Canadian writer-director Jim Makichuk has been working in the film business for over four decades. But he is best known to genre fans for helming the snowbound horror Ghostkeeper (1981).
Post Ghostkeeper, he rounded out the remainder of the eighties by writing, directing and editing two television movies: The Tower (1985) and Niagara Strip (1989), for Visual Productions of Toronto. He also wrote Betrayal of Silence (1988), a courtroom drama about teen abuse, aired in Canada on CTV and in the United States on Lifetime.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Makichuk worked extensively in television both as a writer and story editor, developing a number of feature films with companies like ABC Productions, Sony Pictures, Leonard Goldberg and others, including two science fiction television movies for Paramount's UPN network.
We sat down with Makichuk to discuss the making of Ghostkeeper some 30 years ago, and to explore how its delightfully lowkey blend of supernatural and gothic elements came about.
We also got the scoop on his plans for a sequel, tentatively titled -- aptly enough -- Ghostkeeper 2).
The Terror Trap: What’s your earliest recollection of knowing you wanted to pursue a career in film?
Jim Makichuk: When I was about four. I lived in a small town in Canada, and by small town I mean about 800 people.
My parents took me to a movie. It was called The Living Desert (1953). I was in the audience with them and all of a sudden, this rattlesnake appeared on the screen. And I just screamed like crazy.
Because it was a small town and everyone knew each other, I was allowed to accompany my mother up to the projection room and I sat there. It was nice and warm. The sound of the film just sort of going through the projector all the time made me feel incredibly comfortable.
TT: Did you go to the movies often when you were a kid?
JM: Yeah, ever since I was four or five. At the age of about seven or eight, I was going on my own. I'd see every movie that came to that one theater in town. That's all I ever wanted.
I went to college in Detroit and I stayed there for two years, majoring in psychology and English. I got a job at a TV station on the Canadian side of the border and that was it.
TT: How old were you at that point?
JM: About 21 or 22.
TT: What years were you in Detroit, roughly?
JM: That would have been 1969 to '73.
TT: Great Motown years...
JM: You bet. Working at a radio station and the TV station, I got to cover concerts. Groups like The Four Tops and The Temptations would come to our high school on Friday night, and they would put their records on the PA system and lip-synch a song or two and then hit the next high school.
JM: That's when I started to work as a cameraman for TV news. At that time, in that part of the world, the homicide rate was about 1,000 a year. It was pretty exciting, I gotta say. I was involved in a shoot-out and a whole lot of other things. It was fantastic.
TT: Was your initial interest in writing or directing? Or did it evolve as you went along?
JM: Well, I always wrote. Even as a kid. So I'd say it was probably the writing. I was working at the TV station in the film editing department. And the news director came down and asked if I wanted to do some writing because his writer had to go to the hospital for four weeks. I said, "Of course!"
It wasn't that hard to figure out the format. I just went up and sat there and looked at the format and thought...I can write this. That's where it started in terms of being the person who's paid for writing. I stayed at the station for awhile. I got married during that period.
Then I decided to go to Vancouver. A friend of mine, who I met at a film school in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, was there. We were the only two people who had failed. But as it turned out, the both of us were the only two who went on to work in the film industry. So much for film school!
JM: I travelled across the country because at that time, you could get work in television almost anywhere. There were lots of jobs in broadcasting. So I got into writing and producing and doing a lot of directing for commercials, corporate films and documentaries.
I ended up in Calgary at a TV station and happened to be working with a guy named Harry Cole. He and I started talking about doing a movie together. This would be around 1980. He quit, and I stayed on for a few months and then I quit.
Harry was trying to finance this film that he had written but it fell apart.
TT: Was it a horror movie?
JM: No, it was an action film. Kind of a caper movie with airplanes.
Anyway, at this time, I had found a hotel in the Rockies. A hotel that was just a fantastic, creepy place.
TT: The one used for Ghostkeeper?
JM: Right. I think I wrote the script in about two weeks. It probably shows, unfortunately. (Laughs.) A friend of mine, Doug MacLeod, is also credited for the screenplay but basically, he gave me a couple of ideas. It was Doug who knew the owner of that hotel. He and I decided to go out and look at it, and we thought it was the perfect location.
