The Retreat interview: Chatting creepy Airbnbs & representation in horror

The Retreat - Courtesy of Quiver Distribution
The Retreat - Courtesy of Quiver Distribution /

Get ready to watch an awesome new gay slasher film, The Retreat. Opening this Friday in select theaters and VOD, The Retreat movie is about a couple, Renee and Valerie, who are at a crossroads in their relationship. They leave the city to spend a week away at a remote cabin with friends but quickly discover that things are awry when they get there and their friends are nowhere to be found.

Soon, Renee and Valerie’s relationship woes pale in comparison to their fight for survival as they’re forced to hold their own against a group of militant extremists determined to eradicate them by the most vicious means possible.

Directed by Pat Mills and starring Tommie-Amber Piri, Sarah Allen, Rossif Sutherland, Aaron Ashmore and Celina Sinden, The Retreat movie is everything you could want in a slasher flick, and we had the pleasure of chatting with the film’s writer, Alyson Richards, who based the movie off of some of her own experiences.

Our interview with The Retreat movie writer Alyson Richards

1428 Elm: I read your writer’s statement, and I know you talked about a trip you took with your wife that inspired The Retreat movie. Could you talk about that?

Alyson Richards: It was a few years back, my wife and I had rented this beautiful remote serene cabin in the middle of nowhere. We got there, and it was beautiful; everything was picture-perfect, except we never saw our hosts, but they kept leaving us notes when we would leave. So we would come back, and towels would show up, or there would be a basket of baked goods that had arrived.

It went from being really lovely to being kind of creepy because we felt like we were being watched all the time. And I have an active imagination, so I started thinking, “Who are these people? What do they think of us? Do they hate us?” Meanwhile, maybe they were just trying to give us a nice time away, which was probably the case, but that was the original idea for the movie.

1428 Elm: Saying that, it makes me realize how creepy Airbnbs are. Most of the time, you don’t see the host or anything.

Alyson Richards: Totally, and you always hear these stories, especially with Airbnb recently, about people finding out they’re being watched and recorded. I think technology is getting to the point where Airbnb is kind of creepy!

The Retreat
The Retreat – Courtesy of Quiver Distribution /

1428 Elm: It is. You don’t know whose bed you’re sleeping in!

Alyson Richards: Exactly! [Laughs]

1428 Elm: Were you inspired by any other horror movies? When I was watching The Retreat movie, it reminded me a little bit of The Strangers.

Alyson Richards: Oh yeah, I want to rewatch that one, actually! There were definitely different movies that inspired this along the way. I’m a long-time horror fan, so I grew up watching and loving the movies. One I watched a couple of years ago, sort of in the writing process, was a French film called Revenge, which I really loved. I found it was a fun, fresh take on a revenge movie. I found that one really inspiring.

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1428 Elm: You talked about the importance of having gay characters who aren’t killed off right away, since the “bury your gays” trope used to be so bad, or the gay person turning out to be the psychotic killer. And I know people have been talking about the transphobia in Silence of the Lambs lately, too, so what’s your take on representation in the genre?

Alyson Richards: Yeah, I think there is a bad history of representation in horror. It’s funny because two things inspired this movie for me. That experience that my wife and I had at the retreat and simultaneously seeing a movie called High Tension, a film I actually love, but the whole premise of that, spoiler alert, is that it’s the “crazy lesbian!” Even a movie from not that long ago, What Keeps You Alive, is also about two women who go away together, and one is a crazy lesbian again who tries to kill the other one.

And I found that as a plot twist was kind of insulting. So it really was that idea, and Pat Mills, the director, and I are friends. We came up together watching and loving horror movies. We just wanted to make a gay horror movie where the gay characters weren’t crazy or turn on each other and survive. That was the simple premise of it.

The Retreat movie
The Retreat – Courtesy of Quiver Distribution /

1428 Elm: Right, and there is a scene at the beginning of the film where they go to a gas station, and it’s subtle, but they meet these creepy guys. It reminded me of how, as a woman and if you’re gay or bi, you often have to think twice when interacting with people because you don’t know who will follow you home for saying the wrong thing or rejecting them.

Alyson Richards: Yeah, I’m glad, well, in many ways, I’m not happy that you related to that [Laughs], but I hear you, right? I think that is something, and going back to our real-world experience where we weren’t just women away, we were gay women away. You realize outside of the comfort zone, or at least that’s how I sometimes feel, outside of the comfort zone of a progressive city, you can’t make assumptions that people will be okay with you. So there is that sort of covering of who you are.

1428 Elm: If you could have the audience take away anything from watching The Retreat movie, what would that be?

Alyson Richards: That’s a good question. It depends on who the audience is, right? [Laughs] One thing I like in particular that the actresses Tommie-Amber Pirie and Sarah Allen brought to it. I like that both of the female leads are complex and capable. I like that they both have strengths and bring that to the table and kick some ass, basically.

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The Retreat movie is opening Friday, May 21st, in select theaters and on VOD.