By Michael Helms
On the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, there’s a compound formed by several old buildings that tyro filmmaker Dale Stewart has used as the centerpiece of COMPOUND, a new low-budget shocker revolving around the misfortunes of seven travelers. Stewart, who is currently knee-deep in postproduction and provided the exclusive photos seen after the jump, tells Fango, “COMPOUND is a horror film, but doesn’t start out like one.
COMPOUND was lensed last year at Kingseat Hospital, Papakura, now more commonly known as Spookers Haunted Attraction Scream Park, a place unique to New Zealand (its website likes to point out that Australia doesn’t even have anything even remotely comparable). The main building used for filming formerly housed the nurses who tended to patients in the adjacent mental hospital. Like many such places, it’s said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, specifically haunted by a nurse who committed suicide within its walls. While he was a film student visiting Spookers—which wasn’t that long ago—Stewart realized that this was the place to make his feature debut, and vowed to return to shoot there.
He also soon found that the place was even scarier when it was closed, recalling that while scouting the location in early January 2009 in very hot weather, one of the corridors was unnaturally cold. “A crew member asked where the air conditioning was,” Stewart says. “That’s when it was explained that this was actually the space where the nurse had died, and there was no air conditioning. There’s also another corridor shut off from the public that remains in darkness because they cannot replace the light bulb. Apparently, it always blows a fuse when a new one is installed, and this is despite being rewired several times.” Stewart adds that after shooting COMPOUND there, and despite all the explanations they were given for the location’s haunted aspects, he now believes all the stories are true.
In COMPOUND, Spookers actually plays itself, as the group who have lost their way are convinced by the staff to come in and take a look around. They find themselves locked in a room, eventually emerging to discover that behind the scenes, people actually live at Spookers, including a doctor, a dentist, a butcher—and an alien creature. “Basically, they play on everyone’s normal fears,” notes Stewart, who asserts that “I wanted to make a smart horror film. I didn’t want just one bad guy chasing seven attractive girls around with lots of nudity. I just wanted to tell a good story where horror was only one element.”
Despite a lack of budget for special FX, however, Stewart promises that the mayhem is plentiful and effective. “There’s quite a few bodies. We’ve got a zombie eating someone alive. We’ve got a person who’s held in the house for quite some time and tortured. Two of the main seven are forced to watch as a third dies by having their legs cut off. These two are next in line, and try to get out before their own legs are severed.” It’s no surprise when Stewart describes himself as a huge horror fan, specifically of the ’70s and ’80s brand, and says, “I didn’t want to make a film that was the flavor of the month, but something that might stand the test of time.” He recommends it to other genre enthusiasts for “being a smart horror film that avoids clichés despite the familiar scenario.”
As of now, Stewart is herding COMPOUND toward a March completion date. Check out the movie’s trailer below.