmmakers like John Carpenter and Brian DePalma (I watched Body Double several times while making this film).  I also was very inspired by Asian films as well, the character of Nicky, the tormented ghost who gets her ultimate vengeance upon Dave Luce's Rapist, was heavily influenced by legendary Japanese ghosts, yurei, in terms of her look and feel. There's a Japanese ghost story called Yotsuya Kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya) that has been filmed numerous times but probably made the best, at least as a pure horror work, by filmmaker Nobuo Nakagawa in 1959. The ghost in that film and story is called Oiwa and in it she gets sweet revenge from beyond the grave on her treacherous husband for poisoning her. Nicky was very much influenced by Oiwa (played by Kazuko Wakasugi in the Nakagawa Shintoho version) as well as the majestic Yuki Onna character in Masaki Kobayashi's sumptuous Kwaidan. I also lensed most of this film wide-angle, to impart a feeling of disconcertion. In retrospect, I wish I had used longer lenses for some dialogue scenes, but shooting Dream House on a higher end Canon GL2 taught me a thing or two about cinematography.


    As far as the themes went, it was a nudge more political than Little Red Riding Hood. I was going for something like Sam Mendes' recent Revolutionary Road with ghosts and tried to make this more obvious in the new cut. Though I don't think the actors totally understood this, Jessica is much more astute than her husband who has misguided faith in his masculine prowess. In the end, despite his posturing, he fails miserably in protecting her. The feminist themes I started to use in Little Red Riding Hood  are taken to a higher level here. I also inserted some jabs at the moral decay of small town America (a theme that will be taken to its zenith in Alison in Wonderland) which I also made a bit clearer in the more concise 2009 cut.


    The shoot didn't flow as smoothly as Little Red Riding Hood''s did. I was kind of stressed out, some of the actors involved didn't really want to be making this film and much of the film was shot at night, which equaled that we all had less energy. I was also developing a bitter, arrogant streak at the time and was getting disenchanted with many situations in my life which I think adversely bled into my work. The original cut of the film ran a meandering 26 minutes and was rather sloppily edited and self indulgent. As a result, the film's was not as well received and I was rather crushed by this. I began work on my aborted Alice in Wonderland project, all the while making a handful of YouTube videos with Ryan while I began going to at a college I found myself growing rather miserable at.  In retrospect, I am not very happy with the quality of the majority of the YouTube-aimed productions I made, Unborn and aspects of The Magic Forest aside. The Magic Forest is a film with David Luce as a sleazy, psychotic clown who narrates a story about cute little puppets meeting tragedy in the woods.


    I also, not a week or two after my failed first go at Alice in Wonderland, got to meet Chinese director T.F. Mou (Men Behind the Sun).  I made a documentary out of it called Conversations with T.F Mou but it didn't work out thanks to sound problems. Later, in early 2009, along with Little Red Riding Hood, I recut and redid Dream House, cutting it almost in half to 14 minutes and remixing the sound in a much more intricate way. I utilized low frequency ambient sound ala Toru Takemitsu's scores and David Lynch's films to give the Nicky scenes a much more "otherworldly" vibe and redubbed some of the performances. In the years since however I've grown very cold on this film. Not even trying to salvage it be recutting it could save it, honestly. It was a good learning experience, at least, but it is by far my least favorite major project I've ever made.

Copyright Gen-Y Films, 2007-09.