Interview: Director Brian Conley Talks The Basement



Director Brian Conley discusses his Mischa Barton horror movie The Basement

One of the films to be premiering at Shriekfest in LA this year is Brian Conley and Nathan Ives’ anticipated gore fest The BasementStarring Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense), Cayleb Long and Tracie Thoms (Death Proof), The Basement chronicles a deranged serial killer given the moniker of ‘The Gemini,’ who tortures and slays his victims in the basement of his San Fernando Valley home. It is not until he chooses his next targets, musician Craig Owen (Long), and his girlfriend Kelly (Barton), that he is in for an extreme challenge resulting in what we have heard is one helluva plot twist.

We were lucky enough to get to sit down with the film’s co-director Brian Conley to ask some questions about the Gemini killer and his twisted world. This is your first foray into horror. Are you a fan of the genre?

Brian Conley: Yes. Very much so. With Halloween and The Thing, John Carpenter played a big role in my formative years and I’ve been a horror geek ever since.

CS: You co-directed with Nathan Ives. How does that dynamic work on set?

Conley: In the fall of 2015, Nathan and I decided to write a horror movie together, and The Basement is the result of that. While co-writing and, especially, co-directing can obviously be fraught with problems, the dynamic between Nathan and I worked great from the first day we started working on the script together to the last day of post production. I think the reason for that is that our writing and our personalities complement each other. Also, we both checked our egos at the door and were willing to be honest and accept honesty from each other. The main thing for us was just to make a good movie, and we are both very satisfied and pleased with the result.

CS: The serial killer is given the name of Gemini. Can you divulge why he got that title? What is his trademark?

Conley:  “Gemini” is the third astrological sign of the Zodiac known as “the twins.” The Gemini Killer has the Gemini symbol tattooed on his forearm and part of his MO is that he carves the Gemini sign into his victim’s’ heads immediately before decapitating them with a blowtorch. I really can’t give any more away than that, but, suffice it to say, everything comes to a head, pun intended, at the end of the movie.

CS: In the trailer, GeminiI looks like a clown and speaks with biblical wording. This is an interesting combination. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Conley: The Gemini Killer is not only multi-dimensional, he’s multi-talented and quite entertaining. When the film opens, we discover that he’s killed seven people to date (that the police know of), but, for reasons I can’t go into without giving away too much, he’s somewhat conflicted about his latest victim, who he has abducted and imprisoned, but has not yet killed. Thus, our killer decides that he’s going to put himself on trial for his transgressions, which results in the transference of himself into the role of prisoner. Of course, the real victim is completely baffled at first by the fact that the killer keeps inhabiting a milieu of characters (many of whom are actually his previous victims), but once he figures out what’s going on, a very intriguing battle of wits ensues, which, obviously, has grave implications for the loser.

CS: How did you go about finding an actor who could embody such a psychopath?

Conley: We auditioned hundreds of actors over a period of months for both the role of the killer (Jackson Davis) and the role of his main victim (Cayleb Long). While it’s right to characterize the role of the Gemini Killer, who is the personification of mayhem and chaos, as extremely challenging, it was equally important for us to find an actor who could anchor the film. We found Jackson first, then set out to find his equal, and it wasn’t easy. While suspense, gore and sheer terror abound in The Basement, at its core this movie is very much character driven. Both Nathan and I knew we had to find two terrific actors who shared great chemistry to pull it off. Thankfully, we found our guys.

CS: The film is called The Basement. I’m assuming a lot of the film is set in a basement. Was shooting something in a single location attractive to you in terms of budget?

Conley: The short answer is yes. This is a low-budget indie horror film, but it doesn’t look or feel that way. Whether we spent $250,000 or $250 million making this movie, it wouldn’t have made a noticeable difference to how it looks or feels. Also, I was always a fan of the 1972 film, Sleuth, starring Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine, which, like The Basement, pits two great actors against each other in a life or death battle of wits. While very original, there are elements of ‘The Basement’ that owe a lot and pay tribute to great horror movies and psychological thrillers of the past. Sleuth, Se7en and Silence of the Lambs to name just three.

CS: Sounds like the film has a lot of killings. How hard was it to come up with inventive ways for victims to be killed. Is this something you and Nathan brainstormed together?

Conley: Actually, the Gemini Killer always kills his victims in the same manner. He cuts their heads off with a blowtorch. However, he does torture and maim them in different ways and it was frankly a lot of fun for Nathan and I to think up original and disgusting things to do to the folks who were unlucky enough to find their way into ‘The Basement.

The world premiere of The Basement will be held at Shriekfest this Saturday October 7th at Raleigh Studios, Hollywood. Tickets can be purchased here.