TT: Were you influenced at all by Stephen King's The Shining?
JM: There wasn't much of an influence from Kubrick's film as far as I'm concerned. Because it's not the same kind of story, really. Some people have pointed out what they think are similarities. I gotta say though, all that snow in The Shining, for example, was fake. The snow that we had was real. I mean, it was like minus 35 to minus 40 outside.
TT: Was Deer Lodge the actual name of the hotel at the time?
JM: Yeah. And back then it was closed in the winter. It was perfect. But it's a strange hotel because it's at the far edge of this famous hotel called The Chateau Lake Louise. Many people don't notice the Deer Lodge because it's sort of hidden in the back.
That opening shot in the lobby is exactly how it looked. There wasn't a single thing we added. The carpet had those blood-red kind of designs almost superimposed on it. It was all there already. We added virtually nothing in terms of art direction. It was all itself. For me, the Deer Lodge hotel is as much a character in Ghostkeeper as the human characters themselves.
TT: Agreed. Any idea how old it was?
JM: I believe it was built in the 1930s. And I think they added a second section in the 1960s.
I was there this past Christmas actually, and the people there were excited. A copy of Ghostkeeper had gone around to the workers and it became sort of this cult film for people who work in that part of the Rockies. It came as a complete surprise to me.
TT: Does it look the same?
JM: It looks exactly the same. It hasn't changed at all.
TT: Let's jump back to writing the script for a moment: can you tell us what your inspiration was for the Windigo?
JM: The Windigo is part of a legend in Canada, as it is in America. The spelling isn't the same in Canada as it is in the U.S. but it's the same thing. From what I've read, it was based on some of the Cree Indian stories. But then again, it's a story about a cannibal essentially.
For me, that's inherently where the weakness is in the movie because I had planned a whole lot more for the creature. As it turned out in terms of the financing and everything else, it was impossible.
TT: Did you have an interest in horror when you conceived Ghostkeeper?
JM: Yes, although the director I admired most was John Ford. For me, The Searchers (1956) is probably the best movie I've ever seen.
In terms of horror, I was influenced most by John Carpenter. Especially the way he built up suspense. It was always interesting how he could scare you and there's nothing there. I wasn't especially keen on Tobe Hooper and George Romero. Maybe that's because I'm a Catholic boy from Canada. It's kind of hard for me to do any kind of down and dirty slasher or graphic horror movie, to be honest.
The scene in Ghostkeeper that was sort of explicit, and scary at the same time, is Sheri's death. I wanted her to be like a piece of meat. Kind of like when there's a guy in a freezer and he takes a hunk of meat and he throws it on the table. I like the shot where she's pulled out of the frame.
TT: That's a good moment.
JM: If anything, it was a whole lot scarier than some kind of a slasher thing. So yeah, I would say that Carpenter was a very strong influence on me...especially with that sequence.
TT: Can you talk a bit about how Ghostkeeper was a tax shelter film?
JM: Sure. The tax shelter came into place between 1975 and 1985. It established the film industry for English Canada. And I say English Canada because in Canada, there's French and English.
The Canadians were never that good at movies. Somehow, they never really caught on…and it's still kind of like that to a point. Of course, the Americans and a whole lot of carpetbaggers came in. But the thing they did was...they came with the American crews and cameramen and editors. It basically started the film industry that Canada has now.
And for people who criticize it, there were many movies that were crap and eventually, the accountants and the lawyers began to take out a whole lot of money from the budgets and the government said, "To hell with you guys. If there's gonna be some screwing around, it's over with."
The best part of that time is there were also good films made. A Christmas Story (1983), for example. That was a terrific movie.
And Phillip Borsos' The Grey Fox (1982). There were a handful of good films AND it started a whole industry. I'd say the tax shelter thing was valuable, all in all.
Ghostkeeper in particular was financed in Calgary, which was (and is) an oil town. It was financed for about $650,000. Two or three guys wrote the checks. It always surprised me that a check for $200,000 was the same size as a check I would write myself for ten bucks. (Laughs.)
TT: You were expecting one of those huge 3 foot x 5 foot cardboard checks they present you with when you win the lottery.
