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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.27.14] horror

The third entry into the Cabin Fever franchise, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is available on VOD today leading up to the movie's theatrical and iTunes release on August 1.

This franchise has proven it can take on some crazy and director Kaare Andrews, steps up to the plate to direct this insanity that takes the infection to a remote island complex where Patient Zero (Sean Astin) breaks out of containment and, we assume, lives on another day to infect even more people. It's brash and humorous and a fun watch.

I had a chance to talk with Kaare about the making of the movie and he was kind enough to share some nightmare stories from the set, his passion for practical effects and his newly launched comic project, the excellent "Iron Fist."

Congratulations on the movie. It's a lot of fun. How did you become involved with the project?

The script had been written by Jake Wade Wall and at the time we shared the same agent. I was given the script to read and then I met with the producers to give them my take on the script and very quickly I was offered the job. It was a very simple, very straight forward process.

This is a lot different than Altitude which you shot in Aldergrove while Cabin Fever was shot in the Dominican Republic. Were there any special challenges of shooting in the Dominican?

Oh my goodness, I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with the language barrier. I don't speak Spanish and it's a Spanish speaking country. About half of the crew spoke English and none of our extras spoke English so that was a logistical challenge. And then there are the challenges of shooting in a country like the Dominican Republic. It's a very beautiful country but it's also very dangerous. There are guns everywhere. While we were shooting we had crew members getting shot at. At one point during location scouting I had a gun pulled on me. It's just a dangerous country.

Beyond that there are the weather issues. We were shooting during the rainy season so every day it rained and on our first day of principal photography, during a night shoot, we actually got hit by Hurricane Sandy while we were shooting outdoors. We had built these rain towers but we couldn't turn them on because combined with the hurricane rain, we started to flood the village we were shooting in. We just shot with what I refer to as the "God rain" that night. With our full body make-up and slow motion cameras and Sean Astin screaming and Dobbs running around in hazmat suits...

That hurricane started to flood the entire city we were shooting in. Luckily we had a week or so of shooting in underground caves but caves are porous so even though we were inside, the water eventually started raining down on us.

Half of the crew had never even shot a commercial or music video before so there was a lot of learning on the job for a lot of people. It was a very challenging shoot. I don't know if you've ever seen the documentary Hearts of Darkness"?


I lived a mini version of that shooting this movie.

It certainly sounds like it. Why did you continue with shooting even after the problems during location scouting?

Well that's where the money came from. It was tied to the movie and the movie was created specifically to shoot there and take advantage of tax incentives. We're such a small production with such little money that there's kind of just an on switch and an off switch so once you're there, there's no money to reschedule. You either have to go for it or pack it up and we decided to go for it the whole way through.

Did you make Altitude in a similar way?

Well Altitude was a much different movie. That was shot all in one location in a studio in Vancouver but again with a very low budget. It was about the same shooting schedule but fewer locations.

The thing about Altitude is that the whole thing takes place in a set about the size of a minivan so that itself was a challenge because how do you keep that exciting for an audience? Spending two hours in a minivan? We really had to work hard to blend lenses, camera angles and camera movement to build up tension for two hours. Cabin Fever is the opposite in that we had so many different locations.

Weirdly part of the challenge is that we're shooting in a country known for its beautiful beaches, beautiful jungles and the ocean but we were based out of this giant dirty city. Lovely city but dirty city. Santo Domingo is hours away from any of that and our entire movie took place in all of those locations that we couldn't get to them because if we tried to we'd have to worry about travel and booking hotels and we just didn't have the money.

We ended up doing a lot of cheating with beaches and jungle scenes in an abandoned lot that we cleaned up and paid off the people camped out there, the homeless people camped out there. We had very little time to shoot in actual beaches and jungles. A lot of it was this weird patchwork quilt made up of various locations.

The more you talk about it the more I'm amazed that you managed to pull this movie together.

Let me tell you I could go on for hours. I could write a book! The crazy that we had every day!

The caves are this natural treasure, protected park. In the 80s, a deal was made with a relative of a government official to lease out the caves and turn them into an underground night club. So they turned this underground resource, these beautiful caves, into a crazy night club which was actually very successful for at least a decade.

