A House on the Bayou Deconstructs a Horror Trope

A House on the Bayou writer-director Alex McAulay is a big fan of classic horror movies. But that doesn’t mean that he loves every horror movie trope.

The Blumhouse Television and Paramount Home Entertainment horror film stars Paul Schneider (Parks and Rec) and Angela Sarafyan (Westworld) as John and Jessica Chambers, a married couple “who really should no longer be together,” McAulay told MovieMaker.

When Jessica catches John cheating, they decide to go on a family trip with their daughter Anna (Lia McHugh, Eternals) to a remote house on the Louisiana bayou. Soon, the Chambers find themselves playing host to some unwelcomed guests: a teenage boy named Isaac (Jacob Lofland, Mud) and his grandfather (Doug Van Liew, 13 Minutes). They soon find out that the two strangers and not who they say they are.

McAulay, the writer-director behind the 2020 thriller Don’t Tell a Soul starring Rainn Wilson and Jack Dylan Grazer, is very familiar with the classic home invasion tropes in horror movies. But instead of ditching it, he decided to put a twist on it in A House on the Bayou.

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“The trope I wanted to deconstruct was the home invasion one,” he said. “I’ve seen so many movies where, like, someone turns up at the door and then it’s a home invasion, and the rest of movies is them trying to battle or outwit their way out of the situation. And occasionally, they’re really amazing ones like Funny Games, which takes a totally different approach and interrogates the audience. But for me, I never wanted it to feel like a generic home invasion film. I always want it to feel like a moral or psychological test or a game,” he said.

A House on the Bayou

Jacob Lofland as Isaac in A House on the Bayou, courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“That was the thing I was very cautious of. And I always wanted to get out of the house, as we do in the third act, because I see so many movies, especially now, that are stuck in one location and don’t leave it. And I understand why, for budget and for COVID reasons, but I was always determined we get outside and there be fire and the bayou and all this other stuff.”

A fan of John Carpenter horror movies like Halloween, there were some horror movie tropes McAulay did intentionally play into, like “that vibe of the Southern Gothic and the spooky beauty of the landscape,” he said.

He also embraced the ominous message of a creepy, handwritten note — think “you’re next” scrawled on the wall in blood in You’re Next or little Danny scrawling “REDRUM” on the wall in lipstick in The Shining — in the scene when Grandpappy hands John a receipt with the bone-chilling message “the devil is watching you.” (Don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away here that isn’t in the trailer).

But despite all the “blood and gore,” McAulay said, “the heart for me is the idea of being trapped in some awful relationship where the person isn’t who they say they are… like, that to me is a real horror of it all.”

A House on the Bayou begins streaming Nov. 19 on EPIX and will be available for digital purchase via Paramount Home Entertainment.

Main Image: A House on the Bayou, courtesy of Paramount Pictures