In An Interview, Actress Gena Shaw Reveals True Story Behind New Horror Film ‘A Savannah Haunting’

October 20, 2022

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: [email protected]

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere you have heard of or seen Netflix’s excellent series “Cobra Kai” and  Shudder’s “Creepshow,” well, we sat down with the oh-so-awesome actress Gena Shaw, who has appeared in both series, about her leading role in the upcoming paranormal horror-thriller A Savannah Haunting, from director William Mark McCullough, which happens to premiere this month.

 

In the film, a family moves to Savannah, Georgia to escape the memory of their young daughter’s tragic drowning. Once in their new home, the mother begins to experience chilling phenomena that lead her to believe she is being haunted by her dead daughter. But an old black woman with ties to the home’s slavery past warns there may be darker, more sinister forces dwelling beneath the house. The family is torn apart as the haunting turns each of them against the other. Will they discover what is inside their home before it’s too late?

 

 

Kelli: “Are you ready for Halloween?”

 

Gena: “I love this time of the year. It’s my happy place.”

 

Kelli: “Oh yeah. It’s mine too. If they’d quit putting Christmas stuff out already, I’d be even happier.”

 

Gena: “Like, just give us, a month!”

 

Kelli: “Exactly. I agree completely. So tell me about Cobra Kai. I love that show!”

 

Gena:” If you don’t, something is wrong with you.”

 

William Zabka (Johnny) & Gena Shaw (Melissa)

 

Kelli: “It is so awesome!”

 

Gena: “It’s so good. After I heard about it, I watched it. I think it had been on for a week or something, and my friend was like, “You gotta watch it.”  I did and was like, ‘God, I have to get on.’ And I auditioned and got on season two. I had some hopes that I would be brought back maybe, but obviously, that didn’t happen, but I so loved working with Billy, the director, and everyone involved.”

 

 

Kelli: “Oh, I imagine. I love the show so much that I have three pets named after Cobra Kai characters.”

 

Gena: ” What are they and which ones?”

 

Kelli: They are Dojo Loaches, they get about a foot long. Their names are Mr. Miyagi, there’s Johnny and Danielson.”

 

Gena: That’s awesome.”

 

Kelli: Speaking of characters, if you will tell us about your new movie A Savannah Haunting? The trailer looks creepy as hell. I  love. Savannah. It has such a haunting atmosphere all on its own, let alone making a horror movie there.”

 

 

Gena: “Yea, this place doesn’t feel like other cities or even like a rural town. It feels heavy. It’s like in the dirt. It’s, it’s like in the sidewalk to just feel like something happened there. It doesn’t feel like other places, And I’ve been to a lot of places.”

 

Kelli: “It does feel different. Like it’s been scarred by its dark history.”

 

Gena: It’s like it has held on to all the pain, all the suffering, all the history, it’s, it’s under your feet.”

 

Kelli: Exactly. So tell me about your movie?”

 

Gena: “So it’s about a family that relocates, to this house in Savannah after a family tragedy and they’re trying to start fresh. They go to Savannah, they get this beautiful home, and almost immediately the mom starts experiencing all these paranormal things that make her believe that she’s now being haunted by her dead daughter.”

 

Kelli: “That’s creepy. And it’s a, it’s a creepy doll movie too, isn’t it?”

 

Gena: “Yeah. Creepy dolls. We got a creepy house. We got creepy Savannah [laughter]. And I mean, there’s a lot of creep factor in the house that we shot in.  We shot in the house that the film is based on.”

 

 

Kelli: “Oh, so it’s based on a true story?”

