On an ordinary Saturday afternoon in suburban California, a nervous young woman (Melanie Lynskey), house-sitting for friends, has organized a slumber party for the women at her office. However, only three guests arrive: her cynical friend (Sheeri Rappaport), the office outcast (Mary Lynn Rajskub)... and somebody who may or may not be the serial killer who has been terrorizing the local community all summer.
In short order, the girls see a black-clad figure moving outside, hear footsteps on the roof, then discover that both the electricity and the phone lines have been cut. They try to temper their fears with skepticism... until the blood starts flowing.
ABOUT THE FILM
After I completed my first feature Foreign Correspondents in 1999, I was anxious to make Film #2. A couple of story ideas had been kicking around in my head, but it wasn't until the end of 2001 that I decided to write something that could be filmed cheaply, with a small cast and few locations. The memory of a nightmare I had when I was a teenager – in which a stranger was standing on the roof of my house in broad daylight, about to kill me and my family – inspired me to write a script about three women in a similar situation. I decided on an approach that would be realistic, straightforward, and unfolding in real time. With my characters trapped in a house, the walls and ceiling seemingly closing in around them, I chose the title Claustrophobia.
I finished the screenplay in early 2002, quit my job at Paramount Pictures, dipped into my savings account (this was a mostly self-funded film), and jumped into pre-production. After securing Melanie Lynskey, thanks to our previous work together on Foreign Correspondents, I began auditioning other actresses. I got lucky in finding the talented Sheeri Rappaport and Mary Lynn Rajskub (just a couple of years before 24 made her a household name). I hired a crew, including several young filmmakers from New Zealand who flew out for the occasion, and began shooting the film in a former classmate's Los Angeles house in June 2002.
Principal photography was completed after just nine shooting days. Afterwards, I began working with my editor Marc Wade. We soon realized that the film I shot was going to be several minutes shorter than I had planned, owing to the fast pace of the scenes, and that it might not even be feature length. So I wrote a prologue and epilogue to the film, cast a few more actors (including Night of the Living Dead's Judy O'Dea for the prologue), and we shot an additional day and a half of footage at the end of 2002.
Marc and I finished editing and I hired the talented composer Christopher Farrell to write the score for the film. (He had also scored Foreign Correspondents.) Claustrophobia was officially finished on May 31, 2003, 364 days after we first started shooting.
I sold the North American home video rights to a company called filmnic, one of impresario Stan Wertlieb's many companies. Although Claustrophobia was originally slated for a late 2003 release, filmnic chose to wait to do their own distribution deal with Lionsgate. During this process, either filmnic or Lionsgate changed the film's title to Serial Slayer - without my consent - and only finally released it in 2004.
I sold the film to several other countries, including the UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Norway. Today you can rent the DVD on Netflix or pick it up for a few pennies on eBay.
MELANIE LYNSKEY won international acclaim for her debut performance in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. Since then she has had a very successful feature film career, co-starring in studio and indie hits including Up in the Air, Win Win, The Informant!, Ever After, Sweet Home Alabama, Shattered Glass, and Coyote Ugly. On the small screen, she's been a recurring character on Two and a Half Men and has guest-starred in House, The L Word, Psych, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Shield, among others.
SHEERI RAPPAPORT regularly appeared on the blockbuster TV series CSI as fingerprint expert Mandy Webster. She made her television debut as a troubled teen in Clarissa Explains It All, which led to recurring roles in Xena, 7th Heaven, and NYPD Blue. Having also appeared in the TV movies For My Daughter's Honor, Two Voices, and My Summer as a Girl, Sheeri gained a cult following for her starring role in the teen horror flick Little Witches.
MARY LYNN RAJSKUB played computer expert Chloe O'Brian in the hit TV series 24. She was also a regular on the HBO comedies Mr. Show and The Larry Sanders Show. She has co-starred in several major feature films including Julie & Julia, Sunshine Cleaning, Punch-Drunk Love, Firewall, and Legally Blonde 2, along with memorable turns in Little Miss Sunshine, Road Trip, Dude, Where's My Car?, and Mysterious Skin. She has also guest-starred in The Simpsons, Modern Family, Flight of the Conchords, Gilmore Girls, and many others.
JUDY O'DEA will go down in cinema history for her leading role in George Romero's original 1968 thriller Night of the Living Dead. She is also an accomplished stage actress and has done a great deal of voiceover work for radio. She has also appeared in the independent horror thrillers October Moon, Women's Studies, and November Son.