Roxanne Benjamin has quietly become a staple of horror over the better part of the last decade. The filmmaker made her imprint on many a genre fan with her segment in the much-beloved anthology "Southbound," before also contributing to "XX." Benjamin then made her debut feature, the absolutely terrifying "Body at Brighton Rock," which was released in 2019. Now, after a several year stint directing on shows such as "Riverdale" and "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," Benjamin is back with her latest feature, "There's Something Wrong With the Children."

The film was produced by Blumhouse Productions as part of a deal the company has to produce films that will, ultimately, make their way to MGM+ after first arriving on Digital/VOD. The latest addition to the creepy kid movie subgenre was penned by T.J. Cimfel & Dave White, and features a stellar cast led by Alisha Wainwright ("Shadowhunters",) Zach Gilford ("Midnight Mass"), Amanda Crew ("Silicon Valley"), and Carlos Santos ("Vacation Friends"). Benjamin's latest centers on Margaret (Wainwright) and Ben (Gilford), who take a weekend trip with some longtime friends Ellie (Crew) and Thomas (Santos), as well as their two young children. It's not long before Ben suspects something supernatural is at play when the kids start acting strangely after disappearing into the woods overnight.

I had the good fortune of speaking with Benjamin in honor of the film's imminent release. We discussed the creepy kid genre, the challenges of filming with kids, what's going on with her "Night of the Comet" remake, and much more.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'Every Scene With Them Is Like A Rubik's Cube'

The last time I talked to you was in 2019 at SXSW for "Body of Brighton Rock." I still don't know that I've ever been more scared in a movie theater. So three years on, you still hold that record for me. Congratulations.

Oh, nice. That's fun. That's great to hear.

So four years later now, we have arrived at your next feature. How is it that this came to be your next movie? I know you had several other things in development at various points, but how did this become the thing?

It's funny, there's always projects that you're working on that you're like, "Oh yeah, this is going to go in two months." Then it's two years later and you're still working on it. Then, other ones just kind of come out of the woodwork, out of nowhere, and then you're on set a month later. This was kind of one of those, where I had been talking to the Blumhouse team about doing something on their TV movie slate, and they had sent me some things, and I sent them some things, and then they started to get a sense of what I liked, and that a lot of the stuff that I shot was outdoors. Then they had this script and sent it to me and I was like, "Oh, this is great." It's contained, it's got a lot of the outdoors in it. So yeah, I was like, "Yeah, I love this one. Go for it." Then God, that was in September and then we were prepping in October in New Orleans.

Oh my God. It was that quick of a turnaround?


Wow, that's amazing. So you mentioned Blumhouse. How was it working for them? Because I find their process so fascinating, because they keep budgets low, but they do so many different avenues. Like you mentioned, they have their whole TV movie division, they have theatrical, of course, and I feel like filmmakers tend to really enjoy them. So what was it like working for them as a studio?

I mean, working with them's great, but it's a weird process with the hybrid TV film model. I think that takes a minute to wrap your head around. Because I do both film and TV, and doing a film within a TV model was a new thing for me. So that was the only real challenge — that and it's a 22 day shoot and it's got kids in every single scene, and we're outdoors so you're only really getting about three hours a day with the kids. So trying to figure out all of the ways to navigate that and make the movie still feel fulfilling, like they're there all the time when they're not, was really one of the harder challenges out of everything.

When you get into filmmaking, nobody gives you a lecture on logistical challenges. Like, "Cool, if you want to make a movie with kids, you get them for three hours out of your day and then good luck figuring out the rest."

Yeah, exactly. Kids and animals, that's what they say slows down your day. The kids on set didn't slow down our day at all. They were great; working with them was amazing. It's just like you said, truly the logistics of trying to figure out a shoot like that, and outside of just their hours, and how much of them do we have to cut out of the script to make this work? It's also, how do you block the scenes so that they're not always on screen? It's like every scene with them is like a Rubik's Cube. Sometimes it's not them when we're looking at the back of them, and sometimes they're not there when we are addressing them, and they're just not even off screen, they're on a break or something. So that's what all the rules entail. They have all these breaks too, as they should because they are children.


It's a tricky game of Tetris to figure out how to shoot a lot of stuff with kids. I was very lucky though, because Zach and Alisha both had worked with kids before. Alisha, quite extensively on her show that was on Netflix ["Raising Dion"), and Zach just happened to have worked with kids a lot throughout his life. So that was a big, I think, help that they were used to shooting that way.

'I Got My Top Choice Of All Of My Actors'

One of the things I really liked is that you had some really underutilized, or at least underseen actors for my money, Zach being one of them, and Amanda Crew. Were they attached when you came on board? Or how did you arrive at the cast?

