Renegade Interview: Ryan M. Andrews, ‘Sick: Survive the Night’

RYAN M. ANDREWSOctober Coast
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Two years into the outbreak, SICK roam the land and the remaining survivors struggle day-to-day trying to rebuild civilization. With the SICK more active at night time, three people need to seek shelter in an empty home. We spoke to SICK : SURVIVE THE NIGHT helmer Ryan M. Andrews about the first new horror movie of 2015!

Is The Walking Dead responsible for this resurgence in zombie films? Or do we maybe give props to the Dawn of the Dead remake from a few years ago?

RMA: The Walking Dead has definitely put zombies on top of TV land and have given major exposure to a sub-genre I love, but zombies are always around. A couple years before the Dawn Of The Dead remake, we got to watch Milla Jovovich kick zombie ass in Resident Evil and we got to see a new kind of zombie in 28 Days Later. I think they are all responsible for keeping zombies going. The Walking Dead has just brought it to a new medium, so people that would generally not bother with zombie films, might end up catching it on tv and realizing they really like it.

What are some of your favorite zombie films? Classic and contemporary…

RMA: George Romero’s Day Of The Day is my favorite. I love the characters and where Romero takes zombies, with the Bub character. Other than that, I love voodoo zombie films like White Zombie and The Serpent & The Rainbow. Pontypool is a great Canadian zombie film. We actually shot a few scenes for Sick, in Pontypool, Ontario (which is a little more than an hour away from Toronto).

What makes a good zombie movie, then?

RMA: The characters. Above all, I have to care about the characters and care what happens to them. And by “care,” I don’t mean feel positive towards them, I mean “care” as in love or hate them, I am engaged enough to want to see how things play out. They have to interest me. Like the Dr. Frankenstein character in Day Of The Dead, whether I liked him or not, I was engaged in what he was trying to do with Bub.

The other thing that makes a good zombie film, is offering something different. Zombie films are a dime a dozen so to be good you gotta offer something new. There are so many out there so you can’t just repeat what is already there. 28 Days Later did that. Pontypool did that.

How does yours differ from the rest?

RMA: I think Sick differs because we do something different with our zombies. At it’s core it is still what you would expect from a zombie film, the living having to work together to survive the night and the focus of the film is on how the living butt heads and really who’s worse, the living or the dead? But beyond that we focus heavily on the science of what makes our zombies tick. Our zombies eat brains, which has really only been done in Return Of The Living Dead. But instead of being campy about it, we play it very serious with a realistic reason as to why, if zombies existed, they would eat brains. It was actually really fun for me having grown up watching Debbie Rochon in various horror films, now play a scientist that really goes into the specifics of our zombies. It’s definitely a different kind of character that she was able to sink her teeth into.

And in Sick, we also follow two stories weaved together in the film. One follows a maverick scientist who left her life behind when the apocalypse hit to live protected in a government facility while she searches for a cure. The other follows a group of people struggling day to day fighting for everything. Obviously their paths cross, but there really is two stories in there.

I imagine it’s got to be fun dreaming up cool and creative ways to kill off humans when you’re putting together a film like this?

RMA: I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a bar with my co writer Chris Cull and we would be coming up with something gruesome or disturbing and end up getting freaked out looks from other patrons.

It’s definitely fun but I try not to put too much focus on that to be honest. Of course deaths in horror are important but I’ve grown up watching horror films and I have seen countless decapitations, eviscerations, mutilations, etc. I have seen people ripped to shreds and it’s not really a thing about being desensitized, it’s just, creative and cool deaths are only cool and creative as long as the story development and the characters are there. And that’s where I focus the majority of my energy. If I’m engaged in everything else going on, then cool and creative deaths become the icing on the cake. But I always try to put the major focus on the story first. Then the deaths fall into place.

The original Saw was amazing because it was a really smart story and that is why the gory deaths were so effective. As each sequel came out, it became more about the death and setups than about the character development, so I got tired of it after a while. It is still a great series and the make up fx teams on those films are top notch, but for me, I try to focus on story and characters.

That said, it is ALWAYS a fun day on set when there is blood and gore.

Was it a fun shoot?

RMA: It really was. Every indie film deals with challenges. Time and Money, we’re always chasing both and there is never enough of either. But with lack of time and money, we are just forced to be more creative and we had a great team of people and everyone had each other’s back.

We shot the bulk of the film in a residential house in a Toronto neighborhood and everyone there were so friendly. They said we brought excitement to their street and they would stand around and watch while we shot scenes in the front yard.

Do you pull a Hitchcock and cameo?

RMA: Not in Sick. I have done a couple cameos in other films I have done, but in Sick, I decided not to. It would have been cool to be a zombie in the film, but it would have taken too many hours in make up, and there wouldn’t have been enough time.

What are you working on next?

RMA: I actually have two new films in post-production that were shot this year. Save Yourself is a fun horror/thriller about five women on a road trip who cross paths with a mad scientist, hellbent on using them for his twisted experiments. The film stars: Jessica Cameron (Silent Night), Tristan Risk (American Mary), Tianna Nori (Clean Break), Sydney Kondruss (The Drownsman), Ry Barrett (Kingdom Come) and Bobbie Phillips (Carnival Of Souls). It really is the perfect ensemble cast. It’s very serious in nature, but there is also a subtle wink and nod to horror fans out there as the five women in the film are horror filmmakers en route to a film festival in LA.

The other film I did this year is Desolation which was part of a road trip production lead by executive producers Jessica Cameron and Jonathan Higgins, where we shot three films in three weeks while traveling across country. Desolation was my contribution to the project and it stars Jessica Cameron and Tristan Risk along with Carlo Mendez and Ali Ferda. It’s a very artful horror with a Lynch-like approach. It was a challenge approaching shooting where we found locations as we went, so I wasn’t able to prep as much as usual, but it allowed me to be creative in different ways. Very experimental but very fun.

I also have a couple new films in development to shoot next year, including a brooding body horror. So I am definitely keeping busy, but look for Save Yourself to hit festivals next, in 2015.

And who knows, if people like Sick, maybe I will be able to tell the other two chapters in this story. Chris and I wrote it as a trilogy focusing on three different periods during the outbreak. Sick takes place two years after it began. The second story tells of the two years leading up to it and the third continues on in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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