Talking Creepy Woods with the Director of Indie Horror 'The Suffering’

“I really enjoy forcing the audience to go along with us…” Explains director Robert Hamilton.

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Apr 4 2016, 5:25pm

Henry wanders the woods. Still from The Suffering. Image courtesy of The Suffering Film LLC.

Who do you trust when you’re losing your mind? News hit last week that the indie horror film The Suffering has just been picked up for US and Canadian distribution by Breaking Glass. The movie, more a creeping mystery than a jump-scare shocker, follows main character Henry as he appraises the value of a huge secluded estate of the reclusive Mr. Remiel. The more Henry explores, the more he slowly devolves into madness as the world around him begins to crumble into terror. Starring Nick Apostolides, Phil Amico, and Elizabeth Deo, The Suffering won the audience award at the Skyway Film Festival and is set for a limited July 2016 release. The Creators Project spoke with director Robert Hamilton about creating a film around a great location, crafting mysteries, and playing with genre.

One of the most striking aspects of The Suffering is the collection of strange, old buildings that serve as the setting for this horror flick. “I had a really good location in Baltimore, Maryland,” says director Robert Hamilton, “it was an old farm that I’d had a connection with for a long time. I always thought ‘what a great setting for a film.’” Hamilton explains that much of the script he and his co-writer Marco V. Scola drafted came directly from the Baltimore farm. “We wrote a lot of screenplay there, I spent a lot of time in Baltimore and I walked the place as I was writing. I sent pictures back to Marco and we would write for the location.”

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Henry waits for his ride to the grounds. Still from The Suffering. Image courtesy of The Suffering Film LLC.

Not only does The Suffering’s set-based screenwriting infuse the buildings naturally into the story, it also helped ease the burden of the film’s low budget. “When you’re writing for an ultra-low budget,” says Hamilton, “you don’t have the time and money to bring in all the set decoration and art design. You have to find a place that really fits the tone you’re setting. And this place checked all the boxes. It was a beautiful location, and 97% of what you see in that film is within a 30-acre plot of property. We did very, very little set decoration. That was the site in many ways.”

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The Rail-Thin Man hides in an abandoned building. Still from The Suffering. Image courtesy of The Suffering Film LLC.

Hamilton says he was inspired by classic haunted house stories, “We set out to make a ‘70s era haunted house-esque film, but kind of turn that genre on its head a little bit.” Hamilton wanted to create, “something with the pacing of that era where the audience is required to be patient, but at the same time always keep them on their heels because this entire thing is a mystery.” Does Hamilton mean to mix genres? “I don’t know if we set out to genre-hop. Ultimately we set out to make a scary and very good mystery. I think my favorite movie of all time is probably Se7en. A movie where you’re always trying to find out the true motive.”

Hamilton knows how to tug the audience along, and that gleeful manipulation is clear in the work. “I really enjoy forcing the audience to go along with us,” says Hamilton. “But they have to do a little bit of work. We have to always have them saying ‘I wonder what’s going on here’ or ‘is it going to go in this direction?’”

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Mr. Remiel, the caretaker of the mysterious grounds, plays the organ. Still from The Suffering. Image courtesy of The Suffering Film LLC.

Expect The Suffering in theaters and On Demand in July 2016 via Breaking Glass. Click here for more information.

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