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Greg Sestero’s 'Miracle Valley' is homage to classic horror

courtesy photo

Greg Sestero may be best known for his appearance in the cult classic The Room, a film long considered one of the worst films of all time.

Despite its reputation, the picture has gained a loyal cult following and became the subject of Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist, which was later adapted into a 2017 film of the same name.

“I guess I pulled a Wiseau with this one,” he says jokingly, speaking with KMUW.

Like his co-star in The Room, Tommy Wiseau, Sestero wrote, directed and produced Miracle Valley. The movie has a nod or two to The Room, but it’s far from that film’s so-bad-it’s-good qualities.

It’s a horror film with a rich sense of atmosphere and humor that never tries too hard and, as a result, is a better film for it.

With a stellar performance from co-star Rick Edwards and a script that keeps viewers immersed in the bizarre and haunting world the characters occupy, Miracle Valley is poised to take its own spot in the pantheon of cult horror pictures.

The film will be screened along with The Room as part of double feature this Thursday, Oct. 21, at 10 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre as part of the Tallgrass Film Festival. Sestero will serve as special guest for the screening.

KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin recently spoke with Sestero. Here are highlights of their conversation.

Tell me about the origins of Miracle Valley.

I've always been intrigued by cults; Jim Jones, Manson. What gets people to want to join a cult? I was really fascinated by that. I had this really cool opportunity to live in Arizona and write the script. I stumbled across some very bizarre happenings down there in the history of cults. I started writing the screenplay in the environment in which I was living, which was really cool because you’re able to see the scenes come together. You’re inspired by the locations. I’ve always loved ’70s horror: The Hills Have Eyes, Halloween, all that stuff. I thought, ‘I really want to give people something unique.’

The landscape is like another character in the film. Was it easy to find locations?

I went up to the … high desert, way up in the mountains and found these old haunted houses. I was inundated with these amazing spots and these this beautiful scenery and this [rich] history.

In a lot of horror films, but especially the ones that you’ve mentioned and the ones that this film references, there’s a sense of isolation. What’s happening to these characters is happening apart from the rest of the world.

Once you step into that environment, you're no longer part of us. I think that's something that's fun. Once you suspend your disbelief, then you can sort of fully buy into whatever's happening in that world. That's a lot of what happens in cults; people are asked to believe, and they're asked to follow this [specific] doctrine.

One of the things I love about horror films is that there’s often some kind of social commentary. Wes Craven said that one of the questions raised by The Hills Have Eyes” is “Who are the real savages?” Is it the people who live in the hills and attack the city dwellers who come into their home? Or is it the people from the city who react with intense violence?  What’s the social commentary in Miracle Valley?

There's a lot of people out there that are in relationships; they're misunderstood, they're really unhappy, they don't know where to turn. The whole society now with social media [and this idea of] wanting to become famous and capturing that one moment, that one thing that [people think will complete them]. I think that’s very much tying into where we’re at now with these two characters seeking approval from society and wanting to belong. While we’re in this setting of this old time or this timeless period in the film, these locations that are far out, I wanted to [look at] people looking for eternal youth, people who are looking to matter.

I want to talk about the performance that Rick Edwards gives in this film. It’s obvious that he really showed up, fully immersed in the character.

Rick was a soap star in the ’80s; I grew up watching him on TV. We met and became friends in 2004 when we both modeled in Japan. He just an incredible presence. I worked with him on “Best F(r)iends Volume Two” in 2018. He was not only a tremendous actor, but he’s so much fun to be around. He has so many ideas and is such a physical presence. He’s a biker in real life, and I thought it would be perfect to write this part for him, to play a biker priest.

We had worked on this idea for quite a few months. He had time to get into this character, and he always brings an extra element you can’t write for. Rick is really the shining part of this film. I always say that in horror you need a great villain and you need a great score. I think Rick really provides something that people have just flipped for. Everyone asks, “Where did you find this guy?” The only other time I've gotten that question was showing The Room with Tommy [Wiseau], so I've gotten pretty lucky with my discoveries with Tommy Wiseau and Rick Edwards.

I don’t know what I can ask you about The Room that hasn’t already been asked. It has to be amazing to be part of something that’s such a cultural phenomenon.

As a filmmaker, a creator, The Room isn’t something you would ever strive for or hope to make as content. But it’s something that’s fascinating to sit back and look at [in terms of] how far it’s reached and how many people it’s made happy.

I absolutely love horror films, and there have been a number of really good ones, interesting horror films made in recent years. What do you think it is about this time that has allowed for the genre to enjoy a kind of resurgence?

I think people love original films. I think that's what made the original Halloween so great. It was never meant to be a big budget set up. It was just a unique story. The Hills Have Eyes, The Thing, those movies were original and taking risks.

I think now there’s so much content that’s clean and easy to watch, and I think people really want to get back to original grittiness and unique voices telling stories and trying new things.

See a late night double feature of Miracle Valley and The Room with special guest Greg Sestero on Thursday, October 21 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.