While in attendance at Comic Con this year, I kept wandering past the booth for Fox Atomic, the new 20th Century Fox offshoot who will be putting out The Hills Have Eyes 2, Turistas, and 28 Weeks Later among various other non-horror projects.
Fox Atomic just sort of appeared out of nowhere shortly after the 28 Weeks Later announcement was made, so I wanted to find out more about them. I managed to not only get info from them, but got said info from one of their highest sources: COO John Hegeman, whose history includes running the marketing for Lionsgate for many years. In fact, Hegeman was one of the brains behind the trend-setting viral campaign that helped make The Blair Witch Project one of the biggest little horror films of all time. Now he's on board at Fox Atomic, and they've got some great plans for the fans.
"We just announced our graphic novel deal with Harper Collins for 28 Days Later: The Aftermath and the Hills Have Eyes book, which is huge," he told me. "We also have a deal with Thomas Ligotti's Nightmare Factory, which is a series of about 40 short stories, and we're going to start picking certain ones and adapting them into graphic novels."
When asked if the series could eventually turn into films as well, Hegeman verified that they're open to pretty much whatever the fans think will work best. "What we want to try and do is use our official site as a source we can go to as a resource to test out new ideas, to get a response from the fans," he informed me. "Maybe something will start out as an animated short but fans say they'd like it as a comic book, or the other way around; that sort of thing. We want to use the site as a platform to both push out with new stuff and pull in information from our audience regarding what they'd like to see."
That's definitely a novel approach to both marketing to the fans and maintaining a loyal fanbase. The plan is to use the Fox Atomic site as the base of operations for everything they have in the works and to make it a resource fans will want to hit even between projects. "We're trying to have an online community that will offer something to visitors whether we have a new movie to talk about or not. Hopefully it will be a place that people will go to on a regular basis so that when we have movies to promote, we'll have an audience that we can connect with and already have a relationship with."
Of course the topic of The Hills Have Eyes had to come up, and Hegeman gave me a bit of info as to what the graphic novel from Harper Collins will be like. "[It] will be a bridge between the first and second movies, focusing a bit more on the mythology of the town, finding out how this town became the breeding ground for a clan of mutants. We're going to trace the timeline back to the initial explosion and how people began mutating, looking at why they started inbreeding and moving into the caves and the mountains. We thought it'd be a fun way to make the movie more enjoyable when it's out."
Though it's not an entirely new concept to come out with a backstory comic or novel before a big film, these won't be one-off novels written by no names. Indeed, the 28 Days Later bridge novel, The Aftermath, is being penned by horror freakmaster Steve Niles himself. Just a small indication of the level of assuredness and respect Atomic is showing for the fans.
Before parting ways, I had to pick John's brain a bit about Turistas, Atomic's only acquisition to date, and he seemed genuinely excited about getting it out to the world. "The movie is just great, it's got a lot of what I think makes horror work so well, a very confined atmosphere, which just breeds horror; but then because it takes place in Brazi, it taps into this new fear we have, as Americans, of traveling across our borders." he enthused. Turistas tells of a group of backpackers who get stranded in the jungles of Brazil after a bus accident and encounter some less-than-friendly locals. "It's the beauty of Brazil that entices you, but then as you get deeper, it just keeps getting darker and darker. I don't think Americans are well liked in very many places right now, and Turistas plays into that fear of going somewhere just to have a good time but not being as welcomed as we once were. Then it takes it to a very extreme level from there!" Turistas is due out in theaters this December 1st.
Though nothing else is solid for Atomic right now, the slate they have set up out of the gate is one that is certain to keep the fans happy for months to come.
Be sure to hit Fox Atomic's official site to become part of the ever-growing community, and keep it here for the latest news on all their badass upcoming projects! And a big thanks to Deborah for setting up the interview!