Kaare Andrews is best known as a comic book writer and artist. He’s been a staple of Marvel Comics for many years, with work on the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and Iron Fist among his accomplishments. He’s also earning props as a horror film director, notably with 2010’s Altitude and a short piece in the anthology film The ABCs of Death. His latest project is a prequel to the cult classic Cabin Fever, entitled Patient Zero. In an exclusive interview with Mania, he sat down to talk about it, and working in the horror genre.
Question: What was the impetus for this project? What brought you to it?
Kaare Andrews: I came into the project fairly late. The locations had already been set, and a lot of the foundations were in place. We were shooting in the Dominican Republic and all those details were set for that location. For me, it was more about finding room within those parameters to push around a little bit, to find a way in that could let us do something creatively fulfilling and fun for the target audience. I was a huge fan of the first Cabin Fever and with Eli Roth’s work in general. I also love splatter effects, practical effects, and this was a chance to play with those on a very large scale. It was just nice to craft the movie with our hands rather than depending on a computer.
Q: Was there a big push to use computer effects? Was that a battle?
KA: Not really. Our computer effects budget was about $10,000, enough for a couple of shots at the most. We knew we were going to go practical. Our make-up budget wasn’t huge either, but you can do so much more with it, and this genre does much better in the practical world. You need that visceral reality for horror movies. Time in the make-up chair gets you into that mindset, and I think the results show up much more intensely on the screen.
Q: You have a star in Sean Astin, who’s no stranger to either CG or practical effects. How did he contribute to that atmosphere?
KA: Sean really is an everyman. He’s not an action hero, he’s not Brad Pitt. He kind of represents everybody, which is why he was so fantastic as Sam in The Lord of the Rings. So for the character here, who’s a father who undergoes a change into something else, he was probably the most exciting and appropriate choice as the centerpiece. Sean had never done a horror movie before. He’d done all kinds of crazy effects movies, but never a straight-up horror movie. We were looking for someone with his qualities, and the match was perfect. He was like a big kid. I remember one day on the set, he was walking around in the middle of a pile of dead bodies and saying, “This is what I wanted! This is why I wanted to be here!” And that enthusiasm is infectious.
Q: How do you balance the expectations of a movie like this in terms of gore with older horror elements like suspense and editing-based shocks?
KA: The first Cabin Fever was kind of a sex comedy in the opening act, more Animal House than The Evil Dead. Eli Roth spoke to me before shooting began. He was very warm, he gave me his blessing. And he said, “This franchise can handle anything you can throw at it. Go for things, don’t be scared.” And in this franchise, you have to kind of embrace the visceral nature of it. Like The Evil Dead. The shocks spring from the effects, and that was the focus. I didn’t want to feel restrained on that front. Questions of tone can then flow from that, and in this case, you wanted to accentuate the shock and horror with humor, with laughs. That was the tone of the first Cabin Fever and that’s what we looked for here.
Q: Did shooting in the Dominican help that?
KA: It did. With filmmaking, you have two options. You can adapt the world to fit your vision or you can use the world as it is and make your vision fit within it. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we went with the second option. And the Dominican helped that. You don’t need to build a jungle on a sound stage, you have one right there. You don’t have to find the perfect beach because it’s twenty minutes away. I really wanted to include more of those things there. Our last day, we went to shoot at a real market, and we spent all of the time on the water on that boat. That gives you the world of this movie without having to stretch your resources to the breaking point.