Rich Ragsdale Awakens Restless Spirits with Ghost House
Rich Ragsdale Exclusive Interview
Ghost House released on August 25th, 2017 across major Video on Demand platforms. The film delves on a supernatural premise. To elaborate, Ghost House explores Thai superstition as the basis of the narrative. Ragsdale’s production associated with the Asian Horror sub-genre. Over the years many distinguished films have manifested from this cinema market.
There are older Asian Horror releases that today remain as representatives of supernatural terror. Hollywood struggled to imitate achievement of these films with reboots and remakes, each with mixed results.
Rich Ragsdale has worked in many facets of the film and television industry. Ragsdale’s thirty-nine credits in music composition cover a wide range of productions from Horror to video games to comedic sitcoms. Film shorts compose his twenty-one credits as a director. Ragsdale makes his feature film directorial debut with Ghost House.
In Ghost House Ragsdale remains true to the aesthetic that characterizes Asian supernatural Horror films. In our exclusive interview, Rich Ragsdale shares insight on the production, folklore and a glimpse in his career.
From DecayMag thank you, Mr. Rich Ragsdale, for taking the time to answer our questions.
DecayMag: In obtaining the B footage (especially in the night light area and village setting) Were there any problems in filming at these or any locations?
Rich Ragsdale: Not really. Everyone was very cooperative. We had permission to shoot everything we did. In the bigger public areas, sometimes the camera caught people off guard, but we didn’t have any trouble with them.
DecayMag: Most films find difficulty in presenting folklore in Horror movies. Either the locals refuse to partake or share traditions for the sake of movie making. Did something like this occur during filming?
Rich Ragsdale: The locals were always friendly and helpful. Thailand is a very friendly place! On the first day of shooting, we participated in a ritual to clear spirits from the set and bless the production. This also helped engender goodwill from the Thai crew as it was meant as a gesture of unity. Anytime we shot in a place that could be potentially haunted, we repeated the ritual first.
DecayMag: Ghost House differs from Hollywood’s take on this genre. Your film follows close with traditional Asian Horror format. What were some approaches used in making Ghost House relate to the genre?
Rich Ragsdale: Well, we thought since Thai ghost houses (or spirit houses) are not well known here in the states it would be an interesting hook to hang our mythology on. My brother (and producer) and I have spent quite a lot of time in Thailand, so a number of the things that occur in the film are based on our experiences over there, including stumbling on a ghost house graveyard in the jungle, a spot where locals had discarded their old ghost houses. After spending an afternoon poking around, peeking inside, and taking pictures of the abandoned ghost houses, it occurred to us that this was probably a very bad idea! But maybe a great set up for a horror film.
Well, we thought since Thai ghost houses (or spirit houses) are not well known here in the states it would be an interesting hook to hang our mythology on.
DecayMag: The antagonist is terrifying, please share some insight on the design and finding the right actress to convey this terror.
Rich Ragsdale: I did a few initial concept drawings for our ghost design, then handed those off to our FX makeup artist Vincent Van Dyke. He took my rather loose drawings and created a very detailed and terrifying prosthetic make up. We also built a prosthetic puppet head version of our ghost for some of the more surreal, 80s style fx shots at the end.
The actress we cast to play our ghost is Wenchu Yang. She is a talented dancer and dear friend. We had made an experimental dance film together years ago that really showed off her ability to move in strange, haunting ways.
…when it came time to cast our ghost, she (Wenchu Yang) was really the only choice for us.
DecayMag: In Julie’s dream sequence at the hotel room. How was such an elaborate scene executed?
Rich Ragsdale: It was heavily planned out in advance. I storyboarded the entire sequence. That was really the key as our budget was very tight and our schedule tighter, so there was no room for error. There are these match cuts that jump from one location to another so it was tricky, but I knew if I laid all my storyboards out like a comic book and it all made sense visually, and then we shot the boards exactly, it would cut together properly. My editor, Jay Gartland, really helped pace it out properly in post. Then we the score and sound design added that special sauce.
Of course, Scout nailed her performance here, which sells the whole thing.
DecayMag: Please share insight on the river and mountainous region seen in ACT III. Where is this locale and how was the experience filming there?
Rich Ragsdale: We shot most of that in Sangkhlaburi, near the Burmese border. I had seen pictures of an ancient abandoned temple there and knew it would be the perfect place for the end of our film. When I scouted there and saw the mist on the water in the early morning, I knew had to shoot there, even though it was a long trip from Bangkok and it was a difficult move for the crew.
It is a magical place, and there is this giant wooden bridge we used as a backdrop that looks like something out of a Peter Jackson epic.
DecayMag: Ghost House looks to adapt a reference with folklore. How grounded was the film on the actual legend?
Rich Ragsdale: Well, ghost houses are everywhere Thailand. They are generally revered and not feared, but if the wrong ghost inhabits an abandoned one, it can be very bad!
While we created our own ghost as the central antagonist, we reference traditional Thai ghosts in places, like the Phi Phraya river ghost that you see near the end of the film.
DecayMag: Thailand is known for its fighting history (Muay Thai) and it is less than stellar economy. Why in your opinion do you believe folklore plays an important role in their society?
Rich Ragsdale: It is hard to know exactly. Their culture is very ancient, and the traditions are very old, so there are deeply held beliefs that date very far back.
The Thai generally don’t talk openly about their faith; they don’t proselytize like folks here in the west.
DecayMag: What were some of the other stories in Thai folklore that were equally as frightening for a film concept?
Rich Ragsdale: There are some cool ghosts in Thai folklore, like Krause, a female ghost whose head comes off and floats through the air with her internal organs, heart, lungs, intestines, etc, hanging down from her neck. I dunno how frightening this would be for a western audience, but I think it is an amazing image.
DecayMag: The antagonist in every legend and ghost story has a reason for their haunting. In Ghost House why is the apparition restless in her pursuit for tormenting the living?
Rich Ragsdale: She died in a fit of jealousy, burning to death while setting fire to her home in an attempt to kill her husband and his young lover. So now she torments young women who dare violate her home. (This might be too spoiler-y)
DecayMag: Did any unexplained happenings occur during filming?
Rich Ragsdale: We were shooting the finale of our film in an abandoned temple, and the elderly actress who was playing our witch doctor began having difficulty getting her lines out. I thought we were working her too hard, but my AD informed me she was told him she saw ghosts everywhere and was terrified. Apparently, our purification ritual hadn’t worked that day. After the crew heard that they all left set to get their amulets they wear for protection. The next morning we repeated the ritual much closer to the set!
A crew member had informed us that he thought a ghost had attached itself to the production and had followed us up to the mountains. He claimed that it was messing with the gear and knocking his glasses off his face.
DecayMag: Your career boast participation in many genres and mediums. What is your opinion on creating content for VR especially for Horror?
Rich Ragsdale: VR can be particularly effective for horror, but I think of myself as more of a traditional filmmaker, so it isn’t really for me as a creative.
DecayMag: Ghost House is different conceptually and aesthetically in supernatural horror. Do you wish to continue with another entry to this particular genre or venture into another Horror concept?
Rich Ragsdale: We have several ideas in the hopper, and they span many different genre and styles. But I like dark material, so I imagine the next project will be along those lines.
Who knows… maybe Ghost House 2!
DecayMag: What is on the horizon in terms of Horror projects?
Rich Ragsdale: We are developing several things right now. it is too soon to discuss them, but we will let you know as soon as we can!