A Gothic parable, where the terrors of the dead are outweighed by the terrors of loved ones being forgotten by the passage of time.

Rent is skyrocketing. Small businesses are struggling. Gentrification is literally ripping through neighborhoods that have stood for nearly a hundred years. Any rational person can understand this is a problem, but we also enjoy spending time Downtown. It’s hard to have one without the other. So, what happens to those who are forgotten? This is the theme behind Bret Miller’s horror thriller ‘Devils’. With a stellar experience in horror short films (see ‘Pretorius‘ & ‘Apollyon’), Bret continues his art in creating another tension-defining piece. The film follows a home developer while taking a final tour of an investment home. He is horrified to discover that the deceased owner never left. And she never will.

Can you tell me a little bit about ‘Devils’, how did this film come about?

Devils is a part of a series of short horror films that I’ve been making for years that explore subtle economic and societal themes through a variety of different sub-genres. I’ve made atmospheric horror, films with monsters, serial killers and I even directed a gothic-romantic story (Pretorius) that pays homage to my favorite Universal classic. With Devils, I knew I wanted to do something with ghosts because that is my favorite type of film. I love designing the world, molding the pace, and laying into the audience with a well-timed jump scare. It’s just so fun for me. I was also inspired by the rapid growth in historic and traditional neighborhoods in my hometown. Good people who spent their lives in one place were suddenly being priced out. I often wondered what the walls would say, how the spirit of the house would react to something so . . . uncomfortable. This film is what happens when a house finally says ‘enough.’ No more blue paint adorning every corner, no more modern updates in a mid to early century home. And no more erasing those who came before, those who lived and died within these walls.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

Collaboration is what makes filmmaking the most interesting art form, to me. I have never considered myself to be a savant of any kind, so surrounding myself with smart, and well intentioned, collaborators is what makes my films come to life. There is not one thing, in any of my projects, that I would not consider re- working if it meant improvement to the piece as a whole.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

There were many challenging moments to this film. There was a three hour makeup for our ghost, a ton of VFX throughout. Our biggest challenge, however, was simply chasing the sun. Filming in March meant that we had shorter days, and I wanted the narrative to take place during the day so that we could utilize shadow within the image. So, that meant relenting with a good take instead of a great one, or combining shots to get us back on track. Never fight against the sun, you’re going to lose.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers making a horror film?

My advice always starts with “go shoot,” because we’re all trying to figure out what we’re doing. Everyone is nervous, everyone struggles with imposter syndrome. The only way to defeat those thoughts are to put yourself out there, to make the art you’re so passionate about making.

I would also implore all filmmakers to make films that mean something. It doesn’t need to have some sort of grand thematic undertone, but even the silliest movies have some type of meaning. Texas Chainsaw was made, in part, to draw parallels to the meat industry. Scream is about celebrating cinema! I could go on forever. But try to make your films convey a message that the audience must then snuff out themselves. They’ll feel smart, and love you forever.

What are your favorite short films?

To me, Lights Out is the greatest horror short film ever made. It’s perfectly paced, the sound design is so thorough and creepy. I love that film, along with David F. Sandberg’s other work.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

I was inspired by the Shirley Jackson type ghost stories that I’ve been obsessed with for most of my life. Mike Flanagan’s work, specifically The Haunting of Hill House and JA Bayona’s The Orphanage are cannon for me. And, who could forget the classic The Changeling, starring George C. Scott. All of those pieces were enormously influential in atmosphere, pace, and general ethos.