 

Gena: “So the writer-director,  grew up in that house with his siblings and they experienced all these weird things, but they never talked about it. He decided to write a script about his experiences growing up there. And it wasn’t until like 30 years later that he’s talking to his family and none of them had ever talked about these things before. And they’re like, ‘Oh, that happened to me too. I experienced that. Some parts of it are fictionalized, but a lot of things that happened in the film he experienced in the house, and we’re like reenacting certain things, which is really trippy. It’s like, ‘Oh, is this what it was like? He was like ‘Yep. That’s what happened that morning.’ And you’re just like, holy crap.  I’ve never shot at a location that was so creepy and so strange and it definitely helps, you know, the character, the whole process of making the movie. But it was also like really uncomfortable.”

 

Kelli: “Wow. I can’t imagine. I mean, not only are you making a horror movie in the real house, but you have the person it all happened to direct. That’s wild. So how did you prepare for the character? I know there’s some heartbreaking subject matter there about the loss of a child.”

 

Gena: ‘When it comes to the house, I was kind of excited about it because I had never been there before. So when it was told to me like, oh, by the way, we’re shooting in the house that the film’s based on, I was like, oh, okay. It, can’t be as creepy as you think it’s gonna be. And I’m as skeptical as I am a believer. So I’m like, Well, you know, I’m sure it’s gonna be like, kind of weird, but whatever. But then going there, I was like, oh no, this is actually the real deal. That place is terrifying. And I will say it forever. Um, so preparing for it, I mean, I can tap into stuff, I’ve experienced loss myself.

 

I’ve had my own weird experiences with ghostly things, and I think maybe I did draw on some of that a little bit. But also I’m just, I usually just wait till I’m in the space, whether that’s at a location or on set. And I just try to take whatever time I can to take in the space. And that helps me prepare more than anything. I can, I do all the other actor work, you know, where you break down a scene or do other things, find like an emotional arc and all that stuff. But, um, for the most part, it’s like, I want to be in my wardrobe and I wanna be on set, and then I can just settle into what we’re doing.”

 

Kelli: “Did anybody experience anything paranormal while y’all were there?”

 

Gena: “Yeah. I mean, I definitely experienced a couple of things that, and I said this to other people, I was like, I have this one experience I’m afraid to tell people because I don’t want to, I don’t wanna sound crazy. And for people that are believers, they would be like, Oh yeah, totally. But I’m like hesitant to tell the weirdest thing that happened to me while I was there. But I know, one person thought that someone was crying,  I’ll tell you this, I was in the dressing room, and I sat down with my back up against the door. I heard knocking hard on the door. I could feel the vibration on my back. I got up and opened it and no one was there.

 

Another time, I’m sitting, and there were like four windows in that room. One window was covered in piles of flies. Not flying around, but piled on top of each other all in one spot.  I ran out.

 

Kelli:  “Oh, that’s creepy. The fact that it was shot in the same house and is a true story, makes the movie special. The filming must have been insane. When can our readers see A Savannah Haunting?

 

Gena: “October 28th. We’re in select theaters nationwide, a perfect time. Just in time for Halloween. It’s a spooky season.”

 

Kelli: That’s awesome. So, have you already found your next project?

 

Gena: “I’m starting on a project tomorrow, and I have a couple of other things in the pipeline. So, new things will be coming out soon. But yeah, there are a couple of good things happening that I’m excited about. And getting ready to celebrate Halloween.”

 

Kelli: “I look forward to seeing them. As for Halloween, it should be a national holiday.”

 

Gena: “It really should. I’m going to start a petition.”

 

 

Kelli: “When you do send it my way, I’ll sign it.”

 

Gena: “Okay. I love that!”

 

Kelli: “What do you have planned for Halloween?”

 

Gena: “Well, I’ll be in Savannah because The Savannah Haunting is holding its premiere on the 28th. We’re at a great theater there, and we’re gonna do some Q &A with the public, we’re gonna hang out.”

 

Kelli: “Are you gonna go back to the house, on Halloween?”

