Peter Hurd is a movie maker who has been making films since his college days. His feature debut is titled “The Control Group” which can only be described as a creepy horror thriller starring Brad Dourif that is set in an abandoned insane asylum.

The movie is being released on DVD this May from Wild Eye Releasing. Peter is a dedicated fan of the horror genre, and he plans on making more horror movies shortly. He recently talked about his show business aspirations.

Movie

Blasting News (BN): How did you get into ‘the biz’ and what was your first professional gig?

Peter Hurd (PH): “The Control Group” was my first professional project.

I taught myself the basics of filmmaking in college by producing and directing a student feature. My senior year, I developed the script for TCG and raised financing to film the summer after I graduated. So, the first time I was ever on a set, I was both the producer and director.

BN: Was Brad Dourif your first choice to star in “The Control Group” and how did you pitch the film to him originally?

PH: Absolutely. Brad is a horror legend because of “Child’s Play” of course, but his villainous roles in “Mississippi Burning” and “Alien: Resurrection” have stuck with me since I was a kid, so I knew he was the only choice for the role of Dr. Broward.

I was honest about the project being low-budget horror, but I told him I was trying to create something unique and innovative within that crowded field, a film that paid tribute to the great horror of the 70s and 80s while still having its identity and trying to push the genre into new territory.

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That must have appealed to him since he signed on very quickly after seeing the script.

BN: Is it any different working with big names like Dourif than it is newcomers?

PH: Yes and no. The entire cast was united in making the best movie they could, and Brad was just as committed as the rest of the cast to making my vision for the film a reality, if not more so. The difference when working with an experienced actor like Brad is that he truly knows what makes a line, a scene, or an entire film work, so he was always suggesting improvements to dialogue or blocking. I was very grateful for that since I used many of them and they did improve the film.

BN: What’s the overriding tone of the movie?

PH: Good question! The tone is one of the more interesting aspects of “The Control Group.” We wanted it to be horrific and thrilling, of course, but with an undercurrent of dark humor that comes from the actors playing their scenes perfectly straight against increasingly bizarre and dark situations.

Most viewers probably won’t notice the humor, and they can appreciate the film just fine as a straight horror film, but genre fans who know the tropes and stereotypes of horror will have fun finding the little jokes we snuck in.

BN: What was it like to film in an abandoned insane asylum? How did the location impact the feel of the film and the mindsets of you, the actors, and the rest of the team?

PH: The location created the perfect mindset for shooting this film. The asylum we shot in is built like a giant maze. The hallways all look the same and join at odd angles, so it's easy to get lost. We could empathize with the characters since we knew what it would feel like to be trapped in there!

Horror

BN: What themes in horror films do you find most intriguing?

PH: I always like horror movies that deal with social ills or reflect their society in an interesting way. "Get Out" is a good recent example. "The Control Group" did this by setting up the scientists as villains and the college students as heroes, then upending that dynamic when the supernatural threat appears.

The students and the scientists all have to work together, but they don't know who to trust. In a way, this mirrors our current political climate where unlikely alliances are being formed between countries and between political factions. It seems like everyone is facing problems that are too big for them to overcome, so they are turning to anyone that can help, even if it's not the best move long-term. I'm not sure how much of it was intentional, but I think that atmosphere leaked into the film.

BN: What sorts of horror films would you like to work on in the future? For example, what themes, locations, creatures, etc., would you like to embrace in the coming films and how do you find the scripts?

PH: Good question! Since finishing "The Control Group," I've written a feature script that uses cannibals as a metaphor for America's treatment of undocumented immigrants, a TV pilot that mixes college melodrama with Lovecraftian horror, and I'm currently writing a novel that updates the slasher genre by using realistic, modern characters.

So, my interests across horror are pretty broad but are united by a goal of making old tropes feel new by updating them for the modern world. I only work off scripts that I either wrote myself or developed the story for; I just need to go through the writing process to start visualizing the film. The idea for "The Control Group" began when I saw an ad for our location. I thought it was the creepiest building I had ever seen and I immediately started thinking of ideas that could take place there.

BN: Are you planning to stick with horror for the time being?

PH: I am 100% committed to horror. Many indie filmmakers seem to see horror as just a cheap way to make their first film, but I am a diehard fan and want to stay with the genre for my entire career. I am currently putting together funding for a feature script and a TV pilot that I wrote, I also have a short story being published in “Trigger Warning Short Fiction” in May, and I’m currently writing my first novel, and all of them are horror. So, it’s safe to say that I’m committed! If you want to keep up on everything I’m doing, you can follow me on Twitter via @HurdIsTheWord52

BN: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the show business industry, especially as a filmmaker?

PH: My best advice to an aspiring filmmaker is to get out and start making films. It may sound obvious, but so many people who want to be creatives never buckle down and start creating! If you want to write, start writing for a few hours every day. If you want to direct, buy a camera and start shooting with your friends.

It will be horrible at first, but it’s the only way to learn, and over time you’ll start getting better and creating things you never imagined you were capable of doing when you began. As for actually breaking into the industry, I’m still trying to figure that out myself!

Everyone makes their path, but it starts with finding your own voice and interests, developing your talents, and creating a solid body of work that is unique to you. Then you can worry about breaking into the industry and making it into a career.