To the Moon Scott Friend

To the Moon is a cabin in the woods horror film about family and addiction

Writer-director Scott Friend spoke with us about applying genre cinema to a truly painful and all too real topic.

In reimagining the cabin in the woods film, actor, writer and director Scott Friend is pillaged from his own life. In his feature debut, To the Moon, Friend brings the audience into the woods and the very real cabin where his family spent their summers. He plays a fictionalized version of himself, Dennis, an actor struggling with addiction. With his marriage on the brink of collapse, he and his wife (Friend’s fiancé at the time of the shooting, now his wife) go on a weekend retreat to the woods. When Dennis’s troubled brother shows up, the line between reality and delusion starts to crack. 

Working within the confines of genre, Friend examines the trauma of addiction and how it collapses any sense of trust. Which characters can we rely on to tell the truth, especially when they cannot trust their memory and perceptions? Scott Friend spoke with Cult MTL about the film ahead of its Shudder streaming debut. 

Justine Smith: Where did the idea for To the Moon come from?

Scott Friend: This goes deep. It was like an amalgamation of almost everything in my life at the time. My brother had just relapsed for the fourth time in about 10 years. Dealing with his addiction, my relationship with him, and my relationship with my fiancé, I was like, how can I take all these experiences and make them into something that people can identify with and relate to? It was that mixed with where we shot the film, at my great aunt and uncle’s cabin that they bought in 1963 for $300. It’s on 100 acres of land. And throughout the 1960s, they built it out. It was a hunting lodge, and they built it into the house you see in the film. The fear of losing that house also sparked it. I thought I only had six months to make this movie before the house was gone.

JS: And why were you afraid of losing the house?

SF: My great uncle passed away a couple of years ago, and my great aunt, who’s now in her 90s, wasn’t sure if she’d be able to take care of the house anymore. It’s a lot of upkeep, and not as many people were going up to use it. One day she said, I’m not sure I can hold onto the house. I’ve always wanted to make a film there, and that was a big push to do it.

To the Moon, directed by Scott Friend
To the Moon, directed by Scott Friend

JS: And what’s the timeline for the film? Was it made during the pandemic?

SF: Nov. 4, 2019, was our first day shooting. We filmed up until Nov. 23. So just before the pandemic. I was in L.A. editing the film all throughout February of 2020, and I flew back to New York on Feb. 28. I’d heard about the coronavirus, and on Feb. 28, certain people were wearing masks in the airport. It was just utter confusion. Thankfully, we filmed it just before everything kicked off.

JS: It’s a small cast and crew in an isolated location; what was the atmosphere on set?

SF: It was so much fun. It was an eight-person crew, so yes, just three actors, our dog. It was just eight of us. It was such a blast because there was no wifi at the house. There’s no cell phone service. There’s just the house line. We’re isolated from the world, which just worked out perfectly because that’s what these characters were going through. It was great for the whole crew to disconnect from everything because you can just hang out and get one-on-one time with people. Every night after we wrapped shooting, after dinner, we were playing board games. 

JS: Did you always intend to make a genre film? Because it could have just as easily been a family or social drama.

SF: I’ve always loved genre films, but I never thought I would ever make one. I just felt like you couldn’t do that unless you’re totally in that world. Originally, I was writing a family drama, and then the whole thing with the possibility of losing the house, [I realized] it has to be a genre film because that’s what this house is made for. That’s when I started playing with it and the alchemy of everything all coming together. We’re dealing with hard subjects, and it’s very personal. I don’t wanna beat people over the head with this subject matter. How can I make it the most fun and palatable? And that’s how I came to the genre world of it.

To the Moon

JS: The monster in this movie remains mostly invisible. What is the motivation behind that?

SF: [Addiction] is like an invisible monster, right? It can pop up whenever it does, and it’s often unspoken. At least from my experience with my brother and the people afflicted with it, it does feel like an absence. In genre films, too, the scariest thing is not seeing the monster. With addiction, the scariest part can be waiting for that “monster” to arrive.

JS: What was the process of making the film? Was it difficult?

SF: Just about anything you think could go wrong did. The week before we went up to do some camera and lighting tests, there was a huge storm. This house is in the middle of nowhere. There was a huge storm, and a tree fell on the house, cutting out all the cable service. We thought we might not be able to shoot. Thankfully we were. Another tree fell on one of the main paths that heads into the woods. So we had to have a different detour to get to where we would go. All the toilets would clog, and the heating broke in the middle of the shoot. We were getting locked in the bathrooms. We got locked out of the house.

When we went up the week before, the last week of October, it was really nice out. It was in the sixties [around 15C]. We thought this was gonna be a beautiful shoot. A week later, we show up, and the temperature plummets like 20 degrees and it’s freezing. So all those scenes where we are around that table, the meal scenes, there’s no insulation in that room. A lot of times, we have short-sleeve shirts on and whatnot. It’s freezing in there. It’s legitimately like 45 degrees [7C], and we can’t have heaters on while we shoot. So we’d have little heating pads all over our chest and legs. There’s a breakfast scene where I take my mug, and I take a sip of it, and it looks like steam from coffee or tea, but it’s my breath. ■

To the Moon trailer

To the Moon is now streaming on VOD.

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