Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I had a chance to experience the no-fucks-given campers-run amok-massacre flick I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE a while back and it blew me away. Not only does it evoke the kind of fun Sam Raimi imbued into EVIL DEAD II, but it also stands up as one of the best “Cabin in the Woods” style films I’ve seen in quite some time. I had a chance to talk with director Bradley Sullivan about I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE below. After that, check out my review of the film!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): All right, so I’m here with Bradley Sullivan who is the director, writer, editor, and everything else on the film I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE. I just recently saw this film for the second time and it blew me away both times. It’s funny, it’s darkly funny, it’s filled with really cool gore…it’s just a really fun horror film that I can’t wait for my readers to check out. Thank you so much for talking with me today. How did the film….when did you first start coming up with this film?
BRADLEY SULLIVAN (BS): First off, thanks so much for taking the time to reach out. I really appreciate it and I’m excited for people to finally have it trickle out to them and finally be able to see it. I first came up with the idea…I was in a volunteer program called AmeriCorp and CCC back in 2005 where it’s vaguely similar to the volunteer group that’s in the movie where you travel around with a team of people doing different projects for a few months at a time, and we had one that was more like what you see in the movie where we were working on a summer camp out in the middle of the woods living in tents which, from a city boy who had never…I had avoided things like being out in the woods and working with tools my whole life. All of a sudden I was thrust in this situation and the movie is the realization of some of my worst fears that I had while we were out there and luckily it didn’t kill me.
BUG: Good for you that it didn’t. (laughs) It’s great that you went about trying to find the worst case scenario for every case with this film. You go all out just trying to do everything that you shouldn’t be doing in the woods.
BS: Yeah, exactly, and that’s what ended up being the interesting thing. I originally, when I was first coming up with it I was struggling with it, because I kept going for a supernatural angle and I was trying to decide “What is happening?” It was whatever the old list of clichés are—“working on an old Indian burial ground” or “someone gets possessed” or something like that and nothing was sticking for me. It just wasn’t exciting. I couldn’t get myself jazzed up to write anything going that route and then when I started just thinking about these situations and the real life ways that some of them could have played out, I said “well, if one happened, then that could spiral into another…” Then it kind of just wrote itself.
BUG: Talk to me about how you brought together this cast. They are a cast of relatively unknown people, but they are very talented and it seems like they are very comfortable in front of the camera. I see a lot of horror films and just to see people who are actually good actors in these movies is a treat, so how did you pick this cast?
BS: This is my first feature film, too, and I hadn’t had too much experience working on things with real actors before, because I was always the lazy director and before I would just cast my friends or other filmmakers and such. So this was kind of a scary territory going into that as we were a super low budget film. There wasn’t anything we could do, except we shot the film around Austin, Texas so we just posted up on The Texas Film Commission’s website and shortfilmtexas.com and I think craigslist and just held auditions at a coffee shop, like the back room of a coffee shop. Over two or three days or so we had people come in and just went through that process. There wasn’t anything more to it than the people that ended up making it into the film just stood out. Most everybody that ended up being cast in the film, the moment they walked in you knew that was the right person for the role. They just had an air about them that fit it and that’s pretty much it. We didn’t have any other way to go about it, just auditions in the back of a coffee shop.
BUG: Going into this, it’s one of those films…I don’t want to reveal too much, because it’s such a fun movie full of surprises, but when you were doing it, were you more focused on the comedy or the horror? How did you balance that?
BS: I mean, I was definitely more focused…I wanted to make a fun movie, a movie that you walked out of. A horror movie that is boring…some horror films when you walk out make you feel gross and that might be what you’re going in for, but that’s not what I wanted to do with this. I very much wanted you to walk out feeling like you had a good time. I wasn’t super focused on the comedy of it. I more wrote it just have everything be one whole cohesive piece and have the character’s actions seem to make sense and the comedy of it was more just…in the movie they are all strangers and then they get to know each other. It’s a human instinct to use humor as a way of breaking the ice or getting along with people, and I just tried to write how I felt people talk, and naturally it’s a little bit funny.
BUG: With the actors, were you looking for that kind of comedic timing in particular? What was it in particular with the actors that made you choose them?