JM: Exactly! (Laughs.)
The guy who financed it the most was Larry Dickie. He's credited on the movie. I see him every so often. He's still hanging on. Larry's the one who carried the financing through. It wasn't Harry Cole.
TT: Can you tell us about Harry's brother Stan and his involvement with the picture?
JM: He came in because of Harry, of course. Stan is a terrific film editor. He probably is the best editor I've ever been associated with. Yet he wasn't easy to work with because I was a first-timer and people are always skeptical of someone who's never directed a film.
There were problems I had, especially with the 1st AD. We had arguments throughout the movie because he felt he had been in the business longer than me and he thought he should be the one to direct.
I produced it as well. It was my company.
TT: That would be Badland?
From what I know, Stan is retired now but he taught me a lot of things. He just was a natural. For me, there were two people who made that movie. That would be the cameraman and Stan.
TT: By cameraman, you're referring to John Holbrook?
JM: Yes. I think that John is one of the best in Canada.
TT: There's an aesthetic simplicity to Ghostkeeper. You've got that blanket of white snow. The plot isn't too complicated. The cast is small and manageable.
Were these conscious choices at the time or a result of budgetary constrictions?
JM: Definitely conscious. With me and Holbrook, in particular. I wanted him to hold the shots. There's one shot I did where Riva Spier is drinking some tea and all of a sudden, she realizes it's doped. Behind her, there's a reflection of a door opening and two faces. That was the shot I was allowed, so I had the camera and filmed it.
There are a lot of spaces in the movie. It was sort of our version of a Scandinavian horror film.
TT: The elements we mentioned really gel together as far as we're concerned. They work to its favor, making for a tight, lean little horror flick.
JM: I suppose there's some controversy about that. But I don't really care. Except for the ending, I'm generally happy with the film that we created. With John, we didn't zoom. Everything we shot had prime lenses. There were no over-the-shoulder shots, either. I've always hated those. It was our choice. The thing we wanted to do was to hopefully get [the viewer] to feel that they were in the hotel...and weren't able to leave.
TT: Was Ghostkeeper difficult to shoot?
JM: Yeah, extremely hard to film. We were shooting with lenses that were like 1.5. And it was hard for John to get the focus. It was almost impossible. One shot at the end, where the actors are walking towards each other in the hallway...that took about twelve takes. It was always because of the focus.
TT: Do you recall roughly the actual shooting dates?
JM: It began sometime around the last week of November to about the 18th of December 1980.
TT: So you wrapped up right before Christmas.
JM: Right. That was also part of the shelter. It was for people who had a whole lot of money who at the end of the year were looking for tax shelters. You'll notice that many Canadian films were shot in November and December. (Laughs.) The last thing people with money are thinking about in June or July is taxes.
TT: Now, you've said the actual length of the filming was around 16 or 17 days?
JM: Yes, give or take some.
TT: $650,000 for the budget wasn't bad, considering the time.
JM: We had about a 32-man crew. It was all IA. We shot it in 35mm with an Arriflex BL. And we stayed at hotels for almost four weeks.
TT: Can you tell our readers what IA is?
JM: That's the union. IATSE, which stands for International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. It's the same here in the States. It's the cameramen, the grips, the gaffers, etc. The technical people.
TT: Earlier we discussed any similarities (or lack of) to The Shining. What about Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977)? Had you seen that one? Part of the plot of Ghostkeeper reminds us of it.
JM: I don't think I've seen it. I'll try to find a copy, maybe through NetFlix. Is it an English movie?
TT: No, it's American. It's about a young model, played by Cristina Raines, who rents a brownstone apartment in NYC. The other tenants are really weird and she ends up being possessed and becomes the "sentinel" for the gateway to hell.
JM: (Laughs.) That sounds vaguely familiar. I might have seen it but I can't remember.
TT: Check it out. It's a fun flick.
Let's talk a little about the cast. They're spunky and talented. We want to start with the scene stealer herself, Georgie Collins.
