(This interview was originally published on February 13, 2012 at The Rogers Revue)
If you’ve read my reviews of “The Dead” and “Pig”, you’ll appreciate the breadth of horror sub-genres that were represented at the 2011 Spooky Movie Festival in Washington, DC last October.
“The Dead”, written and directed by brothers Howard and Jon Ford, has an unprecedented combination of attributes: a zombie film set in West Africa with a heavy sociopolitical undercurrent (read my synopsis and review here). The film stars Rob Freeman and Ghana native Prince David Osei.
“[We] feel very privileged to be able to showcase such a beautiful country and talent,” Howard told me over a Heineken. “I don’t know how many other movies are like that. We filmed in Ghana and Burkina Faso, [mostly] Burkina Faso, which is French-speaking West Africa. 99% of the cast are African. The people you see in the villages, those are the people who live in those villages.”
The British siblings became fascinated with the region while shooting a television commercial there a few years ago. It was then they decided to pursue the project.
“Jon and I had wanted to make a zombie movie ever since we saw Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” as teenagers. We wanted to go back to the films of the ‘70s when they took their time, not the MTV, pop-promo style of shooting. [We wanted to] allow our shots to breathe. First and foremost, we wanted it to be a beautiful film.”
Shooting on location would prove grueling and often dangerous for the cast and crew, some of whom experienced confrontation at knifepoint.
“Everyone was very scared for their lives at one point,” Ford said. “I’m amazed that no one got killed, to be honest. At times we were as vulnerable as the characters in the film. And we found that death was all around us.”
He added, “The film is very much about some of the problems specifically in Africa. Like the Rwandan slaughters, the spread of disease. We wanted everything to feel realistic. Like, from A to B, this could actually happen. Not necessarily zombies, but I think at a time like this people can relate to a breakdown in society. I think as a result, there’s been a zombie [film] resurgence.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Pig”, a film that leans much closer to science fiction than horror (read my synopsis and review here). Subtle and intentionally confusing in its presentation, “Pig” has the cryptic tones of an old “Twilight Zone” episode. The film is written and directed by Henry Barrial and stars Rudolf Martin as a man suffering from amnesia.
“We were constantly having vigorous conversations about what we should and shouldn’t put in the film,” said co-producer Alex Cutler. “[We had] this dual challenge about how much information and direction we should impose on the audience. Especially with a ‘puzzle movie’, the line you straddle is how cryptic you’re going to be so your audience is sufficiently confused but still remains engaged. Sometimes people get carried away with conceit and device at the expense of credibility.”
“Pig” has drawn more than its share of critical acclaim, but its impact shows in the range of responses elicited from international audiences. Since its festival debut in Nashville last April, “Pig” has been screened from Sci-Fi London (where it won Best Feature Film)and B-Movie Celebration in Franklin, Indiana to Shriekfest in Los Angeles (Best Sci-Fi Feature). It most recently appeared at the Boston Sci-Fi Festival, which was last weekend.
“The film sometimes gets you thinking so far out of the box,” Cutler said. “Unfortunately for the readers, we can’t say whole lot. But people’s ideas range all over the place. The vast majority that see “Pig” find that in its world, it has its own internal logic.”
As far as the twists, my lips are sealed. “Pig” will be screening at the RadCon Sci-Fi Film Festival in Pasco, Washington this Saturday, February 18th. For East Coasters, “Pig” will be coming to the Charlotte Film Festival in North Carolina on Monday, March 26th.
My thanks to Howard Ford, Alex Cutler and Spooky Movie Festival founder Curtis Prather.