SPOOKY CREW: These Ghost Hunters Are Ready For Anything, But Will They Survive A Night With Their Most Wanted Spirit?

Chris Hadley
10 min readDec 3, 2023

Since its admission to the United States in 1812, Louisiana has been an international landmark for energetic jazz, scrumptious cuisine, contentious politics and all-around good times. Yet roaming amidst the Pelican State are spirits and creatures that have become as popular to tourists and residents as Louisiana’s music, food and culture: the Loup Garou (or Cajun Werewolf). Marie Laveau (a.k.a. “The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans”), and Mary Jane, a teenager whose prom date allegedly murdered her and then discarded her body near the Bayou Tortue Bridge in Abbeville, Louisiana. Since her death, many who’ve crossed the bridge have claimed that her spirit appears whenever they flash their car’s headlights.

Though the origins of Mary Jane’s haunted presence on that bridge are as clear as fog, her story has lingered in Louisiana history for generations. Now thanks to filmmakers Erin Bennett and Donny Broussard, the legend of Mary Jane is comically re-imagined in the ghoulish yet goofy horror comedy short Spooky Crew.

Directed by Bennett (who co-wrote and co-produced the film with Broussard) and released by the duo’s production company Mallow Entertainment Spooky Crew scares up the tale of a trio of podcasters’ search for the ill-fated Mary Jane in a wacky parody of “found footage” chillers like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity and “ghost hunting” reality TV series such as Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters and The Dead Files.

The spoof co-stars Jerik Thibodeaux, Olivia Peck and Jeff Pearson as the eponymous Spooky Crew — Emery, Nancy and Tim, respectively — whose recorded reviews of their supernatural investigations have kept their loyal audience both piqued and petrified. Ever ambitious, the trio soon asks the show’s subscribers to crowd-fund the podcast’s biggest episode so far: a live-streamed hunt for Mary Jane (played by Wicken Taylor), in which the crew seeks to summon the youngster’s undead soul before their cameras. Whether or not Emery, Nancy and Tim succeed in getting their terrifying target on tape, one unanswered question looms for each of them: will they live to tell about it?

Recently, Bennett and Broussard took time to detail the inspirations behind and production of Spooky Crew — a project that honors both low-budget “found footage” horror and all that makes this subgenre so beloved.

Chris Hadley: Erin, what inspired you to make Spooky Crew?

Erin Bennett (director/co-writer): There were a couple of different things that inspired Spooky Crew on my end. The biggest influence was Vanessa and Joseph Winters’ Deadstream. When (Donny and I) first watched this indie (horror film) about a canceled YouTuber trying to regain monetization by staying overnight in a haunted house, I was blown away by not only the acting and practical effects but (also by) the unique way they decided to tell the story, which was all through the POV (point-of-view) cam for a livestream. Another is Scooby-Doo. When writing, we took a lot from Scooby-Doo for the opening credits and for the investigation side of things.

The last, most obscure reference (that inspired us) is a TV series that was on Fox in the early 2000’s called FreakyLinks. It starred Ethan Embry as a (man) who mysteriously lost his (twin) brother while investigating a supernatural occurrence for his investigative website FreakyLinks. (He tries) to uncover the truth of his brother’s disappearance while also hunting bumps in the night. (That) series mixes cinematic with POV camera very much like Spooky Crew.

Olivia Peck co-stars as the intrepid ghost hunter Nancy in SPOOKY CREW.

CH: In what ways (if any) is this film similar to/unique from your previous films in the horror genre?

EB: I think Spooky Crew has the same humor (that) Donny and I typically have in most of our projects that we write together. We both have a serious appreciation for horror comedy, so that tends to be our biggest connector to other projects. Spooky Crew, however, is the most technical project I have ever done. My (director of photography), Matt Valentin, approached me a few weeks before shooting about possibly shooting both (in) cinematic and POV (styles). Originally it was all supposed to just be (shot through the) POV cam. I loved the idea, and we figured out the best way to translate that to the screen.

CH: Erin, besides working with Donny as a producer and production manager on several films in the past, you’ve also directed a few shorts with him, and Spooky Crew (which you also co-wrote with Donny) is the latest of those. In what ways have your filmmaking skills developed from project to project, what have you learned from each film about the craft and art of directing, and how did that knowledge come into play as you helmed Spooky Crew?

EB: Out of the three projects I’ve directed, I think I grew the most on Spooky Crew. One thing I try to bring to what I’m directing is the critical eye of a horror lover. It’s my favorite genre, so I try to look at it from both sides of the coin; what I would like to see in my project as director and what I love to see in the movies I watch as a fan. On Spooky Crew, though, my technical vocabulary definitely grew.

When it comes down to it, I can see things clearly in my head, but I’ve always struggled with being able to put that into the technical terms needed for executing shots. I couldn’t have asked for a better DP in Matt (Valentin) because we found our groove on set when communicating. I would say, “could we grab the Pump Up The Volume shot?” or “Mighty Ducks Flying V formation!” and Matt knew immediately what I was trying to go for. Our (assistant director) Matt Garvin helped massively with translating my movie references to shots as well.

Jerik Thibodeaux plays the co-host of a popular ghost hunting podcast in SPOOKY CREW.

CH: The film is inspired by a popular Louisiana urban legend that involves the ghost of a woman, named Mary Jane, who died on a bridge in the town of Abbeville (located in Lafayette) and has allegedly appeared to drivers who flash their car lights three times. Describe how you adapted that legend and comically exaggerated it into the plot of Spooky Crew.

