When we last checked in on the hapless heroes of The House Between, they were staring death in the face. Three of them had already been spirited away and the remaining three appeared to have only moments to live. Watching the final episode of season two (“Ruined”), I was amazed to find that I was 100% emotionally engaged. Although I have been involved with the production of the series since day one and know the real people behind the characters, I was still completely willing and able to suspend my disbelief. In the final moments of the show, I realized that not only did I believe in these characters… but also that I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to them.
The shooting of season two was so arduous that I think we all wondered if we’d be willing to go another round in the house between. Ultimately, writer/director John Muir was able to amass the troops for a third and final season. What he wasn’t able to wrangle was the old Victorian house where the characters first met. So in the last week of May 2008, we gathered at a new location – a run-down office building in one of North Carolina’s sleepiest old railroad towns. The building dates back to the turn of the 20th century, and was home to the first Belk department store… not that you’ll be able to tell from our footage. In season three, this husk of a building is known only as “the dark place,” and one need only glance at its crumbling walls, chipped-paint ceiling and exposed, skeletal beams to understand that this is a place with a history. It is older than the beloved “house between”… and much less pleasant.
By the end of our first day of Season Three shooting, I realized that I was allergic to something inside our new digs. I began to understand (to a lesser degree) what a few of the actors had gone through in season two when they fell ill during shooting. For me, much of the week’s activity took on a hazy, dream-like quality. I saw it all as through a glass darkly, and by the end of the week I was so bleary-eyed that it seemed no one could look at me without asking, “Are you okay?”
There were other problems too. The delayed arrival of a few actors meant that we fell behind on our very first day and never quite caught up. Out of necessity, we shot wildly out of order, creating a sense of true chaos. Then there were sound issues: Because we were shooting in a town center, we had to plan every take around traffic noises. If a motorcycle came down main street, or someone blew their car horn, or a loud drunk wandered out of the neighborhood bar, we had to scrap the take. Things got significantly worse when, on day three, a group of workers began setting up a sound stage right outside of our window. That night, the otherworldly angst of our time and space-travelers had to compete with a Memorial Day boot scoot boogie.
We waited it out, shot into the wee hours of the morning, and returned a few hours later to find the neighbors setting up for a sidewalk auction. Then there was the heat. Summer had arrived in Monroe, the building wasn’t air conditioned, and our heavy black tarps covering the third-floor windows weren’t helping with the ventilation.
I offer all of these details as explanation for our failure to shoot everything we had on our schedule. Halfway through the penultimate day, we still had big chunks of four episodes to complete. John, who somehow managed to steer the ship with steely resolve under circumstances that would have broken the spirit of a lesser director, stayed up all night to re-write the final script – combining two half-hour episodes into one hour-long finale. (Sleepless nights with his two-year-old son had trained him well for this sort of endurance test.) We managed to shoot all but a handful of scenes involving Tony Mercer and Kim Breeding, who promised to return a few weeks later for a day of pickups. After many trials and tribulations, season three was in the can. The cast and crew had risen to the challenge.
Now that John has emerged from months of editing, I’m looking forward to once again forgetting about the creative process, suspending my disbelief, and getting lost in the world of these characters. Without giving away too much, I can say that a lot of things are going to change. There will be new faces in the series, and some of the old faces will be deceptively familiar. The stories will continue to expand on an already elaborate mythology, wrapping up the three-season storyline.
In a recent blog post, Muir talks about the conception of the new season – citing the influence of Space:1999 writer Johnny Byrne (who he calls the “spiritual godfather” of The House Between), as well as a specific episode of The Outer Limits and a particular scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. I also see shades of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which comes as no surprise since John wrote the definitive book on Wes Craven, and I’m eagerly looking forward to our most horror-heavy episode since first season’s “Visited.”
In the meantime, check out “Devoured,” the first episode of this new incarnation of The House Between. You’ll find the link on the official series website first thing tomorrow morning.