We went to shoot there. They were in ruins and there were mould spores hanging two feet down from the ceiling, live electrical wires everywhere, tarantulas… It was a toxic, horrible place but we cleaned it up, cleaned it out and made it safe. The guys that control the lease started renting it out again as a night club so every Friday people and DJs showed up and we couldn't control that situation. Every Friday afternoon we had to kind of shoot through a dance party.

I hope you got some kickbacks for cleaning that up!

Someone was getting kickbacks but I wasn't.

The two things I really liked about Cabin Fever is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, it has a great sense of humour, and the other thing is the sheer number of practical effects. Things get pretty crazy! It's one of the reasons I tend to like these small movies. They have a great joy for old school movie making. Do you prefer working with practical effects?

I have a childhood love of special make-up effects and special effects. I grew up reading books like Dick Smith's " Monster Make-Up Handbook " and Tom Savini's " Bizzaro" and following effects artists like Rob Bottin on The Thing.

Part of the fun in this movie is being able to work with special effects again. This is actually the first time for me as a director but bringing back that artistry. It's not used so much anymore. In the 80s these guys were like gods in film but they've kind of fallen out of favour and been replaced by teams of CG guys.

We didn't have a lot of money but we had a great artist in Vincent Guastini who really did a lot with very few resources. I really wanted to fully embrace the practical effects nature of a movie like this and really have fun with this and really push things as far as I could.

I got a nice letter from Eli [Roth] before shooting and he said that the Cabin Fever franchise is one that will withstand any kind of crazy you throw at it so that's exactly what I did.

We don't actually have a lot of gore but the gore that we have - I really focused on pushing as far as I could possible go.

It would be hard not to mention the catfight on the beach because that's an amalgamation of everything you've been talking about that. The make-up in that scene is ridiculously crazy... it's so... I don't even know. It was gleeful to watch.

Let me tell you. That scene... Lydia Hearst who plays Bridgett, it's her last day of filming and she was pretty exhausted, and it was Jillian Murray's first day of filming and they both went through nine hours of make-up before shooting this - and keep in mind these are the actors doing this with no training or stunt doubles - and then they're shooting this all night, roll-around-the-sand, outdoors, propane fires behind them, full body make-up... it was a crazy one night shoot.

Originally I had planned on shooting it over two nights with stunt performers but at the end of the day we just didn't have the money so we just went for it. At the end of that night when the sun was finally up, I just remember sitting with a blank expression on my face looking at my DP who also had a blank expression on his face... we had done so much work in so little time. It was a little overwhelming.

It's the second time you've worked with Norm Li your cinematographer. I'm wondering what kind of working relationship you have with him. One of the things I find really interesting about Norm's filmography is that he works on a lot of different projects and all of the movies look very different and I'm wondering if that's a result with working closely with directors to hone in on the specific look of whatever project he's working on?

Norm is awesome. I love working with Norm. He's my DP of choice and I think it's because he gets so excited about the work. He's so excited about making art. The only time you'll ever see him lose his cool on a set is because a shot isn't working out and we're going to lose the light and we're going to lose that magic time to shoot a shot.

The movie looks fantastic. I always love watching Norm's films because they're all so different but they always have that little touch of Norm.

Yeah. I gave Norm his first movie. My first movie. But I had to fight to for him back then. When we were making Altitude he was an unknown commodity but now he's one of the most talented DPs and sought after for projects.

For sure. One of the things I really liked about Altitude was the look of that movie, especially for such close quarters. You would think it was taking place in a big open space, the use of space is spectacular. That was the first time I thouht "Who is this guy and where did he come from?" Actually, that was the first time I thought the same thing about you!

That takes me into the second thing I wanted to talk about and that's your other career as a comic book creator and comic book artist. Your two careers seem to be running parallel to each other but they don't seem to really cross over.

I tell people it's like the difference between a cop and fireman. They both kind of do similar things but the jobs are entirely different. My comic book work does affect my filmmaking but it's not exactly the same job. They're different skill sets that have some overlap.

I've always been interested in doing both and I'll probably do both until I either lose my mind to dementia or fall off a cliff or my heart stops.

