In The Evil Next Door, new stepmom Shirin moves into a duplex with her partner, Fredrik, and his son, Lucas. The new home feels like the right place to start becoming a family. But when Fredrik leaves for work, strange things are heard from the other, uninhabited side. 

The Evil Next Door begins with a classic horror tease: the promise of a true story. So, when we sat down with the film’s writer/directors Oskar Mellender and Tord Danielsson, we had to ask all about the real-life inspiration.

“We were looking to do a horror feature, and we came in contact with a family who lived up north in Sweden. And they had a really, really bad and scary experience a few years back. So the inspiration came from their experience,” said Danielsson. “It shocked me and Oscar a bit because we don’t really believe in ghosts or stuff like that, but we were a bit shocked by them seeming to be just ordinary people, living their ordinary lives, and having this really crazy and scary experience,” 

He added that in the real life case, no children were killed—that was a film addition to add to the drama and terror. But interestingly, despite not believing in ghosts, Danielsson said he also drew from his personal experience to create The Evil Next Door.

“I live in a duplex and our neighbors moved out, so the other side of the house stood empty. I started hearing sounds coming from the empty side of the house and footsteps on the stairs. At first I thought it was my kids coming down, but the kids were asleep. And I realized someone is walking on the other side, on the empty side of the stairway. I never got an explanation…but these things came together and became The Evil Next Door.”

From there, Danielsson and Mellender dove into how they could make the concept even scarier. They cite another major horror franchise as inspiration—as well as the actor cast to play the creature itself, Troy James.

“We sat down and thought, what was the scariest type of creature that would fit in our story?” recalled Mellender. “The whole shape-shifting idea also came from us wanting to play with this idea of a ghost child. We need to rescue the ghost child from something more evil, like in The Conjuring. We wanted to play with that…and make the kid the real bad guy.”

The devious, dangerous shape-shifting was part of the original plan. But during the casting process, the creep factor really went next-level.

“We found Troy, who does all these insane, twisty contortions. He could do all these things that we thought were so scary, add more twitches and things. We couldn’t imagine how creepy a [real] person could be!” said Mellender. 

The directors said they had even made plans to create a certain look in the post-production edits, such as having the creature spider-crawl and run around with its head upside down. But James managed to do a lot of the creepy contortion effects himself.

“He played it by himself. I thought the editor had done things at times, but no, it was Troy!”

Watch our full interview with Danielsson and Mellender below to learn more about the making of The Evil Next Door, including its unusually optimistic ending.

The Evil Next Door is available on VOD now.