No, the casting process all happened after I became attached. The usual way: Your casting director brings you a lot of choices and then you also have people in mind and then it's kind of a discussion with the producers. Then, of course, a discussion on whether the actors are available, and if they're interested in this kind of project right now. So I imagine it must be difficult for actors just in general. I think about this a lot. Because they audition for so many things and you get one offer, one project for every ten things that you audition for. It's the same for directors, too. Because we pitch on so many different things, and make these pitch decks, and all these elaborate research and materials that we do for these pitches, and then you get one out of every ten of them.

But it's like when you're putting together an ensemble cast, it's about the ensemble as well as the individual actors. And it's not necessarily — people could have great performances, but it might not just fit, for whatever reason, with what everyone has in mind for a character. It doesn't mean their performance isn't great. Either way, though, I got my top choice of all of my actors, which was great.

That doesn't happen a lot of the time. That's a really fortunate situation to be in, for sure.

I'll say that working with Blumhouse, one of the great things about it, even though you're low budget and you're on a very challenging schedule — very challenging schedule — especially through post even, they do leave you alone creatively. So I got feedback on my choices but it was never like, "Well this is what the producers want." So that was great.

'No One's Trying To Un-Evil The Kids'

This has two of the best things in movies: A weird hole in the ground, and then it's a creepy kid movie. Did you take any inspiration from any specific creepy kid movies? Because there are a lot of good ones.

That's a tough one. I definitely am a huge fan of the genre of creepy kid movies. Honestly, one of my favorites, and it's kind of borderline whether it counts or not, is "Orphan" and "Orphan: First Kill."

Oh my God. Absolutely, it counts.

Especially the sequel. There's the evil kid genre and then there's the evil kid, but the "no one believes you" genre. They're two almost separate genres in a way. "In the Mouth of Madness" is always a big one. That's one of my favorite [John] Carpenter movies of all time. But also I always wanted to know what the movie was that was in the movie. One of the things I kind of love about it is that you don't really know, and you'll know from "Brighton Rock" that that's also a big thing for me. I think the most boring thing of most horror movies is when we get into the explanation of what's really happening. It's not just people dealing with what's happening or, in a movie like this, no one's trying to solve the problem. No one's trying to un-evil the kids. A lot of our evil kid movies I feel like deal with an exorcism or "Oh, they're possessed, we have to do something about it." This is just kind of like, "Oh no, that's just already happened. That ship has sailed." Now it's just every man for themselves or how do we get out of here?

I know it's gotten some comparisons I've seen, just from people seeing the trailer, to the 2008 British movie "The Children." I think it has a lot of similar DNA because that also involves some family dynamics and then all the kids start getting sick. What I love about that one is it's very Covid horror. Kids are actually just getting an illness and we don't really understand what the illness is. Whereas this is something a little bit different. But that one I think, if people haven't seen it, they should see it. Because when I was going through and just watching a bunch of little kid genre stuff when I was prepping for this, that was one that really tickled me, because I hadn't really seen it. The closest thing I had seen to it was really just like, "Who Can Kill a Child?" which is also just such a specific movie and much more of a, I don't know, it does have "Children of the Corn" vibes, but it's kind of empty in a way, that movie. Because you've just got two people in almost a ghost town and then the kids.

What a good excuse to find a movie, when you've got to do research for something.

It's weird, though, because it's a lot of other influences outside of horror that you start watching, and you're dealing with these movies too where you're thinking of a sequence, specifically some sort of long take sequence or specific types of shots. So then you watch certain movies just for the cinematography just to see, how did they handle a similar scene? I always love Peter Jackson's films because he moves the camera so much and it's so fun and all over the place. So "The Frighteners" is another one, that was one that I would watch over and over while we were prepping.

"Frighteners" is so good.

Fun movie.

I asked you about this last time because it seemed closer to happening at the time, but now I'm curious what happened in the last few years. Is that "Night of the Comet" remake still happening? Or has that just kind of completely fallen by the wayside?

That's an interesting one. It's still alive, just not really in the same iteration, but it's still kicking. It's gone through a lot of different — everything's consolidating with everything. The snake is eating itself in our industry right now. So it's gone through a lot of different hands, I think, throughout the process, but it's still out there.

Here's hoping for that one. As I told you last time, because I know you wrote that. I would like to see you direct that one as well. Not that I have any say over it.

Well, the version I wrote, that one would not be happening. But there's other stuff that's going on with it. But yeah, that movie division I think is gone now, or I can't even remember. I think Orion Pictures, they stopped doing their own features and they were just doing pickups at some point. So their original features division kind of stopped being active. That was a couple years ago. The original script that I wrote was part of that group. So now it's in that weird limbo where that can never exist because it is in this entity that, I don't know, it's a bunch of business affairs stuff.

The sexy part of the business, always.

Yeah. And it's one of my favorite scripts that I wrote though, which is kind of a bummer. It's super fun.

"There's Something Wrong With the Children" is now on Digital and On Demand, and debuts on MGM+ on March 17, 2023.

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The post There's Something Wrong With The Children In Roxanne Benjamin's New Horror Flick [Exclusive Interview] appeared first on /Film.