Filmmaker Craig Efros on his new film “Hollows Grove”





Craig has always been a student of Television, Film, Theater and horror, first as a young kid hiding in the shadows sneaking peaks at horror films his parents were watching, then to making his own short films as a child, through to studying film in college. After majoring in Film Studies at U.C.S.B., Craig started working in Post Production. For over a decade, Craig worked in production on various film and television shows while planning his own projects and writing scripts.

Craig started making short films at a young age. A recent short film of his was exhibited at festivals. As a child, Craig was so enthralled by directors, make-up artists and creature creations, he had a subscription to Fangoria Magazine. This fascination with film and horror has led to his directorial debut: “Hollows Grove.”


I have been a fan of horror films for as long as I can remember. My love for this genre began at a young age. Forbidden by my parents to watch scary movies they would sometimes play at night, I would creep out of my bedroom, hide behind their couch and catch thrilling sneak peeks of the gruesome films that played on their small tube TV.

Horror turned into an addiction for me, and I was enamored by the directors, actors and make-up artists who worked on these films. I got a subscription to Fangoria Magazine and would spend hours reading the articles and staring at the ghoulish pictures. I loved the films of the 80’s that provided a bit of camp, humor and scares all rolled into one lasting impression. These images would be etched into my brain like nightmares brought to life.

As time progressed, I was drawn into films that gave me chills while haunting the deeper parts of the imagination, films like: David Cronenberg’s “The Brood”, ”The Changeling” with George C. Scott, and Guillermo Del Toro’s” The Devil’s Backbone.” It was not the shock value, but the uneasiness left by viewing these movies that would stay with me for days on end.

Horror evolved into the “found footage” genre of the late 90’s through to the present. Films like: “The Blair Witch Project”,” Rec”, and “Paranormal Activity”, really made found footage a true landscape which engulfed the audience in terror in a much more intimate setting. That intimacy was what drew me to these movies.

The camp and humor I liked from the 80’s, along with the chills from the later films I grew to love, and the use of found footage, was a unique combination and gave me the impetus to make “Hollows Grove.”


What inspired “Hollows Grove”?


When I was younger, I watched the ”Miracle Worker” with Anne Bancroft. There were scenes that stood out to me. For example, there was the time when Anne Bancroft’s character, Annie Sullivan, recounted when Annie and her brother were placed in the Tewksbury Almshouse. The flashbacks of the Almshouse, shot grainy and blurry, would sometimes overlap Annie’s face while her description of the horrors that happened to her and her brother, stayed with me. I would envision their plight, culminating in the sad death of her brother. Since then, the thought of being left as a child in the care of people who were apathetic or who surrounded troubled youth with other derelicts in unsafe conditions, has given me feelings of dread. I imagined what the ghosts of these children would be like; those that were tortured or not cared for by others. In life these children would be unable to defend themselves or speak up…but in death, in death they could finally take out their long gestating rage, even if it is misplaced.

I always find myself a skeptic when watching “Reality Ghost Shows.” It is not because I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but because I see these “ghost hunters” reacting almost comically to what they can’t see by using: quick cuts, slow replays and faint sounds to get the audience to believe, that what they are seeing is real. This is modern day “smoke and mirrors” done with camera tricks and editing. Many times it feels as though the Hunters themselves don’t really believe in what they’re doing. This has always interested me and I wanted to know what the “behind the scenes” were like. Was it all a put on? If so, did they feel any remorse for lying? What would happen to these Paranormal Detectives if they really discovered the Ghosts they always claim to be seeking?


These thoughts are what inspired me to write “Hollows Grove” and delve deeper into these questions.


How did you come up with the cast?


It was important to find a cast that could deliver the subtleties of on screen “Reality Show” actors, while at the same time portraying behind the scenes co-workers; with some having been longtime friends. This was made more challenging in that many of these scenes had extremely long takes.

We knew we needed someone special for Bill. Our Casting Director, Jami Rudofsky, had gone through lists of names and people. When we thought about Lance Henriksen (Near Dark, Aliens), it was a perfect fit. For me, it was a dream come true to work with such a strong, talented and seasoned Horror Icon. I had watched Lance’s films as a kid and I was always mesmerized by his deep voice and that magnetic stare. We were privileged to have those attributes in ”Hollows Grove.”

For the bookends of the film, I wanted someone who could convey the part of the FBI Agent with sincerity. The sincerity itself lends camp to the opening and closing, while still establishing how the footage was found. That sincerity was delivered by Mykelti Wiliamson (“Heat,” “Forrest Gump”.)

The first time I talked to Matt Doherty (“So I Married an Axe Murderer,” “The Mighty Ducks”) on the phone, we connected immediately. Matt has been doing film and theater his whole life and it shows. Matt was able to get into the role of the fearless leader Tim without restraint, and Matt’s insight into the rationale for the characters and relationships helped build believable situations.

