Interview: Miles Doleac, director of ‘Hallowed Ground’

This summer, trespassers will be prosecuted with terror.

From writer-director Miles Doleac (Demons), comes a spine-chilling new motion picture experience in the tradition of The Green Inferno and Deliverance: Hallowed Ground.

A married couple, trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair, travels to a secluded cabin and stumbles into a blood feud between the Native American owners of the property and the neighboring clan, who obsessively guard their land and punish those who trespass on it in terrifying ways.

Doleac (“Banshee“), Sherri Eakin (Hayride), Ritchie Montgomery (The Magnificent Seven), and Lindsay Anne Williams (The Hollow) star in an Uncork’d Entertainment release.

We spoke to Doleac about the film before the film hits theaters June 7.

How’s 2019 shaping up so far for you?

Busy, which is, as a general rule, the way I like it. I was fortunate to appear in an episode of NCIS: New Orleans (“The River Styx, part 1”), to shoot a music video for one of our original tunes from Hallowed Ground (“The Meaning of Us”), and, of course, be gearing up for the release of that film on June 7. Shortly thereafter, I’ll be heading up FestivalSouth Film Expo, now in its fifth year, which runs June 16-20 and showcases the work of independent filmmakers from Mississippi and all over the world and prepping another film, which we’re looking to shoot over the summer in Mississippi. Also, I’m working on a long-gestating album project with my good friend, frequent collaborator, and Hallowed Ground composer, Clifton Hyde. The band’s called Quint. Keep an ear out.

Is the film one of the highlights? Some nervous excitement as the release date approaches?

Absolutely. There’s always a sense of excitement and trepidation when you release one of your babies into the world. All of my films contain elements of the deepest, most personal parts of who I am as an artist and as a human being. When you put that out there like that, it can be scary. It’s an exceedingly vulnerable position in which to be. And the fact is, no matter what you do, no matter how good you think something is, somebody out there is going to hate it and plaster that hate all over the internet. That’s part of the gig. You just have to prepare yourself for the eventuality. I do feel very proud, however, of what we were able to accomplish with this film, certainly given our limited budget, the smallest I’ve ever had on one of my features. I also think it contains a lot of themes and tropes that horror films often neglect or use poorly, so my hope is we’ve done a better job with those, especially when it comes to representing LGBTQ and Native American communities.

How long ago did you shoot it?

August 2018.

Where was it shot?

Hattiesburg, MS

What was it about the film – character, story, location? – that had you chomping at the bit to be a part of it?

In the conceptual stages, Hallowed Ground was a film about a straight couple, with a strong—if complicated—female protagonist, but then, it occurred to me … what if both members of the hero couple were women? What if this script was an opportunity to explore the very definition of femininity, of feminine attraction, while also featuring a gay couple and those “threats” and desires that contradict one’s understanding of marriage, of what constitutes an “acceptable” lifestyle, by taking on, to some degree, western preoccupations, by returning to a more neutral, dare I say, “Greek”, understanding of human sexuality. Alice and Vera’s marriage, their relationship, and their problem reverse the notion, all-too-commonly held in western society, that homosexuality is somehow a threat to heterosexual marriage and lifestyle. In their case, the heterosexuality Alice dabbles in as part of an affair is a threat to her “committed” homosexual relationship. Add to Alice and Vera’s predicament that, though they have made the important step of trying to re-focus and mend their relationship via the trip at the film’s center, they have come to precisely the wrong place, a place where myopic religious ideology and entrenched bigotry represent not only an obstacle to their lifestyle but a risk to their very lives. At the core of debates on what is a normative or appropriate lifestyle are questions of what constitutes family and legacy.

These debates are especially rife in the deepest part of the Deep South, the beautiful, thorny bailiwick I call home. Here, the Native American cultural elements of the script loom very large. Native American cultures have strong familial and communal ties, but they also have a completely different notion of legacy, of ownership, than most in western society. In fact, many Native American cultures begin with the proposition that nothing, especially not land, can be truly owned in the strictest sense. This is partially based on the common Native American belief that all things, human, animal, plant, and mineral contain elements of spirit, of the Creator of all things that are. Not all things spiritual can be seen, but they are always there and, when the physical ceases to exist, the spirit remains. Legacy is often not about children or inheritance or what one physically leaves behind, but, rather, about the spiritual legacy that endures forever among the ancestors, the intimately-connected, communal spirits of each “family” and tribe.

Throwing all these big questions and cultural elements into a horror stewpot suddenly fascinated me. I wondered if I might create something relevant, while at the same time, pointedly entertaining. The notion positively fascinated and enthralled me. I considered the immense success of a film like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which acutely married social commentary and popcorn entertainment. As I sat to write Hallowed Ground, I aimed for that same high bar. Whether I succeeded or no, I take solace in the words of Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan and their lovely Before Sunrise script: “The answer must be in the attempt.”

Are these types of people -these freaky satanic types- something that personally scares you?

Fanaticism in every form frightens and disturbs me.

Do you suspect they lurk around Mississippi?

There are fanatics everywhere. I’m just more familiar with the ones in Mississippi.

Doc Rotten
Editor-In-Chief / Founder / Podcast Producer at Horror News Radio
Doc Rotten is the founder of Gruesome Magazine. He is also a film critic for Gruesome Magazine and the podcast host & producer for Horror News Radio, Monster Movie Podcast, Decades of Horror: 1970s, The American Horror Story Fan Podcast and Hannibal Fan Podcast. He is also co-host of the Dracula podcast on TV TALK and is a contributing reviewer for HorrorNews.Net and Widescreen Warrior.

Doc a lifelong fan of horror films, sci-fi flicks and monster movies first discovering Universal Monsters and Planet of the Apes as a young child in the 1970's searching out every issue of Famous Monster of Filmland (and, later, Fangoria). Favorite films include Jaws, The Car, The Birds, The Tingler, Vampire Circus and The Exorcist. Still a huge fan of horror films from the 70s, Doc continues consuming horror films to this day for the site, for the podcasts and for the fun of it all.