Dennis Widmyer: It was something that I think was gestating for a while. Paramount has owned the rights to it since they made the first one. But you know it’s a scary movie, it’s a tough nut to crack. It deals with grief, the death of a child. It’s not IT, where it’s fun and kids on BMX bikes, and clowns, and the 80s. It’s a family that loses a kid, you know, so it’s a scary proposition you know. But our vision was, you know, this is a movie that younger generations are gonna enjoy because it’s scary and fun and has some supernatural aspects, but older parents also will get something out of it, they’ll get fulfilled, they’ll get the themes about death and communication and talking about these horrible things to put them out in the open you know. So for us, it’s always like, one for them and one for us. It was a studio film but it was also – guys like us that are independent filmmakers – we saw a lot of themes in this movie that we like to explore in our own independent movies. So we chased, we were really proud and happy that we got it, but it was definitely always something we wanted to make.
The Knockturnal: A lot of the great work came from the lovely child actress. What kind of direction did you give her between her regular self and her supernatural self, without giving anything away?
Kevin Kölsch: Well I mean, for our sake, I wish I could claim to have done more as a director, but she’s just amazing. Whatever scene it was – if it was a scene where she was good or she was evil – she would just go, “ok I’m evil Ellie.” And she’d go, “Can I just have minute?” And she’d go off and she’d stand in the corner, and then she’d go, “ok, I’m ready.” So I don’t if you get to talk to her today, but you could ask her what she was thinking about. And then she’d just be amazing. And everyone would be looking at her like, “wow that is so scary.” And then we’d yell cut and she’d be like, “is it ok if I go to the bathroom” or whatever, and she was just a regular kid again. So she’s just a natural, it’s amazing.
The Knockturnal: That’s so funny. A lot of the scary scenes have to do with real life vs. supernatural stuff, was that on purpose? Talk about some of those decisions.
Dennis Widmyer: I mean, yeah the real-life stuff for us is always scarier, you know, the truck accident and things like that, the conversations about death. Those are the things that are really like gut punches because they’re relatable. So when we focus on the more supernatural, hyper-real stuff, you can have fun and scare people, but it has to be rooted in something grounded. Unless you have that foundation that you’ve built with the characters, the emotion, the psychology, then those other scenes aren’t going to work. You’re going to have a very different film, a very thin film. So we were always fine with dabbing our toes in both sides of that, the more fun genre stuff and the more grounded drama stuff. But in a film like this, one can’t exist without the other.
The Knockturnal: With such a known franchise, did you binge everything first and then take it apart? How much did you take from other Pet Sematary’s and put into this?
Kevin Kölsch: I think it’s just trying to stay true to the essence. I mean we’ve both read the book, we’ve seen the movie numerous times, grew up with it, so it’s always there, you can’t forget it. So you just kind of pull your inspiration from it. But then when you go on set, and in prep, you kind of put the stuff on a shelf. And you go, ‘ok the framework is there, it’s in my head, but now I’ll go forward and I’ll make my own decisions.’ We’re making our own movie, you work with the actors, you decide what the characters should do, you work with the cinematographer, and you start to build your own movie. But that core essence is still in the back of your head. So we try to stay true to that, but also make it our own version of it because we love those originals and they’re still there.