JM: Oh, she's fantastic. She's 87 now. We talked on the phone not too long ago and I mentioned a sequel I'd like to do. She said, "Well if you want someone who's blind and can't hear…" I told her I'd put her in a chair and feed her the lines, anything to have her do it. She thought about and she said, "You know what? I think I might like to play that old bird again."
TT: She was wonderful in Ghostkeeper.
JM: She's such an incredible talent. I can't say enough about her.
TT: Does she still live in Canada?
JM: Yeah, she's now living in an apartment complex for the elderly. In Calgary. But she's mobile. She walks around.
TT: How did she get involved with the project?
JM: It was an accident. A pure accident. I was in prep and somebody went to Harry and said, "This is the person you want." So she came in for a reading and I thought she was perfect. That was it. She actually goes back to the beginning of theatre in Calgary, in the '40s and '50s.
As a matter of fact, the footage I have of her that was shot for an interview for the DVD…I'm thinking of taking a half-hour of it and handing it over to one of the networks in Canada. Because she really is a pioneer in terms of drama in Canada.
TT: Was she a method actress?
JM: I don't know. She never brought that up. She just hopped into it. Georgie is kind of our Meryl Streep.
TT: Did she ad-lib or was most of what she did in the script?
JM: She followed the script, but as far as her performances goes…I wish I could say it was me but it was mostly her. She would twitch her hand. And the way she ate that sandwich! (Laughs). She just became that person.
TT: That's awesome.
Let's talk about Riva Spier.
JM: I never saw her until she appeared on set. That was Harry Cole. I was working so hard. The prep we had was about two weeks so I was just going back and forth to the hotel and talking to the crew.
Harry would find people for the cast and then show me a picture or whatever. Riva wasn't that experienced. She had a tiny part in a comedy called Pick-up Summer.
TT: George Mihalka's movie.
JM: Right. It was produced by her husband.
So, she had never really done anything and it was kind of scary at the beginning. She was from Montreal and she came all the way across Canada to Alberta. All of a sudden, she was in this space with a whole bunch of strangers who knew each other. It was kind of hard for her, but I just let her go because the last thing I wanted to do was give her a lot of instructions. That would have confused everybody.
She probably started to feel the energy from Georgie. The thing I find interesting is that Riva at the end is a whole lot scarier than she was at the beginning. And it was natural, that transformation.
TT: Would you say she was nervous at first?
JM: Yes. And again, she came into this environment where we were all from Calgary and she was an outsider. I gave her some extra attention. I would talk to her more. It's hard for anybody to come into that situation.
TT: It actually might have worked to her advantage in the end. Because unlike the other female in the picture, played by Sheri McFadden, Riva's character has quite an evolution in the storyline.
JM: I think so, too.
I contacted Riva again for the extras on the DVD and so she and I saw each other for the first time in about twenty years. Amazingly, she still looks almost the same. I couldn't believe it. I have to imagine there's a picture of her somewhere in the closet.
TT: We get the Dorian Grey reference.
JM: (Laughs.) Oh, good.
Riva has a daughter that resembles her in Ghostkeeper. It's almost scary.
TT: Maybe you can fit her into the sequel.
JM: That's certainly possible.
TT: What are your thoughts about working with Sheri? She's sassy although she's not onscreen very long.
JM: Sheri was one of the gang and was quite a girl. She is pretty much what you see. She is a flirt. If you listen to the DVD commentary, I apologize profusely for the dialogue I wrote for her. I have no idea where that came from.
But she was fun. I think she was a bit bored having to stay at the hotel the whole time. The hotel we stayed in was at the base of the mountain because like I mentioned earlier, the Deer Lodge was closed for the winter.
I should tell you that because it was closed, there wasn't any heat.
TT: What did you do about that?
JM: We brought in these heaters they use on construction sites. They're shaped like torpedoes. For each one of the takes, we'd heat up the area and then we'd turn it off. We had about ten minutes to shoot before it started to get cold again. It was kind of an inconvenience. And everybody had burnt patches on their nylon ski suits. They put tape on them.
TT: That's funny!
JM: If someone on the crew didn't have some gaffer tape on their suit, it was probably a person who just arrived.
In fact, there's one shot of Riva at the beginning as she walks up that stairway and you can see the steam coming out her nose. That's real. You really feel the cold, and I think that separates it from other movies.
