Interviews: Director Julian Grant Discusses His Horror Film The Cropsey Incident

Out now on VOD from Wild Eye Releasing, The Cropsey Incident sees a group of online social justice activists venture deep into the woods to uncover the truth behind a recent series of gruesome ritual murders - and to capture the person responsible. But what they come face to face with is something more deadly than any serial killer, an urban legend that is very real, and determined to make them his latest victims. We caught up with the film’s writer/director, Julian Grant, to get the 411 on the film.

TMS: So you probably shouldn't go camping after watching this. Have you gone camping since shooting the flick?

JG: That's funny that you mentioned that. I love camping. One of my early pictures is The Defiled, we literally camped in the woods for six weeks while we were shooting it. That was a lot of fun because we were just rolling in the muck and mire. The Cropsey Incident was a much faster schedule in which we shot this over six glorious blood-filled days and we camped in the woods and had a great time doing it. So the nice thing about it is that we were really feeding into the idea of camping as a perfect backdrop for any kind of horror movie.

TMS: Why do you think camping as an activity really lends itself to horror movies?

JG: I think it's because when you look at pictures like The Blair Witch Project, there is a certain vulnerability to being out there in nature. As we become more civilized, the woods themselves are terrifying. There's all kinds of creatures out there, or monsters, or in our case a bag-headed killer that will make your life a living hell. There's the classic fear of rural versus urban, the hillbilly or hicksploitation genre,  in which we fall prey to the backwoods maniacs that will slaughter us all. That seems to be pretty much a folk tale that most city dwellers live by as well.

TMS: In all seriousness, well done. You did this movie all by yourself.

JG: Yeah, pretty much. It was myself, Dan Defore, Julie Grant, and Jessi Walsh who are really the quartet, if you would, that made this picture. I mean, you got four people in six days shooting a picture that really stands up, it looks great. We've done a lot of work together before. I think this is my 33rd or 34th motion picture. So, we really wanted to do what we do best. In my case, I wrote it, directed it, I was the cinematographer. Dan helped me light it. I was the editor. I worked on the visual effects and did the titles and the like. When you make pictures like this, they are a labor of love and you want to make something that's hopefully going to stand up and play well. And, of course I'm forever thankful to the ladies Jessie (production designer, make-up artist, vegan special effects) and my lovely wife Julie, who produces this kind of stuff and keeps me in line.

TMS: It plays more frightening because it's inspired by actual events.

JG: Yeah. That's the thing, folk tales are a great place to start, right? When you start dealing with the whole idea of a Cropsey type of killer, this is something kids up and down the Eastern seaboard know of. My friends in Jersey, Staten Island, and Coney, you know, they had all heard of Cropsey. Cropsey was a real thing to them. They were threatened by Cropsey by their parents. The '70s were kind of a fucked up time, but if you didn't behave then Cropsey was going to come and get you. So, I love building on that kind of riff. I also love the idea that that kind of notoriety is fame in and of itself, and at what price fame became the underlying message of a picture like this.

TMS: How did you go about casting the main roles?

JG: I went to a lot of repeat offenders, people that I had worked with before who knew how I liked to film. Ones that were great actors and everyone in this picture are really solid actors. They are ones that I had a track record with. Rinska Carrasco was unbreakable on Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater, and we did some fucked up things in that one. Hannah Phelps had worked with me on F*ckload of Scotch Tape and she knew exactly what kind of filmmaking I was into. Brandon Galatz was one of the stars in Sweet Leaf, also available from Wild Eye Releasing. Terry Bell came highly recommended because he had just come off of Dead Girls and the director on that, Del Harvey, is an old friend. So, it was nice to be able to draw a group together that would run and gun with me in the woods and have some fun.

TMS: Any spooky occurrences happen on the set?

JG: Oh yeah, absolutely. There were a couple times that were truly terrifying. Being in the woods, being alone of course is scary in and of itself. But one night Nathanael Card, who plays Baghead (our fun name for our Cropsey killer), was calling up the various spirits if you would and wind all of a sudden shook the set. A kind of mini-tornado happened right over top of our giant baby bonfire and people started to lose their minds, thinking oh my God Nathanael is really calling the Devil amongst us. Of course it's all captured beautifully on film.