Every day until Halloween, The Hollywood Reporter will be speaking to a notable horror director. Previously in this series: ‘ABCs of Death 2’s Alejandro Brugués
“I was home alone at seven years old and saw Night of the Living Dead, and that f—ed my little child brain,” says Marvin Kren, who decades later made his feature debut with a zombie thriller of his own — the well-regarded Rammbock in 2010.
“I was seriously addicted to zombies,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. But there’s one zombie project he can’t stand: “I think The Walking Dead sucks,” says the Austrian helmer. His opinion isn’t shared by the record 17.3 million viewers who tuned in for the most recent season premiere of AMC’s undead drama, and even he admits to liking the pilot. But the next five seasons? “It’s boring,” he says.
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He isn’t still stuck on zombies. He followed Rammbock with The Station — titled in German Blutgletscher, or Blood Glacier — which combined monster horror in the vein of John Carpenter with a climate-change subtext. His segment in the horror anthology The ABCs of Death 2, which hits theaters on Halloween, is R is for Roulette, and it centers on a Russian Roulette game that takes place in a basement under mysterious circumstances.
He tells THR why The Walking Dead doesn’t grab him and why global warming makes for great horror.
The Station is a horror movie built around fears of climate change. When did you decide this would be a film with a social commentary?
That was one of the first ideas that came alongside doing a monster film, that when you’re a young person and you think about the world and you see all this horrible news on TV, automatically you start thinking, “what is this world coming to?” It’s a horror film in itself. I tried to combine it with a monster film. I found that very provocative.
You’re seeing a thriller, but there’s so much more within it. It’s a drama, and it tells something about humanity, about us, about technology and the dark side of humanity. It’s so much bigger than just the film. That’s what really inspires me and what kind of movies I want to do.
It’s drawn comparisons to John Carpenter’s films, particularly The Thing. What’s inspiring to you in his filmography?
What I love about Carpenter is that back then he didn’t have the resources like we had or big budgets, so as a filmmaker, you really can learn a lot from him because he’s focused on how you really create suspense. Do you have to see everything? Can you tell the terror through the performance of the extras, or through the sound? This is basically what Carpenter is best at.
What do you think is most important in horror storytelling?
It’s very important that the characters are real, that they really could exist in our world. I try to create an atmosphere for the characters which could be reality. When you establish and elaborate upon a realistic atmosphere for a horror film, then you can start to scare people with suspense or with horror. When you don’t feel the characters and believe in them, you can use as much blood as you want, as many scares as you want, and it won’t work. You need to really focus on the characters.
Courtesy of Marvin Kren
What recent horror films have you liked?
I loved James Wan’s The Conjuring, and Cheap Thrills from E.L. Katz. It was a clever idea — you just had the four actors, two locations, and it was so much fun. There was so much perversion in it. My wife and I couldn’t stop laughing and being disgusted. It was a little masterpiece. I really liked these Japanese ghost films — they’re a little bit old, but I like them because they have a different approach to ghosts. The director is called Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and his films are called Sakebi and Pulse. You won’t believe how he shows ghosts. They don’t work with the classic scares — you see the ghost, and the ghost is walking very slowly toward the actor, and the actor doesn’t move. It’s not quick, it’s slow.
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I think The Walking Dead sucks. It’s boring. I loved the pilot, but I think the rest is boring. There’s too much drama. By the end, there’s too much whiny stuff. There’s too much hysterics, too many tears.
What kinds of material would you like to make next?
I would love to do serial killer stuff. I don’t know — whatever comes up. I would love to never repeat myself.