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An Interview with John Holt, Director of The Dooms Chapel Horror

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2014

Films directed by John Holt on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie The Dooms Chapel Horror - in a few words, what is it about?


Relationships, revenge & regret.


How did the project fall together in the first place? And since the movie is to some extent based on your short The Hunt, do talk about that one for a bit?


(A) Well a few years ago I wanted to experiment with the "found footage" genre. A genre I wasn't a huge fan of. Those films always feel stilted and kind of boring to watch just waiting for the scare to happen. And to that extent most of those films are ONLY about the jump scares. So I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and attempted a shortfilm titled The Hunt. It runs about about only 12 minutes and is true found footage in that it is long continueous takes with the editing only built in if the camera is turned off and on. So within those limits and not wanting to be boring waiting for things to happen we always had something going on within the frame constantly pushing the story along. It is a short little ride that happens in real time. And it felt successful to me because the audience learns information along with the main character and that it had a short running time.


(B) Producer Christopher Bower [Christopher Bower interview - click here] took off to AFM with the last few minutes of The Hunt and a couple distributers saw it and got excited/got us excited and we decided to turn this into a documentary/feature film. Jason Turner the writer went to work. Bj Clark started designing the FX. Barbie Clark our wadrobe mistress started gathering examples. Me and Bower devised a plan for execution. Then we gathered around us passionate talented people and just dived into it.


To what extent could you identify with your film's horror theme, and what can you tell us about your approach to the genre?


(A) I'm drawn to the dark things in life. I really don't know why. I'm just interested in exploring broken characters in bad situations. I love exploring decisions. You know what's down that dark road and you still take it. Why? If you would have just went the way you should have gone it would all be good. The main character is an outcast in way. In a town built on sports and farming he was the kid carrying a camera around. I was a monster kid. My bedroom walls plastered with horror posters out of Gorezone and Fangoria magazine. Model kits, latex masks, props and horror toys were my thing - still are. So being into all that, living in a small town built on sports and farming I felt very close to that aspect of the film.


(B) With this being my first horror feature I don't think I have a certain approach yet. With The Dooms Chapel Horror I let the story be my guide. What it called for is what I gave it.


What can you tell us about the film's overall look and feel?


It is a doumentary style film and is very natural looking. DREAD! It has a feel of dread all the way through. From the moment Kyle steps back into Kaler Mills you feel things are not right immediatley and just spiral out of control from there.


As far as I know, The Dooms Chapel Horror features some stop motion effects - now you just have to talk about those for a bit, and how were they achieved?


Lots of bourbon and late nights. It was something I've always been fascinated with. From O'Brien, Harryhausen to Tippet I've always loved stop motion effects. It's true movie magic. It's combining elements. Taking chances. Using all the tools in your toolbox. It's craft. That's what is special about it. I don't want to give too much away about how it was done. Again it's true movie magic to me.


What can you tell us about the movie's key cast, and why exactly these people?


Austin Madding was perfect for Kyle Cole. A stoic introverted young man with a tragic past. A character that has a quiet arc throughout the film. Austin had the qualities to bring that to realization in spades. We had such deep dicussions about his character. So much depended on his body language and his eyes. He had to have these feelings and thoughts coming through as second nature and he found it. 

Abby Murphy playing Mandy had to be vunerable yet strong. She didn't just act like a victim. She actually confronts Kyle to the situations that he gets her gets into. Abby was a young cast member and she had to find wisdom that comes with the experience that her character has to have. That's not easy.

