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Interview - THE CABIN Director Johan Bodell

THE CABIN Director Johan Bodell
We chat with the director of Swedish thriller The Cabin.


Young American couple, Rose (Caitlin Crommett) and Harry (Christopher Lee Page) are on their way to visit Harrys family cabin. Both as a nostalgic vacation and as a way to rekindle their relationship. But they’re not the only one that decided to visit the cabin this weekend... The vacation is quickly turned into a living nightmare for Rose and Harry as they meet a vicious sociopath, who invites them into a involuntary cat and mouse game.

THE CABIN film poster



When you’re an independent filmmaker, you have to work with what’s already available to you. In the case of The Cabin, Johan Bodell had farm and land his family had owned since the 1600s at his disposal.



When did you come down with the filmmaking bug, Johan?

My family had a VHS-camera at home that we only used for vacations and birthdays. Me and my friends laid our hands on that and decided to make a Star Wars film. I think we were 11 at the time. We thought it was awesome! We continued to make films and after a couple of years, my interest had just kept growing while my friends got interested in other things. When it was time to choose what high-school to attend, I laid my eyes on Sweden’s only Film-high-school. It was located on the island of Gotland, around an eight hour trip from home. I got in and moved away from home when I was 15. It was a great experience. We had half of the semester devoted to film production and history. And the second half we studied all the mandatory subjects. So, when shooting you didn’t have to stress to be able to go to English or Math. From there on I’ve been working with films every day.



Had you had family or friends in the industry?

I didn’t have any family in the industry but I had a couple of friends in the industry. One of my best friends works as a storyboard artist and another had a small production company in the small town where I grew up. It was great to be able to get their input and borrow cameras and editing computers growing up.



Do you remember your first camera?

My first own camera was a small DV-camera. I looked at the footage in recent years and the quality is awful. But I remember how excited I was when I got it.



Most filmmakers, especially when they’re starting out, have to hold down another job at the same time – at least until one of their films hits big. Was that the case for you?

That’s absolutely the case for me. After graduating from the film high-school I got a job coordinating releases for one of Scandinavia’s first VOD-stores, back in 2008. Did that for a couple of years before I decided to move to California to keep studying filmmaking. Since I got back to Sweden I’ve been working as a production coordinator on a couple of shows and as assistant director.

During the production of The Cabin, I was working as a reporter for the local newspaper, doing all the pre-production at nights and weekends. Right now I’m working as a filmmaker at one of the largest universities in Sweden, doing films about the latest research. It’s really nice, but it’s still a lot of work at weekends and nights doing a feature film besides your “normal” job. But I’ve always been working with films in one way or another, and that’s something I’m truly happy about.



Was a horror film always the goal?

For my first feature yes. Me and Erik Kammerland (Screenwriter) set a couple of rules or guidelines for the project before we started to write it. I’ve met so many people that always had an excuse why they hadn’t done a feature film. It could have been that they were waiting for complete funding or the perfect script. We decided to try a different approach. We decided to make a film that we knew we could make with the resources we had. One of the guidelines we set out for ourselves was to have few actors, in few locations. We were looking for a location where we could do basically everything we wanted and went to have a look at the Cabin, which is my family’s old cabin that my grandfather built.

It’s located on a farm owned by my aunt. There we had a perfect surrounding for a horror film with the cabin on one side, and an empty house across the lake. So the story was built from the location.

Sure, shooting a feature film in a cabin without power or water has its difficulties, but the month we spent there were truly awesome.



Is there anything personal in The Cabin – or was it just a fun story you wanted to tell?

There’s a ton of personal things in The Cabin. The most personal of all was to be able to shoot it where we did. The farm and the land have been in my family since the 1600s. I’ve had generations working on that land, and to be able to work within my field, on the same land touched me on a personal side.

Some characteristics of the main characters are sculptured from personal experiences, but mostly it was a fun story.



Can you talk about the motivations of the villain here – [he/she] is rather complex, right?

That’s true. We talked a lot about that during the process, and there is a complexity there. And after having a couple of screenings it’s been interesting to hear how the audience has read the villain. I’ve heard a lot of theories, which is really exciting. I’m not going to reveal if there is a correct or wrong answer.



How do you feel about some of 2018’s horror films? Is horror healthy right now?

I wouldn’t say that I’m looking at that much horror. But the feeling I have is that it’s definitely very healthy. We still have the remakes and reboots, but there’s also the fresh new takes on the genre.




The Cabin is now on VOD and DVD.




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