Tell us about Murray Ord.
JM: He's an old friend of mine. We've known each other for at least thirty-five years. He started in acting, then was a locations guy for a long time, and then became the film commissioner for Alberta.
What's interesting is that Murray is the opposite of that character. Totally. He's the nicest, warmest and friendliest guy you could ever meet. To see him being horrible was kind of funny for everybody because that wasn't him.
TT: He was good at it.
JM: He's a good actor. Murray is a kid from Saskatchewan.
He was one of the gang so basically myself and a handful of other people were part of a very small film industry in Calgary at that time. It was hardly anything. But everyone knew everybody and it was kind of nice.
There's one scene where Murray walks out into the snow. The whole crew had set up and we started to shoot. I told him to keep walking until I said "cut." The snow was up to his thighs. He was walking and walking and everyone took off. He was halfway up the mountain and turned around, and nobody was there. (Laughs.) Of course, the poor guy said, "You sons of bitches!"
He's a great guy. Easy to work with. He's one of those people who will never say anything bad. I'm pretty much the opposite of that. (Laughs.)
Murray has some girls who are acting now. So it goes on.
TT: A family legacy.
JM: Yeah. He's a very positive guy. Very positive.
TT: Then there's Les Kimber, who played the storekeeper...
JM: Les was a famous production manager in Calgary. He had worked in many big movies and he just wanted to come along and hang out with his pals during the shoot. Les had started as an actor and was also a friend of Georgie's.
Georgie's character kills him in the hallway with a knife. Well, Les didn't want his new parka to get a spot of anything on it. I said to him, "Okay, Les…the minute you come in, you take your precious parka off and put in on a chair." (Laughs.) And that's what he did.
TT: Thoughts about Billy Grove (Danny)?
JM: Billy was actually also a stuntman. He was an actor without any dialogue. So he was his own stuntman. It all worked out.
Although the first time he tried the stunt falling from the hotel, he was scared. He'd be looking up at the spot from the ground, and he'd move the mattress over. He stalled and said he couldn't do it. It was lunchtime so we went to lunch.
While we we eating, there was a boom man, who handled the microphone. He climbed the stairs and made the jump.
Now, there was a challenge. So Billy climbed up there, made the sign of the cross a few times and did it. The poor guy. Everybody after that just sort of said that if there was a stunt I needed, all I had to do was call the boom man.
TT: That scene is also fairly bloodless.
JM: Yes, going back to that Carpenter thing. The stuff you can't see is scarier than the stuff you can see.
We want to ask you about the lighting. There's a great moment where Georgie is leading the group to their rooms after they first arrive. What do you recall about that?
JM: It was shot just with the lamps they were carrying. That was the only source of light.
TT: And the bathtub?
JM: It was all candles.
TT: How about the scene in front of the fireplace?
JM: That was lit just a bit. There was the fire, but it was lit.
TT: Was it difficult to achieve what you wanted? Because it really gives the film a terrific creepy, cold feeling.
JM: Again, it was hard for the focus. Other than that, not really. In some places, it probably was too dark.
TT: Those sequences remind us a little of John Alcott's work in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon.
JM: Yes, there might have been some influence from that. The lenses that we used were exactly the same ones Kubrick used.
TT: How did composer Paul Zaza come into the project?
JM: That was through Harry or Stan Cole. I hardly met Paul because the guy who was doing almost everything was Carl Zittrer.
TT: Were you satisfied with the music?
JM: Absolutely, although some of the music cues in Ghostkeeper seem extracted from Prom Night. (Laughs.)
I read your interview with Paul and he seemed a bit dismissive of the movie. But I've talked to him since about doing a sequel, and he's eager to be a part of it.
TT: That would be great.
JM: I don't mind if people are critical sometimes. The attention that Ghostkeeper has gotten these last two years is the last thing I would have expected. I'm just laughing. I started to realize that a certain generation of people…they're trying to find obscure films. They want to be the first ones to make a "discovery." And for a whole bunch of us old guys, that's wonderful. It's a nice feeling.
Ghostkeeper is not a perfect film. It's not as good as I wanted it to be. But there's parts of it that I like.
