An alien invasion would set forth a pretty tremendous movement on our planet, but director Brandon Zuck takes a closer look at civilization’s actions during the grand event in his sci-fi coed horror, Crawlers. As the March episode installment of Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark series, the mythos of creatures from space take over a holiday celebrating iconic beings hidden at the bottoms of rainbows.
As a newcomer to not only the holiday anthology series, but to feature film directing in the genre as a whole, Zuck is not afraid to incorporate edge, attitude, and bite with every nuanced punch his episode confidently throws. After speaking with him, it’s clear that Zuck is smart enough to aim for an attainable moon and therefore, lands amongst many admirable stars and constellations.
“What I loved about [Crawlers], which was also kind of a curse, is that we had to keep moving to so many different locations and be on the run. […] It makes production interesting, but it draws me into a story and it gets me excited.”
Jessica Rose for Nightmare On Film Street: Crawlers is just such a cool episode. It’s a great addition to Into The Dark. I thought it was really radical and fun. How did you get involved with Into The Dark? How’d you get involved with Blumhouse and working on a project like this?
Brandon Zuck: Thank you! With Into The Dark and Blumhouse, they’ve got a lot of content. They’re making 12 movies a year, so they’re always looking for new people to bring into the fold. I had met separately with people at Hulu and people at Blumhouse about other things, so they knew my interests and the zone that I like to work in and things that excite me. When this script came across their desks, I think they just reached out to me to see if it was something that I would be interested in and they were right because it definitely was.
NOFS: What about Crawlers excited you? What was it that made you decide that was the one you wanted to do?
BZ: I like telling young adult stories. I like genre. I like action. That’s the thing about this one that’s really cool. You know with Into The Dark, they run the gamut in terms of types of stories and arenas. What I loved about this one, which was also kind of a curse, is that we had to keep moving to so many different locations and be on the run. That’s my favorite kind of thing, you know? It makes production interesting, but it draws me into a story and it gets me excited.
NOFS: There was a lot of movement! I really like that. So many filmmakers are praised for keeping a story in one spot. If you can do a one-room story and it’s good, then it’s successful. I like some movement. If you can go a whole bunch of different places with a story, I think that’s equally amazing. There’s a lot of talent and work done there with movement.
BZ: It takes a lot of talent to tell an exciting story in one room. That’s a very special type of filmmaking. When I write, I always want to just hit the road. This one, when they brought it to me, I thought, “Oh, this is me.”
NOFS: Where do you draw you inspiration from when you to tell these kinds of stories? As far as your filmmaking style goes, are there any artists or directors that influence you? Who or what gets you going?
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BZ: I have many different tastes and I’m really bad at picking favorites. I have to preface that. I’m the worst person to ask about favorites because it depends on my mood or the last thing I watched. Generally speaking, the kind of thing that does excite me, is elevated genre pieces, things that take a character story and then elevate them through genre. My favorite kind of thing is when you can have a crazy action sequence that really is just saying “I love you.” You know what I mean? Like stabbing a dude in the face is me saying, “I love you.” That’s the kind of thing that gets me going.
“There is something to be said for what someone believes and what’s real to them, matters to them. You have to understand and honor that.”
NOFS: I like that. I saw so much of that in Crawlers. I couldn’t believe how parallel believing in an alien invasion could be to believing the stories that people tell. It just it blew my mind. It’s just as common to believe in a UFO as it is to believe somebody telling their truth about horrible things that have happened to them, especially for women.
BZ: I’m not trying to, in any way, say that they’re the same thing, like what Missy was going through and what Shauna was going through. There is something to be said for what someone believes and what’s real to them, matters to them. You have to understand and honor that.
NOFS: Absolutely. That really speaks to it. Did you find that challenging at all, to tell that kind of story?
BZ: It’s just challenging in the way that, there are things that I couldn’t possibly understand. You want to be able to honor what’s real for somebody without preaching to them and without claiming that you know better. I think that what I just had to do was to try to stay as close as possible to what people would feel in that moment, how people might react in that moment, and how people might react to those reactions.