BS: With the actors, specifically what jumps to mind is Jeremy Vandermause, who plays “Steve” in the movie. Everyone in the movie is kind of an amalgamation of people I know in real life, and it’s these multiple people combined into one that I’ve really known throughout time and when he came in…he might not have been as funny as everyone else, but I couldn’t stop laughing just by how much he just nailed these people, and all of the characters in the movie are kind of broad strokes of people, and so hopefully everyone recognizes a little bit of that type of person in some of the characters and yeah, I mean, when he came in I couldn’t help but laugh just because I felt like I knew this guy who I hadn’t seen in my life before. So yeah, we were just looking for the timing when people could nail these different broad strokes so that everybody could relate to some of the characters.
BUG: You said you made this film about three years ago, correct?
BS: Yeah, we shot it in November of two thousand nine.
BUG: And since then, CABIN IN THE WOODS came out and there has been this kind of resurgence of woods kind of horror or forest horror or “cabin in the woods” horror sort of films. Were you worried when CABIN IN THE WOODS came out before you saw it that this was going to be too similar to it?
BS: I wasn’t so much worried with CABIN IN THE WOODS, because it looks so very drastically different than what this was. I mean, if you saw the trailers for CABIN IN THE WOODS it kind of gave a lot of what that movie was away, and I mean there were still plenty of surprises, but just from watching the trailer I wasn’t as worried with that one as I was so much TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL. When that started to come out and even in the trailer and everything, it’s kind of playing all of these horror tropes and it’s these kids kind of undoing themselves rather than Tucker and Dale being the killer hillbillies and I thought “Oh my goodness, this movie is going to be exactly like our movie, except they’ve got all this money and this great cast and everything.” I thought “Everyone is going to think we ripped them off.” Luckily, when I ended up seeing that movie, I mean they are drastically different and they both work in their own ways. If you like one, you’re going to like the other, but I think they are different enough that they don’t overlap.
BUG: I totally agree. I didn’t think of that film as I was watching it, but now that you mention it, yeah, it does have the same kind of comedic feel. I’m looking for films to compare this one to in order to let people know what it’s like and what they are to expect. It’s almost like…the humor reminds me of the kind of humor that comes from an EVIL DEAD 2. Are you a fan of that film?
BS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Raimi is a huge influence on me. I mean, specifically DRAG ME TO HELL is one of my favorite more recent horror movies and I’m absolutely nuts about EVIL DEAD. I kind of became a fan of that backwards. I loved ARMY OF DARKNESS the most growing up and I slowly working my way into EVIL DEAD 2 and then EVIL DEAD later on. Now I like them all equally, but that’s kind of how I discovered those films. The film that when I saw it…I had the film written before I had ever seen the movie, but when I saw it I said “Oh my goodness, that’s the movie that I want this to feel like” was when I saw Danny Boyle’s SHALLOW GRAVE. I thought it was…it’s people making a mess for themselves and digging themselves deeper into a hole, but it’s also got a very…the ending to that movie I think has a similar kind of comedic punch to it. It’s darkly comedic and funny and gory, but you walk out feeling like you had a good time.
BUG: Yeah, definitely. That’s another one that I didn’t think of, but yeah, it definitely has elements from that. So after you’ve completed this film, talk to me about the process of moving it through the festivals and that long process. Is that an exciting time, a frustrating time, or what’s it like having three years pass and now it’s finally going to be seen, correct?
BS: Yeah, it will be coming out in January. I’m not sure where it will all be available quite yet. I guess you don’t really find that out until about a month ahead of time, but it will be on iTunes and Amazon and all that kind of stuff for sure, and maybe more widely available. I guess over all it…yes, it’s an exciting time now, but that whole process is kind of more frustrating and nerve-wracking than it is fun. Once you’re at a festival and everything and getting to see it with an audience it’s really fun, but you know, just the idea of you finished this movie and you really want people to see it and so you’re first sending out rough cuts to try to get it in festivals…I recommend to any filmmakers to just hold off and wait. Everything feels so rushed and such a quick turnaround and you’re completing a film and you just want to get it out there and so you try to send out rough cuts and they are just not where they should be and you feel like “Oh my goodness, I can’t wait another year. I’ll be old and grey by that time” where you should just take the time and send out the film that you want people to see. There are some festivals I would have really liked to have gotten into that I’m sure we didn’t, because they saw a really rough version of the film. So that’s rough, and then yeah, playing the festivals is great. We got really awesome reviews and people get to see it, but then it’s just a long process to get it distribution. I don’t know what to say…(laughs) It’s very exciting now and I’m stoked that people are going to get to check it out, but yeah, it can be a really long journey.
