While this year’s Saint Patrick’s Day is canceled due to the coronavirus, we can all sort of imagine the party that would have been inside our heads. Loads of drinking, too much green, and all of the shenanigans. Now, what if a band of body snatcher-style aliens decided to crash said party? That’s basically the premise of director Brandon Zuck’s latest film, Into The Dark‘s CRAWLERS. Set on Saint Patrick’s Day – a night of wild parties and drunken revelry – the film follows three unlikely friends who band together to save a college town from a vicious horde of body-switching aliens.
For the release of CRAWLERS, I had the chance to speak with director Brandon Zuck. During our conversation, we discussed everything from his feature film debut, the look of the aliens, and his love of sci-fi.
Congratulations on your feature film debut! What interested you in directing CRAWLERS for Into the Dark?
Brandon Zuck: [Into the Dark] does a very cool thing by cranking out 12 movies a year, which is absolutely crazy. It also allows them to give opportunities to people like me who are making their first feature. Obviously they have some established directors coming in who have done some really cool work but I appreciate them having the ability to give me this kind of chance. When they brought me the script, they sort of knew that this was in my zone – I like to work in genre as well as with young characters – so this one had my name written all over it. When they brought me the script and asked if it would be something I would be interested in, I was like hell yes!
CRAWLERS focuses on the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day while also featuring aliens. I liked that you didn’t fall back on the typical perceptions that people have of what aliens look like. Was the design of the aliens’ something that you worked with writers Catherine Wignall and Mike Gan on?
Brandon Zuck: In terms of the look of the aliens, I think we were just going for something sort of subtle. What we really worked on was the behavior of the aliens. I think there are these versions of these stories where it’s just completely obvious for where there’s like a robotic alien-quality to the monsters, even like an inherently terrifying quality. We came from the angle of what if they are good at being these monsters.
So is it safe to say you are a big fan of alien movies?
Brandon Zuck: Yes! I’m a big fan of horror and I’m also a really big fan of sci-fi. The home screen on my phone is the United Federation of Planets from Star Trek (laughs). I’m a scary big sci-fi nerd but I try to keep it under wraps just how deep of a space sci-fi nerd I am (laughs). The short answer is yes, I’ve always been interested in alien stories.
One thing I noticed was that CRAWLERS seemed to reference some films, including one of my all-time favorites, The Thing. Were there other films that you were inspired by?
Brandon Zuck: Yeah, big time. It’s funny that you said that because someone told me that CRAWLERS was like Mean Girls meets The Thing (laughs). The type of movies we looked at were films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Faculty. This subgenre has its classics and things that pop into everyone’s mind. You don’t want to do the trope and you don’t want to do the things that everybody expects but at the same time how do you not honor the thing that people are expecting or want? You can’t just not do what inevitably is coming out of the story. The trick is to do the things that organically come from the story but then try to find a twist or try and take it in a slightly new direction.
Switching back to the aliens again, I liked that they bit people. Can you elaborate on the reasoning for that?
Brandon Zuck: The idea for [the biting] was we wanted to try and find a pretty easy sci-fi rule that we wouldn’t break, a quick explanation. The thing we landed on, that I really liked, is that in order to change their form, the alien needs to adjust their DNA into what they are changing into the form of. They need something to ingest because their biology is built to mimic the DNA.
Lastly, what was the casting process like in terms of getting everyone together for CRAWLERS?
Brandon Zuck: The casting process was very fast cause Into the Dark cranks out 12 of these movies a year, so we moved very, very quickly. It was actually pretty easy because we had some amazing auditions. We had a list of our number ones and really all of our number ones we were able to get. We were so lucky because this cast was so incredible. We were re-writing stuff on the side and they just really rolled with it and nailed it. They were such fun people to have around even when the camera was off. Their chemistries and personalities really came through. Overall, in total, we were so lucky with the casting.
Into The Dark’s CRAWLERS is now available on Hulu for streaming. On the fence about whether or not you want to take the green beer plunge? Check out our review of the film HERE. Want to learn more about Olivia Liang’s character? Check out our interview with her HERE.
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