Interview: Walter Boholst ('Voodoo Possession')

By: Heather Seebach

I recently got the opportunity to interview Walter Boholst, director of the new horror film, Voodoo Possession. In the movie, a news investigator and crew go to an insane asylum in Haiti searching for a missing doctor. At the hospital, the inmates and administrator Danny Trejo are being affected by a sinister voodoo spirit and an evil being known simply as The Tormentor. 

 Q: Zombie and possession films are all the rage but voodoo is a concept that hasn't been widely used in horror in many decades. What inspired you to make this one?
When you’ve had the dating life that I’ve had at some point you think, “I must be cursed.” No I’m kidding. I was working as an attorney at the distributor, Image Entertainment, when the producer of the film, Mark Burman, was delivering another movie to Image. We struck up a conversation and I told him I was a writer/director. He liked my zombie short film and script but thought the market was saturated with zombie films. This was around the time The Walking Dead was coming out. So he thought the same thing you did, no one’s done a voodoo movie in a long time.
Q: Did you have any preexisting interest in voodoo that inspired this film?
None at all. I mean, I sure would have liked to of stuck in pin in some of my mortal enemies but beyond my closet vengeance, not really. But the more I researched voodoo the more I found that it was incredibly fascinating. There are so many facets to it.

Q: How much research on voodoo went into writing this film?

I did a ton of research. For months. And by months I mean two. No actually it was an ongoing process over the course of several months but the bulk of it came in the first couple of months. First couple of weeks even. It was like cramming for a test. It had to be authentic. The last thing I wanted to do was be stereotypical and exploitative. So I had to ground the plot in real voodoo facts and lore.

A lot of the audience probably won’t even realize how layered the voodoo is in the film. They’ll see this story about a dysfunctional family and think there’s no voodoo but voodoo informs all of the characters and the things that happen to them.

Q: Where was the film shot, particularly the asylum? Did you get a opportunity to visit Haiti?
We shot in 2 places: The Escarpment south of downtown L.A. that is an indie-friendly studio and the legendary Linda Vista Hospital in Boyle Heights. Many films have shot there and it’s supposedly haunted. We shot a lot of the smaller room scenes in the Escarpment and the long asylum hallways and the boiler room scenes at Linda Vista.

We would have loved to of gone to Haiti but the budget just didn’t allow for it. People probably see the film and think it’s a bigger production because the DP, Matthias Schubert, did such a great job filming the movie. But it was a very big movie on a very small budget. Budget dictated everything and it was actually a must bigger, more action packed, fast-paced movie but we had to cut a lot of it, particularly the first half, just to finish the movie. It kills me but that’s low-budget indie filmmaking.
Q: How did Danny Trejo get involved with the film? Did you have him in mind when you wrote the hospital administrator role?
Danny had worked with the producer, Mark Burman, before. The distributor needed a celebrity to help promote the movie and we made the connection. No, the role was written quite broadly so we could cast the celebrity in that role. But Danny took to it and gave it his own flare. Again, I did have a great scene where Danny’s character went psycho and had a knock down drag out fight with the main character, Aiden, but we had to cut that due to budget. But there’s always a chance for a sequel!

 Q: How was the Tormentor created? Was it important to you to use practical FX?
Luckily one of the producers on this show is Barney Burman, Oscar winning make-up FX guru for Star Trek. He came up with the design of the creature. Since part of the plot involves, let’s say people in plastic bags, he came up with the concept of a creature created from plastic trash bags. And it had to be scary and yet mobile enough to fight.

Yes, it was important to use practical FX because our CGI budget was a whopping zero dollars and zero cents. I told you this was low budget, haha. We really were blessed with our puppeteer, Frank Langley, who created the Tormentor and puppeteered it. That guy has got to be an MVP because he was sweating buckets maneuvering that thing around in a tight hot space. Ian Von Cromer put the finishing touches on as the on-set make-up FX department head. I’m really proud of them. It was a big way to end the biggest little movie around.

 You can rent or buy a copy of Voodoo Possession using this link: Voodoo Possession

Or buy the DVD here!

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