Julius Ramsay knows the two worlds too well—the horror world and the political world.
In the Dark: The Current Occupant was the perfect avenue to blend the two worlds he loves.
In this installment of Into the Dark series, Into the Dark: The Current Occupant follows a man trapped in a mysterious psychiatric ward with no memory but comes to believe that he’s the President of the United States and the subject of a diabolical political conspiracy. As the asylum’s soul-crushing forces bear down on him, he fights to preserve his sanity and escape so that he can return to power.
The series is a monthly horror event from Blumhouse studio. Each feature-length movie is inspired by a holiday with the signature Blumhouse spin.
It stars Barry Watson (The Loudest Voice), Sonita Henry (Krypton), Marvin ‘Krondon Jones III (Black Lightning), Lilli Birdsell (Doom Patrol), Kate Cobb (Scandal), Ezra Buzzington (Crossbones) and Joshua Burge (The Revenant). Julius Ramsay directed the film with his brother, Alston Ramsay wrote the script.
LRM Online spoke with Julius Ramsay earlier this month about this project. He has directed many horror-related television shows, including The Purge, Scream: The TV Series, and The Walking Dead.
Into the Dark: The Current Occupant is now streaming on Hulu.
ALSO READ: Alston Ramsay on Writing a Political Horror Story for Into the Dark: The Current Occupant [Exclusive Interview]
Read the full interview below.
Julius Ramsay: I love your name, Gig. It’s very cool.
Gig Patta: Hey, thanks. Appreciate that. I try to be unique. [Laughs]
Julius Ramsay: Yes, I go by the nickname Jute. J-U-T-E. So it’s not dissimilar.
Gig Patta: That is pretty awesome. Congratulations on your new film for the Into the Dark Series with The Current Occupant.
Julius Ramsay: Thank you.
Gig Patta: How did your brother, Alston Ramsay, convinced you to do this project?
Julius Ramsay: It was a collaboration. We’re both lifelong pundits in the political world. It’s something we’re very interested in. Obviously, my brother worked in politics for a long time. I was also an intern for Bill Clinton when he was in power. It’s something that we’ve both been fascinated about for a very long time.
This was an idea that we had been developing and thought we had a refreshing angle on it. As well, it is a timely subject and premise for a film. We were lucky enough to partner up with Blumhouse and get it made.
Gig Patta: Now, you’re not a stranger to horror yourself. What is the love of horror to you?
Julius Ramsay: I like exploring strange worlds. For one, horror gets a free license to do that. Although I’m not a big fan of violence, I’m a big fan of the examination of the unusual. And at times, the terrifying. Horror, as a genre, allows exploring unfamiliar and frightening worlds. That’s what most appealing about it.
For example, The Walking Dead is not so much a show about the zombies. That’s a big part of it. The Walking Dead, itself, refers to the people, the people in it, and what happens to people’s humanity when they’re stripped of everything else. That’s what’s interesting about it.
This notion that this idea of someone who might be the most powerful person on Earth being in a mental institution, which is the most powerless situation that a human being can be put into, was fascinating. In powerlessness by that, one is physically restrained, held there, but then one is potentially even stripped of one’s mental faculties. That’s the last power you can take out of another human being. The juxtaposition of someone of potentially great power having none of it and what exists in between that was fascinating to us.
Gig Patta: In the past, you’ve done The Walking Dead, Scream, and The Purge. How did you want to approach The Current Occupant? Do you want to approach it the same way or differently?
Julius Ramsay: Very different. We wanted to go for something that was much more psychedelic, more abstract. It was something that swung for the fences. In our film, there’s a lot of sessions with these psychological experiments that he’s undergoing. It’s a unique look, feel, and tone to the film that doesn’t have any clear answers.
Whereas I would say the television projects I’ve worked on, these television shows can be a lot more clear cut. For this, it played more into a strange, unique, interesting world that we created.
Gig Patta: Let’s talk about the psych sessions that you created with all the images. I felt like I was sitting in that chair. Tell me how you managed to pull that off.