NOFS: I think that’s really respectable and amazing. It all just looks like it was a blast and fun to make. I’m sure the cast was great too.
BZ: Oh, thank you! ! That was kind of our thing on set. We knew exactly what movie we were making, so the mantra was, “Let’s just have fun!” The cast was so great, we got so lucky. I don’t know that we know. It’s no secret that we’re operating on a limited schedule. Anyone who’s making 12 movies a year is working at a pretty fast clip. We got so lucky with a cast that was able to just get material, get into character, and nail it. They were also just such great people that it wasn’t hard. No one was faking the chemistry. When the cameras were off, they were still a really warm, wonderful group of people to be around. There were rewrites happening on the fly, on the day and they were able to just roll with them and find their way into it. I’m a huge fan of each of them.
NOFS: That’s so great. I love that, it’s good to hear. It adds to the camaraderie that they all had in Crawlers.
BZ: With everything we were trying to do and all the obstacles that we had to face, it’s really important to be working with a group of people that you enjoy being around and you feel like you’re all on the same team. We definitely had that.
NOFS: What else do you think is important when you want to make something that’s good? I’m very well aware of what the schedule is like. It’s insane. What is that for you?
BZ: When you’re in some school, you’re shooting three pages a day on your shorts and then all of a sudden, you know, you’re in a set like that shooting nine pages a day and you find your way into being able to accomplish that and be able to do the things that you want to do with the film. Part of it is being realistic and picking your battles and trying to decide. You don’t want to do more than you can do. You want to try to scale it back to the point where you’re like, “What can I do?” Instead of trying to shoot for the moon and miss, you want to find your way into the best version of it that you think can be accomplished and that can give us enough time for a second take. There were definitely stunts we had where I was terrified because, for example, if we had to reset breaking glass one more time, we were going to lose our day. You definitely ride that edge a little bit.
“Into The Dark has a really good crew. […] They’re just a bunch of soldiers that don’t sleep, who just come in and go to battle and do such a great job.”
Our stunt team nailed it every time one the first time. There was stuff where we would have to rebuild car windows if we didn’t get it and it was like stunts and effects working together perfectly. First take, done. I would be terrified and then it would go off without a hitch with everyone behind the monitors would cheer. It was really fun to be part of that. That does not happen easily. It’s an outrage. Into The Dark has a really good crew. They have this crew assembled that pretty much rolls from one film into the next film. They’re just a bunch of soldiers that don’t sleep, who just come in and go to battle and do such a great job.
NOFS: That’s so true. Every episode is made with such quality. I had no idea that it was the same crew that rolled through the episodes.
BZ: There are pieces of the crew that fluctuate. They work with a lot of the same cinematographers, but it’s not the same one from film to film. When you start going down the line of the crew, it’s the same people.
NOFS: I can’t believe how fast it goes! Do you feel like if you can work under these circumstances, you could work under any circumstances?
BZ: Absolutely, yes. This is definitely trial by fire, but I was lucky to go through it with a great team.
NOFS: What are you hoping to do in the future? Is there anything you could share with me or anything that you would like to do?
BZ: I have a few things cooking. I have a pilot that I’m writing and I also have a feature that I’m writing about. I’m working with some cool people that will probably be announced soon. I think everybody always has like four or five projects on their desk that they’re hoping are going to pop. I don’t know exactly which the next one is, but there’s a bunch of cool things I’m working on with various people that I’m very excited to talk about when the time comes.
NOFS: I’m excited about all of that for you. You’re so talented and I loved Crawlers. All of these Into The Dark episodes continue to like speak to me in some way. This is a lot of fun. This reminded me of The Faculty with a little bit more of a message to it. It’s topical and has this great contemporary edge. I think that, like you said, you’re getting the message across, but also like punching people in the face. It’s great.
BZ: That’s the best way to do it.
“My favorite kind of thing is when you can have a crazy action sequence that really is just saying “I love you.”
Brandon Zuck’s debut feature, Crawlers, is currently streaming on Hulu. What do you think of March’s otherworldly Into The Dark episode, Crawlers? What does Brandon Zuck’s film make you believe in? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!