For the release of Anthony DiBlasi’s latest horror film EXTREMITY, I had the chance to speak with writer Rebecca Swan. Based off her unpublished novella “Extremity: The Secret Journal of Allison Bell”, the film focuses on a woman determined to work through traumatic events in her life through the use of extreme haunts. During our chat we discussed everything from haunted attractions to how the horror genre can be used as a therapeutic tool.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for speaking with me today Rebecca! To start things off, for those who may not be familiar with the horror film EXTREMITY, can you tell us a little bit about it and how the story came about?
Rebecca Swan: EXTREMITY is an extreme drama / horror movie about a woman's quest to face her fears and conquer her demons. In her grim childhood she suffered unspeakable abuse and now as an adult she decides to take control of her tenuous mental situation and subject herself to a notorious extreme haunt as a way to finally shed the scars of the past and move on with her life. Things don't go quite as planned, though -- this is a horror movie don't forget, and there are twists. I've been working on this character study for a while. It's an unpublished novella called "Extremity: The Secret Journal Of Allison Bell." Producers Corinne Ferguson and David Bond obtained the film rights and turned it into EXTREMITY. I didn't do the screenplay adaption, but they kept me close creatively and gave me the opportunity to provide input when I felt it was appropriate. I ended up as associate producer on the film and was even second unit director. There were scenes Anthony DiBlasi, the director, needed somebody to shoot as second unit, so he asked me to do it. I jumped on it, of course, and it was a fantastic professional learning experience. The cinematographer, Scott Winig, lit all my scenes. I'm very pleased with the final film and think they did a faithful job adapting my work.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Have you experienced an extreme haunt? If not, what was it about the idea of extreme haunts that fascinated you?
RS: I've never really participated in an extreme haunt, and I honestly have no intention to do so. However, a few years ago I met a guy in LA who put together his own extreme haunt and he asked me to go through it to test it out. I agreed, but begged him to go easy on me. I was nervous, but he did go easy on me thank goodness. It was interesting, but I'm never doing anything like that again.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Trauma is a major theme that is presented within the film. I’ve dealt with some of my trauma with sexual assault/abuse through haunts and found it to be incredibly therapeutic. The same could be said about the horror genre as a whole and how that is also therapeutic. Why was it important to showcase trauma this way?
RS: George Romero, who is a huge influence for me, once said that he didn't think horror movies caused violence, but rather he felt they act as a kind of deterrent in many ways. I feel he's absolutely right. I make horror because it's my way of dealing with the real horrors in this world in a constructive way. I'm a pacifist and I try to avoid violence if at all possible, but I know the world is actually a hellhole of violence, and that terrifies me. So I deal with it by writing about it as a sort of therapy for me to deal with how horrible human nature can be.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Were there any specific haunts that you visited and/or researched for the film?
RS: I mainly just go to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights every year. That's enough for me. I'm not interested in going to an extreme haunt, even for research. I even worked at Halloween Horror Nights a long time ago. I was a monster in one of the mazes. I lost count of how many times I've been punched in the face. But I did watch some documentaries about extreme haunts before diving into this project.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You've done a lot of work in the horror genre through writing, directing, and acting. As you've gone through your own transition, do you feel as though being immersed in this genre, whether through your work or being part of the community, has helped you during that period?
RS: I'm mainly known for working in horror. I co-wrote director John Carpenter's two Masters of Horror episodes for Showtime. I also collaborated on a script with producer/author Clive Barker at Fox. That's where I first met Anthony DiBlasi who directed EXTREMITY. He worked for Clive at the time. I got known as a horror person, and I'm cool with that. I love the genre. I have no idea how being transgender now will impact or influence my work in the genre or the community, but so far everybody has been very welcoming.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last but not least, are there any projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
RS: I've got a few projects in the works. Some are stuff I was hired to write, and some are personal projects. They're all genre in nature. Some are outright horror, while others are dark in tone but perhaps drift into other genre sub categories. In 2017 I wrote something like thirteen different screenplays. I try to stay constantly busy. It's the best way to grow as an artist.