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An Interview with Stellan Kendrick, Director of Goodnight, Gracie

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2017

Films directed by Stellan Kendrick on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Goodnight, Gracie - in a few words, what is it about?


Goodnight, Gracie follows a young child who loves Jesus with all her heart. When she hears noises downstairs, she thinks itís her mom and stepdad fighting again, but it turns out to be her stepdad murdering her mom. Rather than run away or fight back, the girl decides to pray and ask God to save her.


With Goodnight, Gracie being a horror movie, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites in relation to your movie?


Horror definitely holds a special place in my heart. Growing up at Comic-Con, I was exposed to a lot of incredible genre movies as a kid. One of my all-time favorites is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Itís so funny, but treats the horror seriously and uses the humor to make it even more terrifying. There are so many horror movies I love. Especially Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here], John Carpenter, Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here], and Tobe Hooper.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Goodnight, Gracie?


As far as shorts go, I was really inspired by the bite-sized effectiveness of Mama, Lights Out, and Night Swim. Guillermo del Toroís short Geometria also helped with the domestic, demonic, and brutal elements of the short.

Features that provided us with a rich tapestry to draw from include the main ďpossessed parentĒ films like Amityville Horror, Poltergeist (1 and 2), The Conjuring, and  The Shining. Other possession/ghost movies that I showed to the crew include The Legend of Hellhouse, The Entity, and The Exorcist.

Thereís an EC Comic, Vault of Horror #35, that I drew some themes from.

I also wanted to bring real Christian culture to the film since I was raised so deep in that world. To help the crew get into Gracieís headspace, I showed them Christian kid movies from the early nineties that Gracie would watch such as Bibleman and Veggie Tales. These videos have a great theme and message to them, but the innocence of a childís mind can take them to a dangerous extreme.


What can you tell us about Goodnight, Gracie's approach to horror?


My approach to horror has two huge philosophies that dictate how to pull off a good scare.

First of all, I believe that there are two types of scares: spectacle and suspense.

Spectacle scares rely on showing the audiences something outlandish, gross, or incredible. When the Naziís face melts in Raiders of the Lost Ark, thatís a spectacle scare. Same with the sheep guts scene in Day of the Dead. Or any scene in Blood Feast. Itís basically gore porn.

Suspense scares really depend on story and presentation. I hold Hitchcockís ďbomb under the tableĒ anecdote as scripture. Itís a lot more interesting if the audience knows more than the characters. And the suspense needs to be structured like a joke. Horror and comedy are two sides of the same coin with setup and punchline. Thatís why movies like Shaun of the Dead work so well.

Anyway, I used these two philosophies in Goodnight, Gracie. The whole scene functions as a sick horror version of a joke. Itís a setup to make the punchline pack its punch. The spectacle scare comes in with the gory shots of Mom. The first moments of the end credits are also a spectacle in a way.


Goodnight, Gracie does have its gory moment to it - so do talk about this scene for a bit, and how was it achieved?


The gory moment is the spectacle scare showcase of the short. Itís just brief enough to shock you, but not long enough to be pornographic. We had an awesome makeup artist, Allie Shehorn, who was able to achieve the effect through latex and animal parts. If you want great gore, itís got to be real animal parts. We also had the actress in a green sock and the VFX guys at Aureate Films painted out the leg and added a gory nub in post.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


I wanted to make a film that Iíd want to see, so I took all my favorite horror tropes and distilled them into a four-minute scene. "Clichť" is just a pejorative way of saying "trope". When earned and used well, tropes are one of the most foundational and effective tools of visual communication. Everyone knows what a trope signifies, but youíve got to subvert the trope or earn it.


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly those people?


We were lucky to have an incredible cast. I actually wrote the part of the killer with Courtney Gains in mind. I was a big fan of Children of the Corn and Hardbodies. Not only does Courtney have a rich career that spans horror and comedy, but he can pull off scary characters that wink at the audience without being over the top. I also think his character in this film is thematically similar to some characters from his early work.

Caige Coulter, who plays Gracie, is a precocious actor with a bright future ahead. We auditioned about thirty girls for Gracie. As soon as Caige finished her audition, we were all in tears and the producers and I knew we had our girl.


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


I strive to create a comfortable and cheery set. As the director, youíre just a glorified cheerleader. The directorís job is to give everyone the confidence to do their job well, especially the actors. And to get everyone in the right headspace, I recruited a priest to come bless and exorcise any spirits from the set on the first day of shooting. I wanted everyone, especially the actors, to feel that these forces real.


The $64-question of course, where can Goodnight, Gracie be seen?


At your local film festival! Weíve been lucky enough to get selected for nearly a dozen film festivals across the globe so far, and thatís just this month! In October weíll be premiering at the #1 genre festival on earth in Sitges, Spain. Then we screen in New York, Telluride, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, Knoxville, San Antonio, and more. I hope to see you there!

Weíre also going to release it online sometime next year once weíve played at the festivals!


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Goodnight, Gracie?


So far, the audience has been incredibly responsive to the short. I made it for them, so thatís the most gratifying aspect. The critics have also been overwhelmingly positive. Itís been a real blessing to be featured in so many great outlets with positive things to say about our film. It was also an honor to receive a review from (re)Search my Trash.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


The producers have a slate of horror weíre developing. I just finished the first draft of a new feature script in a similar genre and tone to Goodnight, Gracie. Itís a different story, and *knock on wood* itís what Iíd like to make next.


What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


I wanted to make movies from the day I was born. It's just always been something I lived and breathed. I went to UCLA where I majored in history and minored in film. The film minor was great for learning the business aspects of film, but all of the on set experience I received was from working on my friendsí films. Iíve also been working as a literary manager for about five years, so that has allowed me to learn from many of the great filmmakers working today.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Goodnight, Gracie?


I love to write and make movies. I wrote my first ďscreenplayĒ at age 12 and roped my brothers into acting. I made a thesis project in high school that was such biting satire that they changed the schoolís curriculum to avoid projects like that. I made a couple of films in college. About two years ago, I started earnestly making films. Iíve done a professional music video, and another short, String!, that played at a few festivals.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I just REALLY care about my movies. I like to err on the side of too f***ing meticulous. I like to get people excited. I like to show up with a good script and a good smile.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Roman Polanski really inspires me. I love how he takes B movies and turns them into art. Movies like Chinatown and Rosemaryís Baby are one step away Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here] and William Castle. I also love Roger Corman, John Waters, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Richard Matheson, Mark Robson, Fritz Lang, and so, so many more!


Your favourite movies?


I hesitate to name favorite movies, but some movies that I watch over and over again include: Wizard of Oz, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Willy Wonka, Invasion of the Bee Girls, Chinatown, Star Wars, Halloween, Masque of the Red Death, Sunset Boulevard, Poltergeist, Fright Night, The Haunting, Reservoir Dogs, and the ultimate in true cinema, Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm.


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


I know it is sacrilegious to say this, but I really dislike Fight Club and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think Fight Club is hokey and wannabe artsy. It tries too hard and the twist is just ok. Iíve tried to watch 2001 so many times including in a theater, but I think itís a total snoozefest. I always fall asleep thirty minutes into it.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Thanks for interviewing me! This has been a lot of fun. I love (re)Search my Trash and itís an honor to be featured! Also want to thank Graham, Gloria, Evidence Productions, the cast & crew, and Patricia Chica [Patricia Chica interview - click here] for hooking us up!!!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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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
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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