Julius Ramsay: It was an insane amount of work. Essentially, my brother and I combed through thousands of photographs with help from people. But, we were the ones driving that process. By putting this all together, we worked with a great editor, who was fantastic in assembling it. Then as we were filming it, we had an incredible with Barry Watson. He was sitting in a chair with all these screens playing something that we had already edited together. All we had left was to prerecord the doctor’s material. We recorded that on the second day of the shoot that integrated into the editing of the sessions into those video clips.
By the time we got to that during our shoot, we could play the video session completely for real. Also, we figured out the timing of the gaps. With all those gaps in each of the little video clips, the actor would have time to respond to the questions she was asking him. He wore a tiny hidden earpiece so that he could hear her dialogue.
In that way, we’re only recording what he’s saying. If you’re standing there in the room when we’re filming it, he’s the only sound in the room with his vocal responses to what’s happening. All the other sounds and her voice were added later in post-production.
Gig Patta: That’s amazing.
Julius Ramsay: That was a major part of the production in making that.
Gig Patta: I’m also astonished by the fact that you managed to recreate a psych ward setting. I’ve been in hospitals before, and I thought they were creepy. I didn’t know that you could make hospital settings, even more disturbing. Can you talk about this?
Julius Ramsay: Absolutely, I would love to credit two people–Cory Geryak, who’s our director of photography and Eve McCarney, our brilliant production designer. They helped us in that regard. We found an abandoned mental hospital in the eastern parts of Los Angeles. The production spent 15 out of 16 days of shooting at that facility. So we lived there and spent a tremendous amount of time planning it all out.
The facility was built in the sixties and seventies, so it already had a lobbyist authentic. You may have noticed–we went for a seventies-style look to the film. All of that baked into it, there was a lot of modification to make it a lot creepier. It allowed the viewer to live in that world for a few hours.
Gig Patta: I also noticed the importance of the mood on how you use the colors and lighting scheme. It had this darkish bluish tone. I believe that’s all purposeful, right?
Julius Ramsay: Very much so. Cory and I spent a tremendous amount of time plotting out the look of the movie and how we would do it. Another big factor for us was that we only have 16 days to shoot this entire film. It’s a very limited amount of time. In order to create a good look, we had a holistic approach to how to light this production. Cory was the lighting genius who brought it to life. I had very specific ideas of what both it would look like, but it had to fit with our timeframe and the limitations on our production scales.
All integrated, simultaneously, there’s a change from when he’s in the hospital to the psych ward. To the various other things that occur throughout the film, we very deliberately planned out with the evolution of that.
Gig Patta: Speaking of evolution, you touched on Barry Watson previously/ Even though he’s the President, he seems to evolve into several different characters throughout the entire movie. Could you talk about directing him and why he was perfect?
Julius Ramsay: Barry was the perfect creative partner for my brother and me in making this film. He had done his research and had great ideas about who this character was. Therefore, he brought that into the production. We just wanted to play it all very authentically. It’s like the viewer doesn’t know the past, and the viewer doesn’t know anything that has happened that is brought into the story. It’s already in flux. So too, it’s with our protagonist.
Barry is very much playing that, but he doesn’t know what the truth is. He’s trying to figure it out as he goes through the movie. Through his character, he goes through a series of like evolutions. I hope that it certainly feels there’s a strong internal consistency to what’s there.
Gig Patta: One more question for me to wrap it up with you. What’s more plausible to you, a president waking up in the psych ward or someone in the psych ward waking up thinking that he’s President?
Julius Ramsay: Unfortunately, what’s most plausible is the fact that we have a fully diagnosed narcissistic sociopath. He’s the actual President of the United States. People say to me many times a day, “I can’t believe he did this. I can’t believe he did that.” What don’t you believe? He’s literally like the textbook of a clinical narcissist with strong sociopathic tendencies. Every decision that’s been made in the last three years reflects that to a “T.” Unfortunately, the most plausible answer is we have a patient who should be in a psych ward in the actual Oval Office.
Gig Patta: I appreciate your film because it’s very, very timely and very, very relatable in a roundabout way.
Julius Ramsay: Thank you very much. It was a real pleasure speaking with you.
Into the Dark: The Current Occupant is now streaming on Hulu.
Source: LRM Online Exclusive, Hulu