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This article was published 18/6/2018 (1033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SELKIRK — On Friday night’s edition of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, guest actress Betty Gilpin could be seen delightfully plugging her work in the second season of the Netflix series GLOW. But in the midst of the interview, she mentioned in passing shooting a horror movie and staying in a hotel known to be haunted by ghosts.
Gilpin didn’t specifically mention the movie or the location of the hotel. But given that, earlier this month, she was staying at the allegedly haunted Fort Garry Hotel while shooting a horror movie in Winnipeg, it’s safe to say she was talking about The Grudge. The Sony film serves as an all new iteration of a horror franchise that began in Japan in 2002 with a film by director Takashi Shimizu released as Ju-on. The franchise went on to spawn a total of 12 different features, nine Japanese and three American.
The new version, a "re-imagining" in the words of executive producer Schuyler Weiss, has been shooting since early May under the direction of Nicolas Pesce, a 28-year-old filmmaker who has already garnered adulation for two independent horror features, The Eyes of My Mother and Piercing. The Grudge, also starring John Cho, Andrea Riseborough, William Sadler, Demian Bechir, Jacki Weaver, Lin Shaye and Frankie Faison, is scheduled to wrap this week in and around Winnipeg.
Last week, the shoot moved from Winnipeg to Selkirk to a location that was once a home for wayward boys. Now, the rambling facility on Breezy Point Road — formerly the St. John’s Cathedral Boys’ School — is more a home for wayward reality as characters come face-to-face with some grisly-looking spectres. The main building is dressed as a police station, where three increasingly panicked cops, played by Riseborough, Sadler and Bechir, are confronted with terrifyingly inexplicable visions.
The shoot came to Manitoba partly due to the province’s alluring tax incentives. But producer Weiss says the appeal went beyond money.
"Winnipeg and the rest of the province are very film-friendly, not just through incentives but also through more subtle ways," Weiss says. "You get great access to things. It’s a good place to make a movie, period.
"But then, specifically for this film, we wanted to have a very familiar but non-specific North American vibe," he says. "And it’s done that really well."
Director Pesce clarifies that Manitoba’s wide-open spaces are conducive to a certain kind of dread.
"The movie takes place in an unnamed town that could be any suburb of any city in America, and there’s that quality to Winnipeg," he says.
"We found the more run-down sections of suburbia that imbue it with a really interesting tone," he says. "There’s so much open space.
"I used to live in New York City and I never was afraid of ghosts because you could walk across the hall and there would be 400 people there," Pesce explains. "If you scream, maybe because it’s New York, no one will help you. But if you see a ghost, there’s a lot of people around.
"Whereas I grew up in the suburbs of New York and when you’re in somewhere that feels like the middle of nowhere, and something has happened and your mind is playing tricks on you, it’s far more terrifying to not have people around, to not have neighbours within close reach.
"And I think Winnipeg has very much given us an awesome kind of texture of suburbs that feels a little more spacious and a little more desolate... a little darker."
Given that most of the film’s action takes place at night, the shoot has had some challenges, according to director of photography Zachary Galler. "It’s been a challenge to figure out how to shoot a movie mostly at night that takes place during a Canada summer," Galler says, referring to June’s long days and short nights.
On the plus side, the film’s Vancouver-based special effects designer Toby Lindala says Winnipeg has the "small community" vibe he once enjoyed in his early days in the business.
"I cut my teeth on The X-Files when it started there, and did the first five years," says Lindala. "It was such a nice, small community, and it’s still a community, but it’s just gotten so big,
"It’s great to work in a kind of smaller pool where it feels like family. It reminds me of Vancouver in the earlier days," Lindala says.
"Great town, amazing crews, great talent here."
According to Sony Pictures’ release schedule, The Grudge will hit theatres Aug. 16, 2019.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.