Josh Roberston [Joshua Mark Robinson interview - click here] had to be pure evil. He kept the energy amped up to 10. He was amazing. We wanted the Henry charcter to be warm-funny. The kind of guy you would want to hang out with. It's amazing how Josh Cornelius brought Henry to life. He nailed exactly what was on that page. For the character of Tanner we needed an outsider from the country folk. Shaun being from LA was perfect. Allan Walters as Emmit Cole was beyond what I could have wished for. He's like this old gunslinger - Clint Eastwood. Slow and easy yet demanding of your respect. Wendy Keeling [Wendy Keeling interview - click here] as Katie Cole tries to keep everything "normal" or safe. So she is saying one thing but I wanted her eyes and body language to say the opposite. She doubled as assitant director as well as trying to find the character of Katie Cole again incredibly difficult but she brought it like a professional. Ryan Watson as Ryan Cole has a small important part on screen but his portayal is so strong it leaves an ever lasting mark through out the rest of the film. Bill Oberst Jr. [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] - what can I say? He was amazing. The concentration and questions he brought me about the character developed it so deeply. We speak of Jordan as myth and when he is revealed on screen for the first time you are just pulled in waiting to see what he does. Bill made that myth. You believe it.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was hard work. So many talented people gave their time to this production I can't even begin to give them the gratitude they deserve. It was powered by passion. Everybody on set was there to give their best and they did. We brought the sun up on several occasions and even our main character Austin Madding (Kyle Cole) was moving sandbags and equipment. Outside of the commitment there was a lot of laughter on the shoot. People had a blast doing it. They all had to chip on everything. Everyone was so involved that we built this comradity. At the beginning of the shoot I went in sort of knowing some of the people to being able to look them in they eye and know exactly what they are thinking by the time it was all over. It formed a family atmosphere.


What can you tell us about your movie's audience and critical reception so far, and any idea when it will be released onto the general public?


(A) People seem to be really enjoying it. The night of the premier when I was up in the projection booth pushing start on the movie I became incredibly nauseous. People were about to watch something we created. Then when they started responding in the right spots with the right reactions I sighed relief. What I hear the most is how they get wrapped up in the story. That is attributed to Jason Turner the screenwriter. He wrote an incredible script. Our goal when figuring it all out was this had to have focus. A character with something actually going on in his life. A story that kept you wondering what is going on and how will it resolve.


(B) Hoping for a 2015 release.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Well we have a couple things in the pipeline. I have werewolves, physchological horror and even a period piece on the mind.


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


(A) It's kind of my mothers fault. No it is her fault! She loved Halloween and horror movies. I plopped right in front of that TV when she would watch them. I fell in love with monster movies. Then those VCRs showed up. Went with my Mom to the video store. Rented a VCR, Ghostbusters & A Nightmare On Elm Street - my first VHS movies. Those kind of movies played in the backgrond as I played with my action figures. Setting up elaborate scenes. That was the seed for my future in filmmaking. Growing up in the 80s in a smalltown called Symsonia making movies was on Mars. It wasn't until much later in life when I got my hands on brother's Digital 8 camera which had 16x9 setting. When I saw that rectangle frame then visualizing masking off the screen to get a 2.35:1 frame - it kind of all fell into place. I knew what I wanted to do.


(B) And no formal education in filmmaking. Got the equipment - watched every special feature on filmmaking from the amazing advent that is the special edition DVD. Then I just started making shorts. I failed over and over and over. Kept learning from the mistakes I made. Just kept going and didn't give up. Went from Digital 8 cameras costing about $400.00 to working with $60,000 dollar cameras-crazy.


John and Christopher Bower

at the Dooms Chapel Horror-premiere

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Dooms Chapel Horror?


Attempted to make 2 feature films starting out. Thought I was gonna change the world. Had one unfinished feature Michael Mann/Walter Hill style and one 63 Min slasher flick - both horrible. Then I changed my sights and started from the beginning. Started making shorts. Affordable and take just the right amount of time to make. It was my filmschool. I would set up frames like John Carpneter and learn what the frame was telling the audience. Watching Spielberg for storytelling techniques. Why are they doing what they're doing? So I've done 20 or so shortfilms, a YouTube comedy series called The F.A.P., Comedy Central pilot pitch and couple music videos for The Dirt Daubers and The Legendary Shack Shakers. The Dooms Chapel Horror being the first "real" feature length movie.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


That's hard one. I really don't know.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


When it comes to the frame no one does it better than John Carpenter in the scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Detail and discipline Kubrick really comes to mind and John Cassavetes when honesty is needed from the actor. Storytelling technique itself is all Spielberg. Leanness and focus between movie and character Cronenberg is who I look to. And energy/fun in the film I think of Joe Dante. These 6 directors are usually on my mind when I approach anything.


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I love The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, Carpenter's The Thing, A Woman Under the Influence, Love Streams, The Shining, E.T., Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Killing, The Burbs, Gremlins, The Fly, Dead Ringers - geez, I could go on and on.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


You know after experiencing how hard it is to make a movie, it's impossible to knock any film. And honestly, I usually find something good in everything I watch - if not I'm losing the pleasure of movies.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD