Alan Ruck
Clark Collis
August 01, 2016 AT 07:37 PM EDT

In filmmaker Mike Williamson’s new horror short Deathly, Alan Ruck plays a widower whose wife may not be resting in peace. “I wanted to make a haunted house film — it’s probably my favorite subgenre in horror,” says Williamson of Deathly, which premiered at London’s FrightFest event last September. “It really came from me thinking about when there are couples who have been together a long time, and one of them dies, there’s this phenomenon where the other spouse dies within a year after that of a broken heart — they say. I started thinking, We assume it’s a broken heart. What happens if we didn’t know the whole story? That’s where Deathly came from.”

While Ruck is best known as a comedic actor, he has a couple of other recent terror tale credits, with roles in writer-director Mickey Keating’s survival-horror movie Carnage Park and Fox’s upcoming TV version of The Exorcist. “He actually texted me the other day saying, ‘I’m back in horror now because of you!'” laughs Williamson. “I met Alan through Mickey Keating, who is a friend of mine. He was a few months away from shooting Carnage Park, and I was talking to Mickey about casting Deathly, and he suggested Alan. This was actually written for someone older [but] I said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great choice, he’s awesome.’ Mickey got the script to Alan and Alan told Mickey he would love to do it. He got to do stuff in Deathly that he told me he’s positive he’d never be able to do again.”

Deathly costars Christina Elizabeth Smith, Kathleen Wilhoite, and Keating, the latter of whom has acquired a notable rep in a short period of time with the Sundance-screened Carnage Park and the director’s own ghostly yarn, Darling. “Mickey, for whatever reason, had been bugging me to act in something that I did,” says Williamson. “I made Mickey audition, which I think he was insulted by. [Laughs] But I did make him drive out to my house early one morning, and read with me, to make sure he could actually handle it.”

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Williamson also enlisted Clint Mansell, who wrote the scores for Duncan Jones’ Moon and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, among other films, to provide the short’s music. “He also did a previous short of mine from 2007 called In the Wall,” says the director. “I was an office PA on The Fountain, when it was a Brad Pitt vehicle. I was on that version for a year, and I met Clint then, and we just hit it off. I remember one night I fed him whiskey back in 2007, and he agreed to do my short film.”

Deathly is playing the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in San Diego, this September. But you can exclusively see Williamson’s film, above.

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