Zack Ward's (A Christmas Story, Almost Famous, Transformers) independent horror film Restoration is now available on DVD and digital download from Amazon and iTunes. The horror genre is one that is often oversaturated with similar themes and knockoffs. The official synopsis for Restoration describes a story that viewers have seemingly seen before -- but that's not the case.
"While renovating their house a couple finds a diary hidden in the walls, lost for 30 years. Opening the book releases the ghost of a child that haunts their dreams and waking life, driving them to find the cause of her death and release her soul."
A variety of ingredients separates this movie from other haunted-house-themed films, giving the movie originality. Horror movie and thriller fans will love Restoration if they appreciate the classic ingredients of a good horror film. Alfred Hitchcock once said, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it," and Ward brilliantly follows that ideology.
Restoration is not a film where every five minutes someone is slaughtered, but rather the movie unthreads itself meticulously as the plot thickens. Each segment of the movie gives the viewers another piece of the puzzle while unveiling answers to their questions throughout the tale. Restoration is a supernatural thriller that also offers the audience comedic moments followed by scenes that are often suspenseful and utterly creepy.
Zack Ward is not only the director of the film, but he is also the writer, producer, and one of the actors as well. The horror genre is one of the more difficult film varieties to create, and it might have been easier for Ward's film debut to be a romantic comedy or a drama rather than a horror film.
This reporter spoke to Mr. Ward and asked him why he was drawn to a horror film as his feature-length debut.
"I love the horror genre because it encompasses all the aspects of acting and story: drama, comedy, action and horror all in a life or death struggle that defines the heroic journey. Regardless of the genre, the goal was to share my vision and voice with the audience, hoping they'd enjoy the show."
Zack has had the pleasure of working with directors like Stephen Spielberg and Cameron Crowe, and he shared how these artists have influenced his directing style.
"Cameron Crowe was amazing to watch on set, how he worked with his actors and crew. He never lost his cool, was always calm, focused and polite. He was a leader who didn't berate people to get what he wanted and it inspired his team. Steven Spielberg was very similar to Mr. Crowe. My experience differed as he was producing, not directing, when I worked with him on a TV show called High Incident. We spent some time together and the key lesson I learned from him was how to listen, that Stephen Spielberg was open to other ideas than his and when it was a good idea that benefitted the project, he'd institute the concept immediately. He wasn't interested in defending his ego, he only defended the story. However, as a director, I did learn a ton from his shot style, especially 'The Spielberg Oner', I highly recommend it."
The character-building of the movie is splendid. Emily O'Brien is especially impressive as an actress who portrays the character of Rebecca Jordan. Rebecca is married to Todd, portrayed by Adrian Gaeta, and their chemistry works well in the film. The duo has a good script to work off of as their dialogue in the movie seems realistic and genuine, making it is easy for the audience to empathize with the couple and their struggle throughout the movie. Often Gaeta's timing and delivery give us moments of comedic relief, while O'Brien's reaction to the unbelievable circumstances that they are experiencing adds to the dramatic parts of the film.
"I've met Emily before, socially, but it was my first time working with any of them," said Ward. "They were all truly amazing. The film is good because of how brilliant, patient, and committed they were."
Independent artists, albeit with films, music, or books, often struggle to have their work see the light of day, and the creation process along the way can often be a hurdle to overcome. Zack Ward expounded on the disadvantages of creating an independent film.
"There are so many. Everything is harder because there is no money. Just imagine your own life, then go bankrupt. That's pretty much what it's like. But, you push through because you are passionate about what you're making, because to you, it will change your life. To take an idea and turn it into a living, breathing thing that is shared around the world, whether loved or hated, it is the closest thing to having a child that I'll ever experience. And just like a child, you can't give up, you have to support it in every way possible in order to give it the best opportunity to live and fly. That may sound bizarre, and it is, but is the level of drive and desire you have to embody with an indie film or you can't get it started and you'll never finish it."
There are some advantages, however.
"I get to be the boss. I wrote, produced, directed, acted, and edited the film. My producing partner, James Cullen Bressack, shared my vision so there were no arguments about style or content, just conversations about how to get it done in the time we had with the money available."
Zack Ward and Sarah Ann Schultz play the characters of Harold and Francine Stone. Similar to O'Brien and Gaeta, this couple feels genuine. Acting in a movie that one also directs can be difficult in addition to the challenges a director faces when he makes a film.
"Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And I'm also in the film so it adds that layer of complexity to the process. There are so many more hurdles to overcome when you're working at this level but maybe that's what prepares you for stepping up to the next. If it was easy then everyone would do it."
Restoration will give audiences thrills, laughs, chills, and a compelling ending that may appear to be obvious in the middle of the story, but it offers a swerve that will present the audience a shock at the end. Paralleling the film's authenticity, Zack Ward is genuine and wanted to give the audience a personal message.
"Whoever you are, wherever you live, watch my movie and tell me what you think. I'll respond directly on Twitter or Facebook, just DM me."
[Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images and Uncork'd Entertainment]