The feature debut of writer-director Peter Hurd, THE CONTROL GROUP features Academy Award Nominee Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Curse of Chucky ) as a mad scientist working out of a locked-down insane asylum that harbors teenagers, who they plan to experiment on.
We spoke to Hurd, who shot the film straight out of college, about his interest in asylums, working with the man behind ‘Chucky’, and how the film might have differed if a major studio had made it.
LeglessCorpse: Good job on your film! What initially appealed to you about the project?
PETER HURD: Thank you! The first thing that appealed to me was the location: the State Mental Hospital in Fergus Falls, MN. It’s an enormous, gothic 19th-century hospital that looks more like a castle and was at one time one of the largest public buildings in America. When I frst saw it, the city was advertising the building as a filming location. I knew I had to shoot there so I started developing a script that would match the location.
LC: Is there anything in it you can personally relate to?
PH: Well, I was once kidnapped and taken to an abandoned insane asylum for illegal experiments, but other than that…
LC: How was Brad Dourif to work with?
PH: He was great! Part of me thought he would be difficult to work with since he’s used to working on bigger projects, but he couldn’t have been nicer. He was very enthusiastic about the story and the project as a whole. He constantly suggested improvements to dialogue and blocking and made the entire film better.
PH: Lots and lots of auditions.
LC: How different a movie do you think this would’ve been had you not gone the indie route?
PH: I don’t think this film could have existed outside the indie world. The major studios are just starting to do horror again after a decade of mostly ignoring the genre, but most mainstream horror films fall into a very rigid subgenre of supernatural horror. I wanted to do a film that paid tribute to the gory, nasty, stylish horror films of the 70s and 80s, without existing solely as an homage. I wanted to push the horror genre into new territory, and that’s not something that I think the studios would be interested in. That said, it would have been great to see what I could have done with the gunfights and action scenes on a studio budget. Maybe for the sequel!
LC: Has filmmaking always been in the blood?
PH: Sort of. After first watching Jurassic Park as a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist for years. Now I realize it was the movie I was drawn to, not the dinosaurs! As I got older, I realized I was really only interested in movies and books, but movies seemed like such an impossible field that it never crossed my mind as a career path. Writing, on the other hand, was always within reach and I started writing horror stories and books. In college, I became interested in filmmaking again and bought a used mini-DV camera online. I shot a few shorts, then teamed up with some friends my Senior year to shoot a vampire horror feature called “The Urge.” I was the writer, producer, director, editor, cinematographer, sound designer, and an actor. I had never done any of it before, so I had to find books about each role and teach myself. When the film was done, I had learned a lot and I was eager for my next project, so I started putting together “The Control Group.”
PH: A few different things. I have written scripts for a feature and a TV pilot, both of which I am taking out to producers. I’ve also gone back to writing fiction. My short story “Anna’s Video” will be published in Trigger Warning Short Fiction in late May, and I’m currently writing the first draft of a novel.
The best way to keep up on everything I’m doing is on twitter: @HurdIsTheWord52.
We wish Peter the very best of luck with both his writing and filmmaking! To check out his freshman feature, remember that THE CONTROL GROUP, Starring Brad Dourif, releases on DVD May 9 from Wild Eye Releasing.