On Saturday, June 24 at 8/7c, it’s the world premiere of LMN’s Tiny House of Terror. Tammy Gillis, award-winning star of the critically acclaimed Menorca (available on VOD in the US, Tuesday, June 27), plays Lindsay in this gripping thriller from Sepia Films.
Tiny House of Terror is a taut mystery set in a startlingly unique environment that bristles with an unsettling barrage of inexplicable elements. The story follows a distraught young woman named Sam Hastings (played by Francia Raisa) who is struggling to come to terms with the sudden disappearance and presumable death of her husband. She jettisons her posh lifestyle and relocates to a remote region in order to sort out her feelings and figure out how to go on. Her sister, Jackie (played by Nazneen Contractor), and devoted friend, Lindsay, remain in contact to offer strength and support. However, when events escalate to murderous levels, Sam realizes her self-imposed isolation has made her an easy target and now her only thought is how to survive.
“They built this tiny house out in the middle of nowhere,” Tammy told Entertaining Options. “It was really cool being in that house and seeing how much space actually existed in it, but it wasn’t very big. It was located on the edge of this lake, so it was a really beautiful setting.”
“What was interesting,” she noted, “because the housing market here in Vancouver is so out of control, if I had shot this movie before buying a townhouse, a tiny house definitely would have been something I would have looked into.”
After the pulse-pounding opening sequence, the film quickly bounces to a lively couples game night with Sam, Kyle (played by Jesse Hutch) Lindsay, and Mark (played by Matt Bellefleur). The scene is wonderfully alive with a vibrant spark that can be tricky, if not impossible, to catch on film.
“The director [Paul Shapiro] wanted it to be really ‘messy,'” Tammy explained, “so we just kind of got into it. It was more like real life. Sometimes, as an actor, you’re hesitant because you don’t want to step on the other actor’s line. There’s a politeness that exists. When it’s a little more messy — the other actor isn’t worried about waiting till you’re done talking — it gives a bit of a life and a fire to the scene because it makes you fight a little harder to get what you want.”
Paul’s approach, infused the film with marvelous layers that allowed the emotional subtext to hit with extraordinary impact. Coupled with cinematographer Jon Joffin’s inventive use of natural lighting and unique perspectives, Tiny House of Terror is a thoroughly enjoyable work that delivers a satisfying depth with a potent vitality.
Originally, Tammy read for the part of Sam’s sister, Jackie. She made it through the audition, a call back, and was even short-listed to play the role. However, when Francia Raisa was cast as the lead, it was decided Gillis would not make a believable older sister, so she became the loyal friend with the off-putting husband. At social gatherings, Lindsay is always the first to grab the wine to try and bring everyone together.
“We actually joked about that. We said Lindsay was always drinking in order to deal with life with her husband,” Tammy laughed.
Tiny House of Terror was filmed in Kelowna, BC, a sun baked region located in the picturesque Okanagan Valley on the shore of the nearly 84 mile long Okanagan Lake. Already a popular location for movies, recently the city announced it will soon begin production on its first state of the art soundstage and film studio.
Sometimes, a little serendipity can help create that ever illusive film magic. Such was the case with this production as the actors developed a genuine relationship off screen that carried over to their character’s relationships on screen.
“Francia had just sold her house before she came to Kelowna to work on the movie and she seemed a little displaced,” Tammy recalled. “So I said, ‘Let me take care of you a little bit.’ That relationship just translated to the movie. In real life, Nazneen is completely hilarious — not at all like her character. She was like a mama bear to both of us. In the movie, when she’d be kind of mean to Lindsay, I’d half be like, ‘But you’re my friend?!’ So that really worked well because Lindsay just wanted to be liked.”
The startling twists and revelations combine with the high tech and seemingly supernatural elements of Tiny House of Terror to reflect Lifetime’s commitment to fearless storytelling. The network isn’t content to merely provide fans with safe formulaic programing, it is continually striving to raise the bar on entertainment by offering adventurous storytelling that takes real risks.
“Lifetime is unafraid to push the envelope,” Tammy agreed. “A lot of the movies they are doing are based on real events. It’s kind of crazy to think that some of these stories have actually happened in our world. They are premiering Menendez: Blood Brothers on July 8 and last month they started filming The Lost Wife of Robert Durst. It’s interesting because these are events in life that haven’t really been finalized and Lifetime is bringing a new light to them. When they aired Who Killed JonBenét?, all of a sudden everybody was interested in that case again. And that’s a good thing because those cases need to be solved.”
When asked for some final thoughts on Tiny House of Terror, Tammy replied, “It was a lot of fun being on location in Kelowna and it’s sort of made us a little bit of a family because me and Jesse and Matt ended up traveling back-and-forth to Kelowna quite a bit together. I always love exploring new places and working with new people. The people at Sepia Films were really great; the executive producer Sheri Singer was really, really fun and super hands-on and involved in every choice, which was really cool; and the director Paul Shapiro was fun and laid-back, but really on point. Francia and Nazneen were both talking at dinner one night about how neither one of them had ever done a movie like this and that’s what drew them to the project. I said, ‘Let’s make it super awesome and scare everyone!'”
The world premiere of LMN’s Tiny House of Terror is Saturday, June 24 at 8/7c.