With Andrew Robertson’s survival horror feature Refuge set for its L.A. premiere this coming Saturday, October 18, at 6:00 pm at the prestigious Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive interview with the writer/director, and have a look at some stills and a trailer from the flick.
Produced by Robertson’s wife and filmmaking partner, Lilly Kanso, Refuge is (according to the official synopsis):
A post-apocalyptic thriller set amid the ruins of a collapsed America. It chronicles a family’s struggle to survive and rebuild a life in the wake of a great catastrophic plague. Living in isolation, within an old boarded up home, they do their best to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst a lawless world of roaming gangs and dwindling resources.
Refuge stars Carter Roy (“Castle”), Amy Rutberg, Chris Kies, Eva Grace Kellner (“Boardwalk Empire”), Sebastian Beacon, Travis Grant, and Mark Ashworth.
Chatting with Robertson, who got his first taste of filmmaking at the age of twelve, filming low-budget horror films culminating in his trilogy opus, 1985’s Totally Demented 1-3, he stated of Refuge, “The initial inspiration for doing something in the post-apocalyptic genre came out of our experiences witnessing tons of abandoned neighborhoods and rural blight during our trips through the South over the last few years. My partner, Lilly, and I are both from Atlanta, and we take a lot of trips down there. A few years ago, following the big 2008 recession, we started noticing more and more homes, apartment complexes, and neighborhoods were being flat-out deserted.”
“There was a lot of decay and foliage overgrowth. It was kind of beautiful and sinister seeing how nature moved so quickly back into these spaces. A lot of them began to look like set pieces from I Am Legend and other iconic films of the genre. And given that we love the genre and shooting in Atlanta has become a very resource-friendly town for filmmaking, we thought, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
“As for the writing of Refuge,” he continued, “I started from an outline focusing on a family living in isolation. I feel that if the big societal breakdown ever actually occurs, once the initial dust settles, life will be basically a waiting game infused with lots of anxiety. Life will be a slow burn, interrupted with bursts of fear and violence. One thing is for certain: There will be a lot of vigilance in dealing with other humans.”
Robertson elaborated on the film’s structure, “For the script we started by building scenes that brought you into the world of a small family trying to get by in this kind of existence. We wanted to show a realistic sense of what it would be like to live in fearful, quiet isolation. To us the slow burn beginning is essential so that you have time to be invested in the characters before all hell breaks loose in the second act.”
Filmed over the course of eighteen days outside Atlanta, Georgia, much like the close quarters of the film, the cast lived together in a rented house during the shoot. “They all grew quite close,” said Robertson, “and this turned out to be great for the creative since in the film they’re supposed to be a family living in isolation.”
Commenting on the seeming hybrid of apocalyptic and home invasion sub-genres as evidenced in the trailer, Robertson concurred, “Definitely, yes. And there is also a dash of road movie too. I’m a huge John Carpenter fan, and the sense of dread he is a master at creating was a big influence. I love every movie he’s ever made where a group of people were being slowly stalked by some menacing presence coming from the outside. I love the long dread of impending danger. The waiting, the waiting, and then, boom! It’s the best release.”
As for what he intended to address sub-thematically within the feature, the filmmaker offered, “The post-apocalyptic genre is amazing in how it explores our darkest fears about ourselves. To me it’s kind of like the neo-western; it takes modern people, puts them in a situation devoid of laws and society, and then explores how we treat each other. I knew I wanted to shoot our first feature in this kind of world. We have a lot of extinction anxiety as humans, which is what accounts for the fact that our movies, TV shows, and video games are all obsessed with the genre. For us, choosing a plague to be the cause of our near extinction was a good fit. But really, it could be anything. Read the news, and it’s sort of ‘pick your extinction.’ Will it be a pandemic, global warming, an asteroid? Will a particle accelerator create a black hole and swallow the earth? Will someone detonate a nuclear device in the middle of Manhattan? There’s no end to the anxiety.”
Robertson concluded of the Screamfest selection of Refuge (the film will next play at Toronto After Dark), “It is a complete dream come true. Screamfest is the creme de la creme. There are very few festivals in the world that really have the scope and presence that Screamfest delivers. The horror genre is the most popular genre in the world, and you really can’t do better than this festival. We feel incredibly lucky and are so excited Rachel and the gang included us.”
To purchase tickets to the Screamfest premiere of Refuge, click here. Screamfest runs from October 14th to the 23rd.