TT: Do you have a favorite scene?
JM: I have a bunch of them.
I like almost any scene where they're walking in the hallways. The scene near the end when Riva comes in from outside and she opens the door and the steam and smoke just comes in there. That moment where the barrel of the shotgun comes out is wonderful. And probably the scene in the bathtub, just because of the lighting and how pretty it is.
TT: The sequence where you see an eye in the closet...it's Georgie, correct?
JM: Yeah, it is. That was something else for Stan. The movie was short and Stan found shots that somehow he needed. That's one of the differences between an editor that's good and an editor who only cuts.
TT: So that eye shot had already been filmed and was unused?
JM: It was shot and it was too dark. You couldn't pull it up. So he used it anyway. He pulled it up a bit because there's a lot of grain in it.
I just remembered, there's a scene with Sheri that I rather liked. It's where she's at the piano, and she actually plays it. Just before she dies, I wanted to give the audience a bit of something about her past. Something sad. On the VHS, it was impossible to see, but on the DVD…it's much more clear.
TT: You're right. That's a good moment. She's remembering something but we'll never know what it is.
JM: It's funny. I told her, "Okay, you're remembering something." She started making these faces. And I said, "No, No. Just look at the grain on the piano." That's the shot we used.
TT: Can you tell us about running out of money?
JM: There was a bit of notorious stuff that seemed to be going on. It was hard for me to follow because I was working all the time. The pressure seemed pretty hard for Harry and somehow, we started to run out of funds.
TT: Were you unable to film everything you wanted, ultimately?
JM: In the original script, we had planned a big chase sequence on the roof. And there was going to be a whole lot of the creature starting to go after people. Much more action. Ultimately, it was too expensive to shoot.
So at that point in our shooting schedule, I'd wake up in the morning and I'd ask, "Okay, so who do we have today?" And they'd tell me it was Murray or Riva or Georgie. And I'd think…well, the thing we can do is this. Or maybe this...I'd formulate an idea and that is the idea that shows up in the movie.
However, it's not the ending that I wanted. The ending I had wanted was a whole lot bigger.
I had the choice of shutting down or going on. There was no way I was going to shut the production down. It had to be finished.
TT: What would have been your final ending? What would we have seen?
JM: If I recall correctly, Riva's character Jenny escapes at the end. That was what the big chase was for.
TT: So she didn't stay at the hotel in the original ending?
TT: We actually think it works nicely. Don't you, in retrospect?
JM: I think so. I think it does. It's kind of expected.
It's funny, some of the people who have reviewed Ghostkeeper mention the "Canadianism" of it. When we first started to show it to distributors in L.A., they told me it was one of the first films from Canada that looks like it was made in the U.S.
The interpretation of it from people is always interesting to me. A woman came up to me once and told me it was obvious from watching Ghostkeeper that I had read the Bible. I asked her, "Ummm…why would you say that?" She said, "Well, all of the dialogue is straight from the Bible."
TT: Uh huh. What did you say to that?
JM: I told her, "You're absolutely right. There's not a lot of people who saw that." She smiled, nodded, and walked away. I had NO IDEA what she was talking about. (Laughs.) If someone sees something that I haven't, that's fine with me. I'm not gonna argue or spoil it for them.
Some people like the movie. Some hate it. And some just don't understand it.
TT: There's an alternate introduction that we've seen. Did you have anything to do with that?
JM: A distributor wanted that added on. That was afterwards, and I didn't like it. I hated it, really. It was shot in 16mm by a camera guy in Calgary.
They gave me the footage when they were done, and an editor in Calgary tried to cut it but there wasn't anything there. Stan managed to wrangle something out of it.
TT: So you had nothing to do with it?
JM: Well, I knew about it. And I was there for a while but I said, "You guys shoot this." Then I just left. I didn't want to be a part of it.
TT: There's no snow. It's doesn't really match up with the rest of the movie.
JM: Exactly. It was that and it was the goriness. That's not what I wanted.
TT: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently aside from the ending?
JM: I don't think so. The only thing is that speech by the fireplace. It's like, where did that come from? My ex said to me, "Are you hanging around with small girls or what??" I would like to have changed that.
