Gena Shaw is more of a believer after ‘A Savannah Haunting’

Gena Shaw as Rachel Rancourt in A SAVANNAH HAUNTING. Photo by Fort Argyle Films LLC

Gena Shaw (“Cobra Kai,” “Creepshow”), a self proclaimed horror fanatic is thrilled to be starring in the inspired by true events horror film A Savannah Haunting.

A Savannah Haunting is about a mother struggling with guilt over the tragic death of her daughter. Her family moves to Savannah from California to escape the terrible memories, but once they are in their new home, the mother believes that she is being haunted by her dead daughter. A Savannah Haunting is directed by William Mark McCullough and stars Gena Shaw, Dean West, Tommi Rose, and Anne Harriette Pittman.

A Savannah Haunting won Gena two Best Actress Awards as well as five other nominations!

Check out our interview with Gena!

First of all, you are a self proclaimed horror fanatic. What is it about the genre that you love so much?

Gena: I love horror and sci-fi because there are no real rules. You can live in a world of fantasy. There’s so many different sub genres to both of those and you can just play and create any world that you want in horror or sci-fi. So, I just feel like– I’ve answered this question so much better before, I swear, because I really love them both. I think I’m just switching gears– But yeah, I think you can just explore so many different things within a genre. So, depending on your mood, you can find anything that you want and you get introduced to new characters and new worlds and for me, I want to escape and I want to see something different. And you can do that in those genres.

So, with A Savannah Haunting, what are people in for especially when it comes to the horror?

Gena: It’s more of a slow burn psychological thriller with horror elements. And there’s some really great just, you know, just that unsettled feeling that you get when you go into a place that you just don’t feel right in. It kind of sustains that throughout. So you’re just not going to be comfortable. You’re always going to be waiting for something and curious about, ‘wait. What does this mean?’ And then it slowly starts to unravel. So it’s this slow anxiety inducing burn.

And what about the script really attracted you to it?

Gena: I mean, I love horror and to be a lead in a horror movie, right off the bat, I was like, ‘yes!’ I love haunted house movies, because I always say I’m as much of a skeptic as I am a believer. I will always try to disprove something if something weird happens somewhere. So when we were told, like, ‘hey, this film is based on actual events,’ I kind of got excited about that because it doesn’t happen that often. So I was excited about that aspect of it. And then they said we’re actually shooting in the house that the haunting took place in and then I was like, ‘I have to have this’ and you know, the character Rachel Rancourt, she’s kind of slowly unraveling because for her sanity is constantly being challenged and she’s trying to, you know, be strong for her family. But whatever is in this house is just creating many obstacles for that.

And after having filmed in an actual haunted house, are you more of a skeptic or are you more of a believer?

Gena: I am more of a believer, but that house is haunted. That house is absolutely haunted . It is not right. There’s something not right in that house. I think it lends itself to, you know, the character and the whole shoot. But I’m definitely like– that made me a real believer. I mean, I had my own experiences that I cannot explain, but that place is just scary. It just isn’t right. And things happened while we were there. 

Photo by A Savannah Haunting LLC
Can you go into a little bit of detail on some of the things you experienced? 

Gena: One of the things that I experienced was, there was this really long closet that all the actors were drawn to for some reason. It was a closet that they kept all the wardrobe in, and there was this bathroom area and then a door that led down a couple steps to this really, really, you know, 12 foot long closet that we would all huddle in. For some reason we were all drawn to it. We would sit there. There wasn’t room for chairs so we’d just sit on the floor and hang out there in between takes or whatever. One night we were done shooting upstairs, everyone was downstairs and I was sitting on the step that was closest to the door. The door was closed and my back was to the door and with force, I heard three knocks and the door with each knock hit me in the back like boom, boom, boom. So I jump up and I say, ‘oh, I’m in here. Hold on,’ and I opened the door. Nobody’s there. And I just had this weird feeling. So I went downstairs and I said, ‘was anyone looking for me?’ And they said, ‘No, but don’t walk around upstairs. We’re shooting and we can hear the footsteps,’ and I said, ‘no, no, no, someone just knocked on the door.’ No one knocked on the door. And one other instance was we were done shooting in that house. We were shooting a tiny little thing outside and the next neighbor’s lot and I ran over to go to the bathroom. And the window, in what we found out was the most haunted room in the house, I walked in and there was a pile of flies attached to a spot on the window. And it didn’t make any sense. There were other windows in the room. And it was just like a cluster of dozens and dozens of flies. There was nothing on the window but they were all on it. I had the worst feeling and I ran out. I was like I can’t even pee here.

