In the upcoming YA thriller FEAR OF RAIN from director Castille Landon, teenager Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman), who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, finds herself struggling every day as she tries to figure out which of the disturbing images, harrowing voices, and traumatic feelings she experiences are real and which are all in her mind. However, when Rain insists against her parents’ (Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick, Jr.) advice that the shadows and cries from her neighbor’s attic are hiding a dark secret, she enlists help from Caleb (Israel Broussard), the charmingly awkward new boy at school – who himself may not be real.
In preparation for the film’s release, Nightmarish Conjurings’ had the opportunity to chat with writer/director Castille Landon, where they discussed everything from tackling mental illness, properly portraying schizophrenia, and more.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. FEAR OF RAIN tackles mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, in a way that I haven’t seen before. Can you tell us a little bit of the genesis of how this story came to be?
Castille Landon: I’ve been interested in mental illness for a long time because the women in my family have had it, it’s kind of been passed down [from] generation to generation. I knew I wanted to tell a story about a young woman with a mental illness and have a greater conversation about the stigmatizing. I figured schizophrenia made the most sense because we have seen films about depression, bipolar, et cetera that have handled it well, but I’ve not seen a film that handles schizophrenia in a way that aims to de-stigmatize or make people understand what it is that people are seeing or hearing and how scary that can be. That was kind of the inception of it.
How did you go about researching and making sure you were portraying someone with schizophrenia in a respectful manner?
Castille Landon: I started reading a lot of material, initially case studies by psychiatrists, but you know, that’s always quite slanted. It is harder to find material that’s firsthand about schizophrenia. I found “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness” by Elyn Saks and it’s phenomenal. Then I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube where people are videoing their experiences, which is fascinating and I highly recommend. Then I was talking to people on subreddits about their experiences and they were really willing to talk to me and eager because they also hadn’t seen it portrayed accurately, or in a positive light with a protagonist who has schizophrenia.
And when it came to casting Madison Iseman in the main role of Rain, was she someone that you initially had in mind?
Castille Landon: With the young actors, we didn’t really have anyone in mind. We went out to get the best actors possible for the job because the film really rests on Rain’s character, so as a filmmaker, that’s a dream, right? To be able to just cast the best person for the role. The challenge with that is that she has to be so lovable and be able to snap on a dime, and get from zero to a hundred and then come back again. We have to love her, not just in those sweet moments with Caleb but also when she is having these fights with her dad, we still need to be able to believe her and cheer for her. [Maddie] came in the room and just nailed it. There was absolutely no question for any of us, as soon as she came in and [auditioned] we were like yeah, she has it.
I also found it interesting that you changed the male character of Dan to Dani, played brilliantly by Eugenie Bondurant. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Castille Landon: Yeah, so unlike Maddie, we weren’t able to come to an agreement on our actors for Dan. We found a lot of great ones but everybody was sort of divided. I saw in a picture when we were on a location scout, this owner of this house, and in the picture, I was like, “Oh wow, this person is a unicorn. I need to know everything about her” – she had such stunning physicality and she doesn’t walk, she like lifts, she’s magnetic. So immediately I was like, put her on tape for this. Everyone thought an antagonist needed to be a man but she just did such a great job that I sent her audition tape to Harry Connick Jr. and was like, nudge, nudge, don’t you think she’s great?, to get his support. Then I was able to go back to my producers after he was like, “Whoa, she’s really cool” and I was like, see, this is a great idea! This is what we’re going to do! So I did have to rally the troops to be able to change that but I think it worked really well.
I love that this movie uses the backdrop of horror to show the importance of understanding mental illness. What do you hope people take away from this film, especially in terms of how they view those that have a mental illness?
Castille Landon: I hope that they are able to reflect on it and challenge their own stereotypes because I think even the most woke person, if you’ve not been exposed to someone who has hallucinations or schizophrenia, I think that seems very remote. I think there [are] a lot more people that have it that we don’t necessarily realize, whether that’s because they are keeping it a secret because there’s a shame attached to it. And the thing about that is it only exacerbates the problem. So I hope that people are able to challenge their assumptions and that people who have mental illness feel empowered to be able to talk about it.
FEAR OF RAIN arrives on Digital, On-Demand & Limited Theatrical Release on February 12, 2021. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD Release on February 16, 2021.