In the horror anthology, PHOBIAS, from directors Camilla Belle, Maritte Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, and Chris von Hoffmann, five dangerous patients suffering from extreme phobias at a government testing facility are put to the ultimate test under the supervision of a crazed doctor and his quest to weaponize fear.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to speak with Director Maritte Go about her PHOBIAS segment, Vehophobia, where she discussed everything about the terrifying true story that inspired her segment, working with Hana Mae Lee, and more!
Thank you so much for speaking with me today! I’m excited to talk about your segment in PHOBIAS. To start things off, how did you become involved with this project and how did you pick a phobia to focus on?
Maritte Go: I’ve been producing with Eric Fleischman, one of the producers, for years. We’ve made several features together, and we also went to USC together, so I’ve been working with him for years and years. I kind of secretly wanted to write and direct this whole time and after making several features with him as a producer, I revealed to him that I wanted to be a writer-director. I had been shooting all these horror shorts on the side and I had shown him what I had and he was like, all right, that’s awesome, let’s create a feature together where you’re a writer-director. I partnered with Eric, as well as Jess Varley, and we started spitting out ideas of what we could do for a horror anthology. It’s always been my dream to do that. I wrote in my journal when I was 14 years old that I wanted to do something like Tales From the Crypt, and so that was always my goal. [Eric] pitched “what if we did phobias” and I thought that was awesome.
I searched my brain for the scariest thing that happened to me and so mine is actually based on a true story. I was taking my ex-boyfriend to LAX airport in the middle of the night for a red-eye and as soon as I dropped him off at the airport and he closed the door, I shit you not, I felt something sitting behind me in the car. It felt like this cold air and I felt needles in the back of my neck. I kept looking back while thinking “what the hell is that feeling? What is this?” while trying my best to ignore it. I went on the 405 and I’m driving along and I’m going like 70 miles an hour and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was sitting behind me, but I just kept ignoring and played the radio. I had a brand new car, I just bought it, and all of a sudden the car starts acting on its own, radio stations were switching, the lights are going in and out, it was speeding up and slowing down then speeding up and slowing down. I thought I was going to die, I was freaking out. I kept saying, “get out of my car, whatever it is, get out, get out,” and I started praying to God cause I thought I was going to die. Finally, I pulled over and was on the side of the highway and I was just like praying to God to God that whatever it is, get out of here, I don’t want it in my car, get out, get out, get out. And then suddenly the feeling went away. It was gone and I drove home and it literally never happened to my car ever again.
I wrote that into the short with my fiance/filmmaking partner Brody Engelhard. We wrote that together and he got to shoot half the movie as well. It was awesome working with all my best friends and creating something that’s super personal, but kind of like altering it in a way that it could connect to the other story.
That actually leads perfectly into my next question, since this is an anthology did you work with the other directors to make sure the segments would flow properly into one another?
Maritte Go: Yeah, we did. Our other producers, Radio Silence, have a lot of experience doing anthologies. Eric brought them on and we had a lot of discussions on what worked for them and what didn’t work. They have so many years of experience under their belt and what worked for them was really being on the same page with all the directors, and the things that didn’t work were shooting with different cameras and using different crews. So we kind of shot it in a way that it was like a TV show with all of our different directors. We shared two DP’s between all of us so that we could shoot one right after the other and then we shared all the other departments, same wardrobe, makeup, effects, stunts, all that kind of stuff. All the directors would meet up and we would all discuss our scripts and then work together to get all these stories to match up, but not only story-wise but visually. It was a commitment trying to decide how to mend all of our ideas together (laughs). Jess Varley is the one who wrote the through-line and so she had the biggest hand in putting that together. She would always ask our opinions and we would try to guide it so that we were all on the same page, but she definitely took the lead in putting it all together.
Can you talk a little bit about doing the special effects with the car?
Maritte Go: It was so much fun. Our stunt coordinator, his name is Sam Situmorang, we go way back. For my thesis film, I found him to do my stunts and I was able to, years later, bring him on to this feature and bring him on all our movies which have been amazing. He is an amazing stunt driver, he was the stunt driver for Baby Driver, for Fast and the Furious, like the best driving movies in the world. So I called him up and was like “Please do this for me!” (laughs). He knew of this company that basically puts pods on top of cars that you can take on and off, and you can control the car from the top. It allowed Hana Mae Lee, who plays Sami, to act and be free and look in other directions without it being unsafe. He’s literally controlling the car from the top. We shut down the seventh street bridge in Downtown LA and took the pod car up there and were spinning the car in the middle of the bridge and doing all these crazy stunts. It was so much fun. I was screaming cause it’s like a rollercoaster ride and I was terrified but having so much fun. The car was able to do all these crazy things. More of the stuff that we were able to do is, and I was in the car, was hit the old man who was also a stunt actor, and that was so much fun (laughs). The trick that they have of getting hit by a car, really they’re getting hit by a car, they have to jump up a little so that there’s no impact on their leg and I’m like, “You’re still hitting a person, though” (laughs). But it looked great and he didn’t get hurt, thank God.
I’m always delighted to see Hana Mae Lee pop up in a film so how was it working with her? And is this her first lead role?
Maritte Go: I think so, which is crazy. She’s so talented, so down to earth, so humble. She’s been on such huge movies and I was so happy to have her as a lead and we’ve just grown very close and she’s extremely talented, just a natural pro really. We plan on collaborating together forever cause she’s amazing. She’s just seriously one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. She’s extremely talented and I just can’t wait for her to get more leads because she deserves it.
What do you enjoy the most about the horror genre and how it can be used as a vehicle in exploring flawed characters?
Maritte Go: I love horror, I grew up on it. My dad probably showed me too many movies I shouldn’t have been allowed to watch at that age I was. He always wanted me to watch all this horror. I remember watching The Exorcist and Poltergeist and having crazy nightmares as a child where I’d wake up sweating and crying. And for some reason, I just got hooked on it. It was the weirdest thing, it became like an adrenaline rush and I was like, “Oh, I need to see more of this, what is that” and then it turned from “what is that” to “how do you do that?” I wanted to figure out how I could do that, get that feeling from audience members, to where they feel like they’re transported to another time and place and they feel like they’re on a roller coaster ride or walking through a haunted house. It’s just so exciting for me to watch horror. I remember going to see Sam Raimi‘s movies at movies theaters, when movie theaters were open, and just screaming out loud cause it’s such an adventure to experience something outside of reality and something so elevated and I want to do that same thing. I want to take audiences on a roller coaster ride of excitement and danger, I just love it so much.
Deeper than that, not only is horror super fun for me but I really do love talking about something more important. For the character of Sami to do something so evil as to kill someone and try to forget about them and live their own life, it shows she’s a really selfish person who only thinks of herself and wants to hide this man’s life. It’s more metaphorical of how your past always comes to haunt you, your secrets can never stay a secret. I really like how you get to explore the guilt of that and how your demons kind of pop up and can’t be buried until justice has been served.
For more on PHOBIAS, check out our review here. PHOBIAS is now in select theaters, On Demand and Digital.