 

Gena: “I mean, listen, I’m not saying I won’t, but I’m not saying I want to. If for some reason everyone is going back there. Actually, I have been back there once. My friend and I, she had never been to Savannah. We drove to Savannah and I said, Let’s go visit Mark, the director of the film. And we went into the house, and I swear the house woke up. We were walking in the front door and I said, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ The house started banging. There were all these sounds, and my friend goes, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, did we interrupt? Like, do you have people over?’ And he goes, No. And I looked up at Mark and we both started laughing. And she goes, ‘Wait, what?’ And he goes, ‘That’s just the house saying hello to Jenna [laughter].”

 

Kelli: “Wait, he still lives there?”

 

Gena: “It’s the family home. Yeah, but it was crazy because that house was making all that noise upstairs in a room, which was an empty room during filming. But she was like, ‘No, someone was walking around and, and banging on the ceiling or something.’ I was like, ‘No, that’s just the house saying hi [laughter].”

 

Kelli: “It needs to be on ghost hunters or something. Has anyone delved into its history?”

 

Gena: “Oh yeah. I, I think Mark had a couple of people research it. It has a very dark history. The land that, like, there was another house before that was torn down, and there were once slaves on the property. Really bad things took place there. I think his father bought it and then,  knocked down the original house and then started building a new house, and then expanded it.”

 

Kelli: Yeah. I imagine. It makes a lot of sense that it would be haunted.

 

Gena: “Oh, yeah. Then the trees, Trees are so old and they say, the trees hold on to all of that, that they have memories.”

 

Kelli: “I have heard that before. The trailer looks great. It got really creepy when I saw that doll, I have a thing about dolls. they creep me the hell out. I think it’s the eyes, forever watching you. Chucky ruined dolls for me when I was like 9.”

 

Gena: “You can’t let that stop you from watching the movie.”

 

Kelli: “Oh, of course, I’ll watch it. That’s the thing about horror, as fans we are all always chasing the next scare.”

 

Gena: “That thing was so heavy, it was like 30 pounds. No joke. It’s a very heavy doll to work with.”

 

 

Kelli: “So it weighed about the same thing as a small child?”

 

Gena: [laughter]  Oh, oh yes. It did. You pick it up and at first, you’re expecting it to just be like any other doll, like, with just some stuffing. But no, it has weight. And the legs hang and arms hang.  I took a lot of pictures with it.”

 

Kelli: “Oh, that’s great. I can’t wait for all of our readers to see it, and we can talk about it.”

 

Gena: “Yes, please. I would love to hear your thoughts. We had the best crew. I have to do a shout-out to them. They were amazing. We shot during Covid and we had a lot of restrictions and we were living in a bubble and we were really isolated and we were all together. I can’t say this about any other project, but I loved everyone involved with that project. They were the best.”

 

Kelli: “That’s fantastic. It’s always great to hear when a star is very happy with everything and everyone involved in a film. It translates to the screen.”

 

Gena: “Yes. I would say you’ll feel a lot of anxiety after watching it. My parents said they were on edge, it is relentless. Which I liked hearing.”

 

Kelli: “It sounds good to me. Knowing that this house is real and knowing that things really did happen adds an extra chill to it. And uh, that’s always a good thing in my book.

 

Gena: “Yeah. And then there should be the guessing game of what things in the film actually happened to the victim.”

 

Kelli: “I would love to see a documentary about it.”

 

Gena: “Funny you say that. They actually did a documentary during lockdown when we got shut down because of Covid. Like, they stopped all production. So they decided, the producer and director, to make a documentary while we’re in lockdown. And they did. And the documentary is coming out.”

 

Kelli: “Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. It’d be great to watch the documentary and then watch the movie and just scare the hell outta yourself.”

I don’t know about you, but knowing that A Savannah Haunting is inspired by real events adds a new layer of terror to the film. See Gena Shaw in the film, opening in select theaters on October 28, 2022, with a wider release to follow. While you’re adding to your “Must Watch List,” be sure to add “Cobra Kai” and keep an eye out for Gena while watching season 2. To stay up to date on her upcoming projects follow her on Instagram. But, don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

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