It's a spooky, creepy film. That's what I had hoped for. And that's what I'm hoping to capture again in a sequel.
The hotel is a character. The people who work there, they sell copies of the film.
TT: That's cool.
JM: Yeah, they're so excited about it. There's actually a tour where they show you the room Sheri was murdered in. The thing they want me to do is something called "Weekend with the Ghostkeeper." They'll show the movie and then take questions with some of the cast. There would be a tour of the basement and the upstairs...stuff like that.
TT: Wow, that would be great. If we weren't so far away, it would be a lot of fun.
JM: It sounds like it could be.
TT: You've touched on it, but tell us more about your idea for a sequel.
JM: Well, I've been told I should remake it. I've said I don't want to do that. I've done it. I don't want to go back that way. The thing I'd rather do is something that's kind of fun and creepy. I thought…what would happen if the cast comes back to the hotel themselves? They return for a reunion. And strange things begin to happen.
Basically, it's almost like Ghostkeeper. Except I have a lot of the Windigo. It's almost half the movie. I want to really tell the story of the creature. There's a Native Indian I'd cast who's kind of like a shaman. Because of the nature of movies, two kids in their twenties would be the leads.
TT: Who would they play?
JM: They would be the people who look after the hotel. One guy is half-Indian and half-white. The girl is Australian. I plan to use clips from the original in the new one.
Everyone would come back for this?
JM: Unfortunately, Les passed away a few years ago so we won't have him.
Everybody else would pretty much be on board. I'm not totally sure about Georgie but I think she could do it. The thing we'd need to do is have her in a chair, probably. She said she's up for it. It would be interesting. And also, they want to put ME in it. I've said I don't want to do that. It's the last thing I want. But then I said, "Okay…I'll be in it if I'm the first one who gets killed."
TT: You want just a cameo.
JM: Just a cameo, exactly.
It's going to follow the legend of the Windigo a whole lot more. I'm excited. I loved seeing Riva when we recorded the DVD commentary with Murray, and I think this would be a fun project for all of us.
TT: How far along have you gotten? Is it just germinating at this point or have you actually done some work on it?
JM: Oh, I've written the script. It was done in October of last year.
TT: What are you calling it?
JM: Right now, I'm calling it Ghostkeeper 2. The tagline is "Never go back."
TT: Apparently they do!
JM: (Laughs.) Yes, apparently they do.
It's going to be something certainly for people who have seen the first one. At the same time, the clips from the original will act as a counter to all the action that's going on.
TT: When would you like to film?
JM: I'm hoping to shoot in the winter. Possibly in December or January. I talked to Holbrook and he's excited about the whole thing. I wish I could have Stan as editor, but he's probably in his eighties now.
TT: Would most of it be shot at the Deer Lodge?
JM: Yes. The same thing. Except for the exteriors. I would film those outside of Calgary. I might have to build a set for the lobby. Because there's going to be a lot of explosions in the lobby.
JM: Yes. A whole lot of action. Windows smashing. A small bit of CGI, but not too much. I want the creature to be sort of like Carpenter's creatures. I've always loved The Thing. I've been talking to people and they tell me it's not that hard to make it more "real."
TT: Maybe like something reminiscent of The Fog?
JM: Right, exactly. A friend of mine is 6'10". I want the creature to be tall and skinny.
TT: Gotcha. We'll be glad to help you in any way we can with Ghostkeeper 2 as it rolls along.
JM: Terrific, thanks.
TT: Do you want to mention anything else you have planned for the future?
JM: Yes. There's a movie I'm hoping to shoot next year called Emperor of Mars. It's a kids' story. It's like Stand By Me meets Super 8. How does that sound?
TT: Sounds intriguing.
JM: It's actually kind of how I grew up as a kid in a small town in Canada. It's based on an actual story about a guy in the '50s who said he was from Mars and he was coming to Earth to tell the good people the secrets of the universe and how bad the government is.
TT: Maybe you should get that out before the election in November.
JM: (Laughs.) Yeah, that's for sure.
TT: Jim, we really appreciate your time. Thank you.
JM: You're welcome. It's been great.