How did you make the leap into filmmaking? Did you always want to be a director?

Well, when I was a kid I didn't think of comics and movies and video games and toys as different things, I always just thought of them as one thing, and it's not until you get older that the world tries to tell you that they're all different things and you can only do one so I chose comic books first. But then I started to think "Why can I only do one thing?" so when I moved to Vancouver, I immediately bought some gear and started making shorts and started writing scripts and got an agent and slowly built up my film career completely separate from my comic book career. I've never tried to trade up on one or the other.

In comic books I'm fairly established but in film I'm still pretty new.

Leading up to our chat I did read the first three issues of "Iron Fist" which, by the way, are spectacular. My first thought after reading them was that you need to turn this into a movie!

Well here's the thing. I haven't had the opportunity yet, in film, to own a project like I can in comics. In comics I can write the whole thing, I can draw the whole thing, every choice and decision I make is encouraged and nurtured by my collaborators but in film I'm still pretty new and I haven't yet had that opportunity. So while I'm pretty proud of Cabin Fever that script was written before I was involved and there are factors in that movie that are beyond my control.

I think that my next film, it looks like it will be my own script and if that is the case, that will be the first film I can kind of own in a way that I own a comic book and it's in the same kind of genre as "Iron Fist."

Is this The Hunted?

Yes it is.

You seem to be working within the "genre" framework with horror, sci-fi and now this action project that you're working on. Do you prefer working within genre?

Well, I prefer anything that is both visual and visceral and I find that most of the films that fit that description come from "genre" - science fiction, fantasy, action, horror. It just seems to have the most bandwidth to support a lot of that visual style of filmmaking. But I would happily do a movie like Requiem for a Dream or something that had the bandwidth to support that sort of filmmaking but in a more dramatic sense.

I've always naturally been inclined towards science fiction, fantasy and action.

I know you're in the middle of "Iron Fist" at the moment but when can we expect to see The Hunted?

I don't know. The average film from the first draft to final is about a seven year journey so... I hope it happens soon but we'll see. There's been a lot of movement lately in that project and I hope that if it continues at this rate it should be happening fairly soon.

That's excellent to hear because I don't really want to wait another seven years for your next project. Congrats again on Cabin Fever and best of luck on your next film!

Thanks. And again just a reminder to all your readers to go to the comic book store and pick up "Iron Fist". Issue four comes out July 2nd and it's at least a 12 issue run so there will be a lot of story there.

That's great to hear. I sat down thinking I'd only read the first issue and then I breezed through three and couldn’t wait to get more. I'm really enjoying it.

Oh good.

The story is fantastic, it's beautiful. I can't wait to read more. This is a little off track but I'm curious about your experience working as a creator at Marvel.

I've always been allowed to be like that at Marvel. I've never had anyone try to tell me otherwise. As soon as I broke in I started writing for them. I broke in as a penciller but I started writing as soon as I could because I didn't want to get pigeonholed. Maybe that was part of it.

When I came back from Cabin Fever, I had a conversation with Axel [Alonso], Editor in Chief at Marvel, and he asked me if I wanted to write a big event book or something like that and I really wanted to write and draw something. It had been a while since I had done that in a very big way. Not since "Spider-Man: Reign" and I think that happened almost seven years ago now so it's been a long time and I'd been spending most of my writing energy in the film world. I just wanted to write a comic book again, a series. So he whipped off a few characters they were thinking of doing things with and I immediately responded to "Iron Fist" and had a take on it.

Part of the reason I was so attracted to it is that I love martial arts and I love action. I love that whole thing. I also understood that he was a character that, unlike "Captain America" or "Spider-Man", I wouldn't have to ask permission to do things. I could wrap my hands as firmly as I could around him and just push him where I wanted to go. That's part of the attraction to a character like that.

I think it's going really, really well. I thoroughly enjoying it and I'm sure some of our readers will enjoy it as well. We love our kung-fu and this is certainly a great take.

It's time for a come back.

For sure! And you've done very well. Thank you again for your time and best of luck with all the projects!

Thank you.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is available on VOD today.

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