BUG: Going into this with the distribution and everything, obviously you haven’t just been doing this. Are you working on something else in the meantime? Are you working on a follow-up, a sequel, or anything like that? What’s going on with you?
BS: Yeah, I’ve got some other ideas for some other screenplays. Right now I don’t have a sequel in mind for this movie. I kind of wrote it to be a one off, but yeah, that’s another thing too, when you shoot an indie film like this…no one has seen the movie yet, so it’s not like Hollywood is really knocking down my door asking me to make all of these projects, so I work a normal job. I’m in Wisconsin right now. I shoot and edit for an outdoors television show and I’m using this hopefully calm before the storm to work on some scripts and everything. Yeah, I’d love to make some other films once this gets out there, and hopefully when people see it and would like to see more of what me and my crew have to offer.
BUG: Definitely. Yeah, I’m really excited about the film, that it’s coming out and people can see it here very soon. Any final thoughts, or do you want to say anything to the readers of Ain’t It Cool News?
BS: I just want to say I hope this will be…it’s a low budget movie and we did the best we could with the resources, and I just hope…I tried to make, as a horror film lover, I tried to make the film that I wanted to see. It’s so easy today...even as a movie lover, I catch myself so many times watching something on NetFlix and you kind of know where the story is going, so you have your phone out or your tablet and you’re kind of multitasking and you almost don’t feel bad about it, because you are going to piece together what’s going on in your head and what’s awesome is when you have a movie that kind of forces you to put your other gadgets down because you can’t put together what’s going to happen next, and that’s really what I was trying to do here and hopefully everyone gets a kick out of it.
BUG: It’s definitely an unpredictable film and it really is unique. I really want to tell a lot of people about it, so that more people can see this film. Best of luck to you. I’ve seen a lot of horror films and low budget horror films, but this is definitely one that stands out to me.
BS: All right, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.
BUG: Great. I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE is available now on DVD and Video On Demand. Below is my review of the film!
Available now on DVD and VOD!
I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE (2010)Directed by Bradley Sullivan
Written by Bradley Sullivan
Starring Indiana Adams, Kurt Cole, Madi Goff, Travis Scott Newman, Niko Red Star, Emmy Robbin, Jeremy Vandermause
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here! Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Just like you and I, writer/director Bradley Sullivan While has seen all of the “kids go into the woods and never come out” films that have been a solid staple of the horror genre. And instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, he just does a highly capable job of telling us that story and the results would make EVIL DEAD wish they were dead by dawn…
and make CABIN IN THE WOODS go hide…
in a cabin…
in the woods...
OK, enough, cute pull quote wordplay. Simply put, this is a damn great horror film. Having seen I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE twice now, I know the film has a cemented spot near the top of my list of top horror films this year. .
A huge component in why this film works is the cast. All capable actors, the stark differences within the cast make it all so fun to play out. The story follows a mismatched group of AmeriCorps types who go into a wooded area to stake out a campgrounds for a children’s summer camp. Some of them are there for noble intentions, others for community service, and others are just there for lack of anything better to do. Mixing the well and ne’er-do-well intentioned together is always fun, especially when you add alcohol and power tools. Soon the campers find that they are dropping one by one after one “accidental” catastrophe after another, and that’s pretty much all I want to share about the plot.
I will say that this is a gorehound’s all you can eat buffet. Chainsaws embed into skulls. Eyes are ripped out. Axes, machetes, and all sorts of edged and blunt weapons are utilized to the most gory effect. This is a film not for the squeamish, but though the gore is intense, it is done in such a ballsy manner that one can’t help but laugh out loud. There are moments that will make your toes curl and belly giggle all at once.
The blackest of humor is used throughout this film. Though not parody, I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE definitely acknowledged all of the woodland horror films we’ve been seeing of late. But Sullivan’s quick and sharp script makes those other films pale in comparison, making you feel as if you’re seeing something fresh and new.
Filmed with a grainy grindhousey lens, but still incorporating some pretty top notch effects, I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE is anything but your typical horror film. It’s a horror fan’s dream come true and well worth seeking out if you’re looking for a capable, effective, and fun horror flick!
See ya Friday, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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