Here’s a title to get you hard: Boy Eats Girl. It’s not the name of that Vivid Video original stashed away, heavily used and available at a moment’s notice in your closet. Sorry, sir, but this is moniker is reserved for Stephen Bradley’s zombie opus making its auspicious debut in Ireland September 23rd. As described by its creator, this $3 million “energetic and irreverent film about teenagers in present-day Dublin filled with an unhealthy portion of good old-fashioned blood and guts” is the story of Nathan (played by David Leon), his undying affection for the girl of his dreams and his pernicious hunger for flesh that all has to do with some voodoo ritual his mother performed on him after a fatal accident.
Bradley got his accustomed start in the biz, after getting his law degree, with Jim Sheridan in the late ’80s on the heart-ripper My Left Foot as a production assistant. Solidifying his determination to stick around the production scene, he kick started Temple Films with Boy co-producer Ed Guiney and went on to direct 28 Days Later‘s Brendon Gleeson and Andy “I am not Gollum” Serkis in Sweety Barrett.
Dread Central had a chance to talk with Bradley two weeks out from Boy Eats Girl‘s release.
Ryan Rotten: Tell me a bit about Boy Eats Girl‘s origins. Did it come about at the outset of this cinematic zombie resurgence or during?
Stephen Bradley: Derek Landy had been developing a script – then called ‘Zombie Love’ – for Element Films for a couple of years when I read it in January 2003. Once I came on board it took us about a year and a half of further writing to get it into production and ‘Shaun of the Dead’ came out just before we started pre-production. So although it seems that everyone is following in the footsteps of that film, none of us had heard of it when we were in development!
RR: Well the next obvious question is, what separates Boy from Shaun?
SB: I think the two films are very different although they are both described as being in the rom-com-zom genre – or, as I call it, the romantic zomedy. ‘Boy Eats Girl’ is about high-school kids as opposed to thirtysomethings and builds to more of a gorefest than ‘Shaun’ does.
RR: How gruesome does this picture get and what can viewers expect in tone? Did you draw from anything in particular for inspiration?
SB: The gory make-up effects were designed by [‘Hellraiser’s] Bob Keen and he says we used more blood than anything he’s done before! However, the film builds slowly to the gory-comic climax so there’s a building tension and anticipation before everything lets rip. It’s comic-horror in tone: a mixture of ‘Heathers’ – for edgy teen comedy, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and ‘Buffy.’ It’s a zombie film by genre but the zombies don’t come from beyond the grave or move like traditional zombies, they’re much more like sexually voracious teenagers on the rampage with an infectious desire.
RR: From my understanding, this film was funded by the Irish Film Board. Were you met with any opposition from the powers-that-be?
SB: It was actually funded by The Irish Film Board, Isle of Man Film Commission – we shot half of it on the Isle of Man – Section 481 tax funds in Ireland and Optimum Releasing of the UK. All of the financing was put together by the two producers Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe in conjunction with Ralph Kamp of Odyssey Entertainment in London. We have had the full support of the Irish Film Board which sees this kind of genre film-making in Ireland as an important part of a range of film-making which they will fund.
RR: What were you looking for throughout the casting process?
SB: The casting was a great experience because there’s a really strong group of young actors in Ireland at the moment. We went the American route of casting people in their twenties to play teenagers and this always brings great nuances to the comedy Samantha Mumba [‘The Time Machine’] was the first on board and that really gave impetus to the film going into production – she really got behind the project and agreed to do auditions to satisfy the financiers that she was the right woman for the job. She was! She’s just a natural and is already shooting other stuff. David Leon plays the other lead and I actually saw him for the first time in London and he really caught my attention immediately. He’s going from strength to strength in both film and theatre. He’s made two films and a television series since we shot and is now doing a play with Kevin Spacey. Of the other young cast Laurence Kinlan [Ned Kelly] is the most experienced with twenty or so films under his belt and all the others are on the road to making names for themselves! We had a blast working together and there were some serious parties for them along the way…
RR: And how did they get along with the zombification?
SB: Getting those who became zombies into gruesome shape was left in the capable hands of Bob Keen’s crew. To be honest with you I think it was pretty grim for them because it was generally nighttime and involved being smeared with large amounts of sticky fake-blood and mucous. They did see the funny side of it, particularly when we were shooting the hedge-cutter scene – you’ll have to see the film – and they couldn’t believe the scale of the gore. The scene is deliberately over the top and generally gets a great cheer and applause from the audience which makes up for all the cold wet nights spent shooting it.
RR: Do you see yourself as a horror director or are you aiming to branch out into other genres as well?
SB: My first film ‘Sweety Barrett’ was a much more personal, gentle story, even though it’s a revenge piece, so this was a bit of a shock to the system. I describe it as going from the sublime to the ridiculous! To be honest I really like making all kinds of things. I’ve just finished shooting a sports documentary in New Zealand. As long as I make a connection with them. I’ve got quite a few ideas in development and they cross the full range of genres.
RR: What particular challenges did you face heading into the realm of blood ‘n guts?
SB: We shot for thirty days, with 4 pick-up days at the end of post-production, and it was hard completing it in such a short time, particularly with the action sequences. The other strange thing was shooting half the film in Ireland and then moving to the Isle of Man, which is in between Ireland and England, for the second half. That took a lot of logistical effort but they are both great places to shoot.
RR: There has been a steady rise of horror productions in the US market, but this is true for Ireland and the UK as well. What’s your take on this outpouring of genre flicks coming from your end of the pond?
SB: The horror genre seems more durable than any other so the audience has an appetite for more. But I’d say there’ll be a natural dip in the number of horrors made now because there are so many about to come out. As for other genres I think there’s plenty of room in Ireland for expansion as we rarely make thrillers, romantic comedies, or science fiction!
RR: Was there anything cut from the final film that we can expect to see on the DVD?
SB: There were a few scenes that will be on the DVD but nothing too major. All the horror is in the film!
Many thanks to Stephen for chatting with us. He tells Dread Central that he hopes to be shooting his third feature by summer 2006, however, he’s not quite sure what it will be. “Up next for me is a period of writing – the most important, hardest and most neglected part of the whole process!” You can find the trailer for Boy Eats Girl at the official site and expect the film to hit US shores sometime next year.