Josh MacDonald’s stage fright

Add playwright Josh MacDonald to Halifax’s scare crew: his new film, The Corridor, is a supernatural buddy horror set in a remote cabin.

It's just before nightfall, but bright rays of what looks like sunlight stream though the windows of a bed and breakfast on Gottingen Street, illuminating a scene of carnage: chairs and sofas overturned, electronic gear strewn about a living room. The set clears and silences as cameras roll. Three young men unlock the front door, pushing away a chair propped under the doorknob. They call for their friend, Tyler. One looks to the staircase. "Oh god. Christ! You guys, get up here!" And...cut.

Though it's the opening scene, this is the last day of shooting on The Corridor, a supernatural horror movie directed by Evan Kelly and written by Josh MacDonald. MacDonald got his start as a playwright and has already seen one of his stage productions, Halo---adapted for the screen as Faith, Fraud and Minimum Wage---shot in 2009. The Corridor was written directly for the screen, the story of five friends reunited in a remote cabin in the winter---the picture also filmed at Ross Creek Centre for The Arts in Canning---where one of the five, Tyler, is being welcomed back into the fold following an emotional breakdown. As Tyler, Toronto actor Stephen Chambers stars, and as his friends, James Gilbert, David Patrick Flemming, Matthew Amyotte and Glen Matthews.

On The Corridor set, MacDonald is roaming and chatting with the director and actors, a headset dangling around his neck, enjoying a kind of freedom not generally extended to the screenwriter.

"Having a writer around on a production can perhaps be an impediment," admits MacDonald in a quiet moment away from the camera. "It's a privilege and I try not to abuse it. Evan Kelly, Mike Masters and Craig Cameron, who are producers of the film, I count those guys as friends. This production model is what I always wished for, to have a gang of guys I really like, and we're all simpatico, trying to do the best we can with the resources we got."

Sounds like a mirror of the camaraderie in front of the camera. Fortunately, aside from some trouble with the mild winter---the script called for a lot of snow, which wasn't always available---the shoot went better than things do for the friends in the cabin, who discover something otherworldly out in the woods, the dimensional portal suggested in the title. MacDonald is thrilled to be working in the horror genre, having shared his script and got the thumbs up from local horrorists such as Treevenge director Jason Eisener.

"I love all horror movies, of all stripes," he says, explaining that much of the fear in The Corridor is of the unknown. "We've willfully left this enigma out of frame. It's an abstraction, it is literally and figuratively a negative space. These are guys with masculine hang-ups about what their place is in the universe...they discover they're very, very small."

Chambers, waiting to appear in the next scene, considers the picture in light of the great horror movies of the 1970s. "I can't say Josh MacDonald is literally drawing from other films, but I saw a connection. I saw The Shining, The Exorcist and these are probably my top two horror films, and they scare the crap out of me. There's no possession in this, but there's something. A mood."

As the crew moves lights and sets up another shot amid the destruction, the owner of the bed and breakfast strolls through the set. She looks around and says to no one in particular, "I will never tell anyone what you did to my place. Welcome to Chaos Bed and Breakfast."

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