Oh no, that that is terrifying.

Gena: It was bizarre and it made no sense whatsoever. Later we found out that that closet is actually like, they had some paranormal investigators come and we were told at the end of the shoot that the closet has a vortex in it.

Would you ever go to a haunted house again after this experience?

Gena: Yes. But I don’t think I would stay too long. I think my curiosity would be like, ‘alright, you say this is haunted, let’s see if I feel anything or let’s see if anything happens.’ But I don’t think I would do it that often. But I would be curious to still go in and check it out. But I would never stay there overnight. 

And because this movie is based off of that house and the true events that happened there, was there anything that you were surprised to learn actually happened that was scripted in the movie? 

Gena: Yeah, there is a plate smashing incident that happens in the film and the director, Mark, didn’t tell us what things in the script really happened. So he was like, ‘you can guess, every time something kind of spooky happens, you can make a guess and I’ll tell you,’ so after we shot that, I said, ‘There’s no way this happened.’ And he goes, ‘it’s exactly how it happened.’ And I was completely blown away. He was like, ‘Yep, all the plates were just smashed in almost a mosaic way fanning across the kitchen. There was nobody there.’ I was so surprised about that. And then they found a little, I guess, they were cleaning and they were removing a gutter, they had to move– they had to do something and they found a little voodoo doll squished in between the drywall.

Knowing that some of this stuff is true just makes this movie so much scarier. 

Gena: Yeah, it’s crazy. The house is also a strange house. It’s not your typical Savannah-looking home. It was, you know, I think the father bought it and he knocked down whatever was there and started building his own home. So it doesn’t look like a home in Savannah, but it’s just outside of Savannah, and it’s so strange. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just interesting. It’s so interesting, like the layout and everything and there’s parts of it that are grand in a way, like the foyer when you walk in and like the mosaic flooring and there’s this giant fish tank that wraps around the living room, it’s like a 6000 gallon fish tank. A very strange place.

So, it seems like a lot of the things that stood out to you had to deal with like the creepiness of the haunting, but do you have any good memories from filming this movie?

Gena: Oh, my God. Absolutely. Yes. The cast and crew were amazing. We had to shoot it during lockdown. It was six months into lockdown, we were the first project that was allowed to go back to filming in Savannah. And we lived in a bubble. And if you’re living in a bubble, during a pandemic, you want to be with people that you like, and I loved my entire cast and the entire crew. We worked so well together. Working with all these like amazing actors, everybody brought their A game. We had fun together. It wound up being a big family, which is the best case scenario that you can ask for, especially in a film setting, but with those extra circumstances. Yes, like had we not gotten along, I think it would have been a very different experience… And it was just fun. It was just fun. Even though some days were exhausting because it was emotionally taxing or physically taxing, because of whatever we were doing, like we always managed to have fun and find ways to make each other laugh and goof off and it was great.

So now that A Savannah Haunting is out, are you working on anything else that you can talk about?

Gena: I’ve worked on a couple things recently, but I can’t talk about them just yet, because I haven’t gotten full permission. Soon. As soon as I can, I will. And outside of those projects, it’s, you know, just going back to the grind of auditioning and I’m writing some of my own projects because one of these days I’m going to make my own horror film.

Where can we stay up to date with you and your work?

Gena: I am. I would say I’m most active on Instagram and my handle is @iamgenashaw. That is probably the best way to see what I’m up to and keep in touch. I am terrible with the other social media.

All right. Before I let you go, is there anything else about A Savannah Haunting that you would like the audience to know?

Gena: Just sit down in the dark and watch A Savannah Haunting and enjoy getting scared.

Photo by Jenny Graham – © A Savannah Haunting LLC
A Savannah Haunting is now available