The second of the short films previewed during May’s Vampiir Bitez evening was 29 Days Crossed, by Dan Brownlie of Brand B Corporation. It’s not a vampire movie, but it’s an original little shocker set in the days after the Zombie Apocalypse with a very neat twist in its tail. Dan was kind enough to explain to the Hothouse how the movie came about:
‘I received an email from Tony Newton one day asking me to take part in a zombie anthology called Virus of the Dead. I was told it would be a found footage film, mainly to be shot in the style of mobile phones and handy cams and it would have several directors taking up unlinked sections of their own design. The rules? They had to be traditional style, slow-moving zombies that can only be killed by destroying the brain.
Like most horror fans my age, I grew up with Amicus anthology films and Tales from the Crypt on late night TV so I have an inbuilt love of anthologies and I had started my career by doing micro horrors, so this project sounded interesting. Unfortunately my most recent project, The Tombs: Rise of the Damned was taking up all my time so I politely and reluctantly declined.
A few weeks later I received another email from Tony asking if I would reconsider, alas The Tombs was still taking up all my time and I just couldn’t commit to anything else, but after a third email requesting I take part I started to think. If I could do something massively simple,but extremely effective then I’d do it. I’m a great believer in the true horrors of life, how people treat each other and how it reflects in horror. George A Romero is a perfect example of using a zombie apocalypse to show people s true nature.
I had directed a piece of an anthology that I executive produced called Three’s a Shroud where I explored my own failing relationship at the time and I wanted to explore the darker side of relationships. Rather than one that was just failing I wanted to explore one that had been torn apart by an abusive partner. My partner in film and life (Jessica Ann Bonner) had such relationships, so I wanted to use her real life experience to create a real life horror with the background of a zombie holocaust. The horrors outside were nothing compared to the psychological horrors the character was going through, stuck in her own personal hell. Style wise it would be simplistic, honest, a video diary that would work as a podcast for the modern age.
My only trouble was with the style of zombies. I’m a big fan of the non-zombie zombie genre in both film and comic literature (the title spells out a very obvious homage). So I had my simplistic powerful idea, rule breaking zombies and an actress with the clout to pour the unrelenting emotions onto the screen. I emailed Tony with my terms and conditions and he agreed. So I went about creating my section of Virus of the Dead entitled 29 Days Crossed.
With my end game laid out I went about writing the script. I didn’t want to scream at the audience what was going on, but weave enough in to let them read between the lines. I couldn’t have a character just shout “I was abused”. After all she is trying to survive her own mental torment as well as the end of humanity. For this the actress had to go from amazingly happy to mentally distraught in a matter of minutes. I have worked with few actors who can pull such a range of emotions at the drop of a hat but Jessica Ann Bonner pulled it off. She went to very dark places and just threw raw emotion at the screen set up to be a teeny bopper’s video diary. This juxtaposition really brought my vision to life and has struck several cords with test audiences that I have shown it to (even brought one viewer to tears). The other hero behind this film was my editor Mdhamiri A Nkemi who cut this short to perfection, that along with the subtle score really brought this harrowing tale of emotional instability and personal horror to life.
Since creating my section I have found there has been a wealth of talent attached to this project that makes me feel very privileged to be a part of it. Tony Newton has done an amazing job of rallying people up and has brought a real buzz to this film with very promising press. I have yet to see the others sections but am very much looking forward to see what my peers have created.’
Thank you dan for taking the time out to talk to us. For news on this and Dan’s other projects visit brand B’s website, facebook page and the facebook pages for The Tombs: Rise of the Damned and Virus of the Dead