Exclusive Interview with Writer / Director Eric England (Contracted)
If you have been following the site in the last few months, you have definitely heard me mention Eric England's 2013 film, Contracted. I not only posted a full review but I also ranked it as my number two film in my Best of 2013 list. It represents everything I love about indie-horror. It is original, imaginative and extremely disturbing. It is also a departure from the tone and approach of some of his earlier work, like Madison County, that shows huge strides in his growth as both a writer and director. Recently, Eric was kind enough to answer a few of my questions in an exclusive interview for The Children of Samhain. A huge thank you to Eric. And GO SEE CONTRACTED.
Leo Francis: First off, congratulations on the success of Contracted. In my opinion it was one of the best films of the year (Number 2 on my Best of 2013). How has the reception been so far? The response seems pretty positive from my standpoint.
Eric England: Whoa! Thank you! The reception has been mostly positive, but there are some people that absolutely hate the film. From my experience, most of them simply didn't "get it" or just weren't interested in that type of film in the first place. It's very much divided audiences. If you take a look at the Rotten Tomato rating, it's a 50%. Right down the middle. To me, that's the sign of a good film. One that sparks debate and divides its audience. So I'm pretty pleased with the response. Of course I would love to have everyone love it. But that's not the reality of a film. You can't please everyone. So I'd rather people really love it, or really hate it.
LF: You have a strong presence on Twitter, and I notice that you like to retweet both positive and negative tweets about your film. Do the negative tweets bother you at all? I sometimes find it hard not to feel personally offended by other people's bad taste. How do you deal with online trolls?
EE: It can definitely take a toll sometimes, but as you mature in your abilities and your career, you learn to let the white noise just fade away. That's all it is... white noise. Everyone has an opinion, which I'm fine with. But I'm only interested in educated or insightful opinions. If I retweet a negative comment, it's usually because I find it humorous or insightful. Most of the time it's the latter. Very rarely do I find a negative review that I actually agree with. I'm objective enough to know the flaws in my own work, or at least be open to hearing about them. But if you just write "Man, fuck this movie. It's the biggest piece of shit ever. Prom Night Remake for life!", what does that offer to myself as a filmmaker? What does that offer intellectually? Nothing. So what's the point of putting it out there? But it's all part of it. Being a filmmaker is like being a comedian, you open yourself up to hecklers and you have to learn how to deal with them. You have to play the game a little.
LF: Contracted feels like a departure from some of your earlier work, like Madison County, that followed more of a traditional horror movie format. And beyond that, it feels like it defies genre, melding several of them together. I have been calling it a virus/infection film. How would you categorize the movie, if you had to?
EE: I categorize the film as ultimately what she turns into. I just wanted to make a film that I hadn't seen before and one that was different from anything I had done in the past. I appreciate you picking up on that.
LF: Do you think there's room for a sequel? It seems like there's so many ways you could go with it. It could be anything from a direct continuation of the events of the first film, or it could grow into a 28 Days Later-style epidemic / zombie film. Do you already have something in the works?
EE: I see where people could potentially want a sequel, but for me, the sequel has already been done. In the films you mentioned above and hundreds like them. I told the story I wanted to tell, which is the genesis of those films. I think I COULD do a sequel and make it fun, but I don't think it would be quite as unique as the first film. So it would really have to take a brilliant concept for me to want to seriously consider it.
LF: Contracted was made on a relatively low-budget, but it still manages to look amazing. You obviously had a talented special effects and make-up department to bring your vision to life. How important were they to the creative process? Was the decision to use practical effects as opposed to digital effects due to budget constraints, of was it a conscious decision on your part? I find that practical effects almost always look better.
EE: The use of practical effects was never a question. The entire film is made around make-up. There's really no latex appliances or anything like that, so achieving the look digitally would've just not made any sense. Our budget was tiny, so we had no choice but to use make-up. But even if we had $200,000,000 I would have still used make-up. Mayera, my make-up artist was so important to the process. She really took my direction and translated it into something iconic. I couldn't imagine doing the film without her. I hope everyone hires her for their next film.
LF: It is possible I am reading into it too much, but it seems to me that underneath of the virus/ infection story is a poignant commentary on the social stigma attached to the victims of rape. Starting with the accusatory tone of her mother and the feeling of being outcast from those she considered to be her friends, to the paranoia and mental and physical collapse that follows, and even the lengths she goes to to hide her injuries. Was that intentional, or something that you hoped people would draw from the film?
EE: I didn't really want to take a "stance" on the film. I just opened the door for discussion. There are absolutely shades of several different topics in the film, but it was more like holding up a mirror to the audience and asking them what they see. What their views are on things. The film takes place in LA where you have tons of personalities, tons of dynamics, drugs, sexuality, promiscuity, etc. So there's a lot to digest and look at in the narrative.
LF: What, if anything can you tell me about the upcoming Madison County 2? Will it be in festivals during 2014?
EE: There's not a lot to tell about MC2 right now. There's a script and there's some interest in making it, but I'm just not at a place right now where I feel I want to re-visit that story. I was 22 when I made the first film and I just wanted to get my feet wet. Now that I've made a couple more movies, I feel like I'm starting to understand myself as a storyteller a little better and I don't know if I want to step back into an old pair of shoes, if that makes any sense. So if I do make MC2, it will really reinvent the story and hopefully put a new spin on the slasher subgenre in general.
LF: Recently on Twitter, I thought I saw you mention that you were woking on writing a comedy. Is there any truth to that? Do you have plans to branch out from the horror genre?
EE: I do. I've actually written a comedy already. But on Twitter, I believe you're referring to a comedy that I was directing in late 2013 that fell apart at the last minute. It was an opportunity I took to do something different and branch out a bit but at the 11th hour, the producer couldn't make his mind up on a lot of big decisions and I had to part ways on the film. I do hope to do something in that world in the near future, or at the very least do a horror-comedy soon.
LF: Thanks so much for your time. I sincerely appreciate it, and congratulations on everything.
EE: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the film. Look forward to chatting about the next one(s)!
- Leo Francis