EB: ​​Originally, Spooky Crew was going to be shot entirely in a car (with a) POV cam as the Spooky Crew drove to the very bridge from the urban legend. Unfortunately, though, Abbeville repaved the bridge into a beige eyesore rather than the rickety, creepy, wooden structure it used to be. Matt also brought up the many obstacles we would face shooting just inside the car (like where would Matt and I be able to fit in the car, how would we execute the story through GoPros, etc.), so Matt mentioned an abandoned motel that was behind a bar he shot a music video in.

When Donny and I did the first scout, it was like a lightning strike. The motel was too creepy, had too much character to not use, and (it) got both our creative juices flowing. So that night, Donny and I went home and restructured the urban legend to Mary Jane dying mysteriously in a motel room rather than in the backseat of a car.

CH: As we see in Spooky Crew, the titular group attempts to bring Mary Jane to life in a live-streamed “ghost hunt”. Considering that reality TV shows involving ghost hunting and searches inside haunted houses are extremely popular, were there any specific shows and personalities that inspired the characters who look for Mary Jane in this film?

EB: I am obsessed with ghost-hunting shows. I blame my mother. She and I would watch them every Friday night and it became a big part of my childhood. Ghost Adventures and the host, Zak Bagins, inspired Emery’s character 100%. There is a little Shawn Ruddy (the protagonist in Deadstream) mixed in as well, but Jerik absolutely killed it as Emery. He took the character references and ran (with them).

Donny Broussard (co-writer/co-producer, Spooky Crew): For me, it was FreakyLinks, The X-Files, Scooby-Doo, and Deadstream (that inspired the characters in Spooky Crew). Erin is a huge fan of ghost-hunting shows, but I’ve never really gotten into them. I wanted (the characters to be) a group that felt like people I knew. (Like the human characters in Scooby-Doo) I felt like the Spooky Crew needed to be a mixture of personalities that anyone could relate to.

CH: What was the production process like for Spooky Crew, including for the makeup design for Mary Jane?

DB: We spent a long time working on the look of Mary Jane. We worked with two artists and tried multiple makeup applications and looks before we landed on the one you see in the film. We knew that Mary Jane had to look perfect if we wanted the film to have a real impact. The production was a lot of fun, but it had its share of difficult days. The day (we shot) at the (motel) was extremely long and tiring but worth it. (The Matts), the actors and the entire crew worked their butts off to bring Erin’s vision to life, and we are grateful and lucky to be surrounded by every one of them.

Jeff Pearson plays the third member of the spooky crew, Tim, in writer/director Erin Bennett’s eponymous horror/comedy short.

CH: How did you find the film’s cast?

EB: Jerik, Olivia, and Jeff are all really good friends of ours. When Donny and I started writing Spooky Crew, we wrote each character with our friend’s voices in mind. It was our way of further enticing them to come work and have fun with us! I had worked with Jerik and Jeff in the past, but I really wanted to work with Olivia because I knew with her unique sarcasm and comedic timing, she’d be the perfect fit for Nancy.

CH: How did you find the “haunted” location explored in the film, and what were some of the challenging parts of shooting it there?

DB: Matt had shot a music video in the bar next door to the location, and he suggested we check it out. Once we saw it, we knew it was the place. However, it came with many problems that needed to be solved. There was no electricity, so we had to run cables from the bar next door. It was full of bugs and wasps and it wasn’t the most sanitary shooting location. It looked great, though.

CH: The “live stream” element that accompanies the characters’ search for Mary Jane is also evident in the film, and the “chat room” reaction that plays out beside the stream is just as funny. How were those elements designed and created?

DB: I suggested to Erin early in the writing process that we have a chat window (like Twitch) because it would add an extra element that could get people to watch it multiple times to see all (of) the chats. She agreed, so we contacted VFX (visual effects) artist Jai Benoit and asked him to create the chat. Erin, Jai, Jerik, and I wrote all the chats.

CH: Besides fans of “ghost hunter” TV shows and horror comedies, who do you think would like to watch this film?

DB: All types of horror fans could enjoy Spooky Crew, but we aimed at fans of horror comedies, ’80s horror, and found footage movies.

CH: What projects are you working on next?

DB: Erin and I are actively working on expanding the Spooky Crew universe. I’m unsure where it will take us, but we want to see more of these characters. We are also working on the script for Erin’s next short.

CH: What have you both taken away from making this film?

EB: I took away the fact that I really love directing and storytelling. It can be a hard road, but it’s also (been) a super rewarding experience. Seeing my vision come to life with Spooky Crew has been one of the biggest highlights of my life.

DB: I wanted to make a short that I’d enjoy watching, and I think (Erin, myself and our cast and crew) succeeded in that. (Making Spooky Crew) also got me thinking about writing something episodic, which is something (Erin and I) haven’t done yet.

L-R: SPOOKY CREW co-stars Jeff Pearson, Jerik Thibodeaux and Olivia Peck.

CH: What are your hopes for the success of Spooky Crew, and what do you want audiences to get out of seeing it?

DB: I want people to enjoy it. It’s not the type of film that focuses on pressing social issues. It’s the kind of film that, if we did our jobs right, will make you forget about life for a bit and have some fun. That’s all I want: for people that watch it to have some fun.

EB: I just hope we can connect with people who not only relate to the Spooky Crew themselves, but also don’t mind a fun 12-minute escape. More than anything, I hope Spooky Crew can help people forget about their own stresses for a few minutes and enjoy the world Donny and I created!

For more info on where to see Spooky Crew, as well as on Donny and Erin’s production company Mallow Entertainment, visit the studio’s official website:

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Chris Hadley

Writer, @SnobbyRobot, @FSMOnlineMag, Writer/Creator, @LateLateNewsTV