The Boy Behind the Door interview: Production designer Ryan Brett Puckett

Ezra Dewey as Kevin - The Boy Behind the Door - Photo Credit: Shudder
Ezra Dewey as Kevin - The Boy Behind the Door - Photo Credit: Shudder /

1428 Elm is excited to present an interview with production designer Ryan Brett Puckett, about Shudder’s new film The Boy Behind the Door! Directed by Justin Powell and David Charbonier, the story is about two boys, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and Kevin (Ezra Dewey), kidnapped by a twisted couple (Kristin Bauer van Straten and Micah Hauptmanz). As one might expect, the kidnapper’s intentions are not honorable and place the two kids in a harrowing situation. Ryan Brett Puckett talks about his role as a production designer in this cat-and-mouse thriller.

Read on for our interview with production designer Mathieu Lamboley

1428 Elm: The Boy Behind the Door is about terror lurking in the darkness, and the film is
pretty dark overall (both in the story and aesthetically).  Were you at all
concerned about the film potentially being too dark (again, in both respects)?

Ryan Brett Puckett: My tastes tend to lean a little towards dark naturally, so that wasn’t something I was particularly concerned with.  The premise is a delicate and tricky topic. However, after my initial read and talks with the Directors Justin and David, I found the foundation of
the story is the strong friendship between Bobby and Kevin. Their bond and positive
outlook help to strike a balance with the horrific moments and suspenseful chase

the boy behind the door
Ryan Brett Puckett headshot /

1428 Elm: The film’s main antagonist is repeatedly taunting Kevin and Bobby as they try to
escape, which one might reasonably expect in real life.  Was there any idea of
making the film realistic while reminding viewers it is only a movie, or might that
have reduced the tension too much?

Ryan Brett Puckett: I felt a lot of the situations in the film progressed the way they did because this was the first time our kidnapper had to deal with a rogue element.  The kidnapper had likely
come to terms with the way they handled the routine in the past and had maybe even
become complacent to it.  As the kidnapper tries to keep things under control, it
becomes obvious they have underestimated the strength and determination the boys

[As an added note:  Rather than being a weakness in The Boy Behind the Door, his actually does happen with serial killers and other violent offenders who get too confident and cocky as they evade detection for long enough.  Of course, sometimes it’s speculated that buried deep in the criminal’s psyche, they might actually want to get caught.  In fact, even notorious serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy were subject to alcoholism, perhaps partly to cope with their horrible crimes.]

The Boy Behind the Door: Panic makes mazes of ordinary places

1428 Elm: It’s compelling to see Bobby in a state of rage, realizing he can’t let his friend go, focusing on escaping his predicament and finding Kevin. Still, the layout of the house seems to become more confusing with the characters under stress.  What was the concept behind that?

Ryan Brett Puckett: From the beginning, we worked to keep the house precarious to navigate for Bobby. Any one of us would be confused in a new location, outside of our normal environment.
Add the pressure of a clock ticking toward impending peril, and logic becomes tenuous.
Therefore, as the film moves toward its climax, we wanted the final reaches of the
house to blur in the chaos.

1428 Elm: Horror movies are typically very plot-driven, focusing on suspense and
intrigue.  Do you consider this a horror movie or more of a suspense story?

Ryan Brett Puckett: I viewed this as a suspense thriller all the way.  There are certainly moments of horror, though I find the tension of Bobby working towards a solution a much stronger theme
than his dread of what may possibly happen.

Balancing fear with love and courage

The Boy Behind the Door
Lonnie Chavis as Bobby and Ezra Dewey as Kevin – The Boy Behind the Door – Photo Credit: Shudder /

1428 Elm: The story does not focus solely on the protagonist’s fear.  It is very much
about Bobby’s relationship with his best friend, Kevin.  What methods were used
to emphasize that part of the film?

Ryan Brett Puckett: Bobby really endures quite a bit emotionally and physically as he continues to work towards breaking Kevin free.  He certainly could have run, but we see that they still find
ways to work together and solve the problems that continue to present themselves.
Watching them navigate this reinforces that bond of friendship.

Could they make that terrible choice?

1428 Elm: Bobby and Kevin make decisions that will ultimately have devastating
consequences, and there’s a perception that, ultimately, they could be forced to
choose between one another.  Do you think the characters could ever make that
terrible choice?

Ryan Brett Puckett: Never. I think things we may take for granted come into focus during moments of uncertainty.  At that point, nothing else matters, and we will do anything to take care of what is important.

1428 Elm: This film is not very simple or lighthearted and has moments of extreme
violence.  Still, in a strange way, this movie does have some uplifting elements.
What, in your opinion, is the most positive message one could take away from
The Boy Behind the Door?

Ryan Brett Puckett: Perseverance together wins in times of uncertainty and unexpected challenges.  Oh, and “Friends till the end!”

1428 Elm: What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Ryan Brett Puckett: I can’t count how many times I’ve watched Alien.  In the context of The Boy Behind the Door, I feel that makes me a sucker for a good cat and mouse chase!

Future projects

1428 Elm:  What are some differences between a production designer and an art director?

Ryan Brett Puckett: This can vary depending on the film and the working style of both people.  I generally feel the Production Designer conveys their vision with the Director to the Art Department, and the Art Director is the project manager who rallies all of the individual artists and
craftspeople around that vision to make it a reality on time and on budget.

1428 Elm: What future projects are you working on currently?

Ryan Brett Puckett: I’m currently working on American Horror Story season 10 with Production Designer Chloe Arbiture and Art Director Jon Bell.  I believe our first episode is premiering soon!

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We’d like to thank Ryan Brett Puckett for answering our questions.  Also, check out The Boy Behind the Door on Shudder!