Sunkrish Bala (“The Walking Dead”) as Roger, brought a lightness and energy to the set and could play both ends of the emotional spectrum well. He balanced comedic delivery with frenzied reactions to the evils that emerged. Sunkrish was always a pleasure to have around and was willing to do anything that the role demanded.

Bresha Webb, (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “ER”) was perfect as Julie. She needed to be one of the guys, but also show the ability to assert herself; while still keeping her grace, which she accomplished wholeheartedly. Bresha understood what was needed of the character and became totally involved, even when the result was, “possession.”

I have known Val Morrision for a long time. I knew that he was natural and comfortable at acting and had looks to match. He just needed a stage and a character to show it, and as Chad he shines.

Matt Carey, (“Sound Of My Voice,” Old School”) played his part well as Harold, an affable character on the sidelines, who is along for the ride, but blatantly shows his emotion behind the camera.


How did you find the location?


We shot “Hollows Grove” at the infamous Linda Vista Hospital near Downtown Los Angeles. Linda Vista was built in 1904, and was closed as a working Hospital in 1991.

Initially, when Sid, the DP saw my script, the first location that came to his mind was Linda Vista. I guess it was fate.

I had worked on many shows, but had never actually shot there. Linda Vista has been used for many films and TV shows including actual Ghost Reality Shows.

The moment I saw the hallways for Linda Vista, I knew that was it. The rounded ceilings with period lights, the large width and the depth of the hallways, gave me goose bumps. This was to be our production home. Linda Vista has a long history of hauntings. The crew itself was wary of the building and many would not venture off alone into its darker areas. We were told that the building was not occupied by anyone other than our crew. Some of the crew seemed to experience strange occurrences. A crew member said that while standing alone in a stairwell, a piece of wood fell from out of nowhere, missing his head by inches. Another crew member said that he had ventured off to an upper floor where a man appeared from out of nowhere, a man he had never seen before or after, asked him why he was up there and then disappeared.


How did you come up with the look of the film?


It was important to get a crew that understood the concept and the amount of hard work that would go into each scene. I had worked with Sid Sidell (“Lie to Me”, “Legends”) before, and I knew he was talented and grasped what the script was aiming for. Since we had very long takes where anything from animals and special f/x would happen in tandem, I needed someone who would know how to catch the action, and that was Sid. Early on in the process I discussed with Sid the idea that the main documentary camera should have a wide angle. Referencing what we both loved about the way the hallways in “The Shining” were shot, Sid agreed. Viewing the hallways in wide angle, always gives more tension to the scenes, causing the audience to fear that anything could be lying outside of the periphery.

Comics have always influenced me. Those particularly, by EC Comics both Horror and Sci-Fi, and the stark contrast that some of the panels provided by artists such as: Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, and Harvey Kurtzman, played heavily into our use of lighting. We had to orchestrate many of the lights in the building to go on and off, and give the appearance that the building itself was wearing down. It was Chris Strong, (“Zodiac,” Seven,”) our Gaffer, who could make the lights play as we wanted and give the ghosts light and dark through which to play.

Lastly, for the film, I wanted to bring the audience into Harold’s camera viewpoint. In the beginning scenes of the film, Harold and his camera are documentary outsiders, and the audience is peering at a distance. As Harold gets more comfortable with the crew, he and his camera move in closer to the action. Eventually, given the chance to take over the position of show cameraman, Harold moves even closer to the action, until he becomes part of it.


What about the sound?


Sound was the key element of “Hollows Grove” as it is in most Horror Films. It was imperative to ”Hollows Grove” because there is no actual musical score to the film. During filming, I stressed how “Hollows Grove” itself was alive, and the way we would convey this, was through the sound. The “Hollows Grove” soundtrack is composed of groans, rattling and effects that the Orphanage itself provides. I made sure the actors knew when and what they were listening to, as there were a lot of sound references in the script. Sam Bauer, our editor, was instrumental in helping lay out the initial sound design. Sam understood what I was aiming for from the beginning and many of Sam’s temporary sound effects made it into the final mix.


And the visual effects?


We were lucky enough to get Mechnology to sign on to do our visual effects which were overseen by Stephen Lebed. I’m a fan of practical effects, and I was hoping to use as little visual effects as possible, and we were able to accomplish that to a large degree. Where needed, Stephen and his team helped take what we had and enhance the visuals tenfold. Their work was so great, that much of what they did is effective, but actually, unseen.


What was the inspiration for the music?


Like the score itself we had almost no music. It was important for me to try and be as real with the constraints of the documentary as possible; therefore most of the music fits into spaces where they could actually be in a real situation.

The main song that was important was the children’s song. Sam Bauer, our editor and talented musician accompanied by Gillian Efros (my sister) a graduate of UCLA ethnomusicology and a Jazz singer, worked together to create the ominous children’s song at the end of the film. It serves to tell a story and create an ominous and foreboding mood.

We were also lucky to have the music o Awaken the Empire,which was formed in 2009 by Damien Lawson. With somber yet forceful rock music they finish the film in a powerful manner with their song “Savior”.