Q&A: Director Kaare Andrews talks “CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO”
Rolling out today in Canadian theaters via Raven Banner Entertainment, is homegrown Marvel Comics legend-turned-filmmaker Kaare Andrews’ CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, a prequel to Eli Roth’s horror hit that has been touring international fests and hitting screens to positive critical and fan response.
Yours truly will be hosting the Toronto screening tonight at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas theatre, conducting a post-screening Q&A with Andrews. But for those of you that will not and cannot be there, Andrews and I did a little pre-screening chat for your eyeball vibrating pleasure.
Keep your skin on. Here’s Kaare Andrews…
FANGORIA: Growing up in Canada, what uniquely Canuck things were you exposed to that may have formed the basis for what drives you artistically?
KAARE ANDREWS: Easy question. James Cameron, Todd McFarlane, John Byrne, David Cronenberg and Mr. Dressup. But I think there is a deeper answer to that question. I grew up in the prairies, in a large city with a quarter of a million people, but it was really a giant small town—Saskatoon. It was a seven hour drive to get to Calgary. In between that, besides the odd hockey tournament, there wasn’t really any reason to visit the any of those towns. It’s an isolating experience. The winters are colder than you could imagine and the summer is hotter than you would guess. Lightning storms and prairie winds. Pop culture, even Canadian pop culture, doesn’t really acknowledge you. The rest of the world seemed so exotic and far away. Maybe because I’m a middle kid with divorced parents, jumping back and forth from house to house, but I’ve never really felt “at home.” I’ve lived a restless life, always looking for something, and trying to find it in books and comics and movies and animation. There is a sort of creative wildfire that can grow in the Canadian prairies and I was fully engulfed. It was a very inspiring time.
FANG: People often say “choose one stream.” You apparently do not heed these words. Have you found any difficulties in pursuing life as a multi-hyphenate?
ANDREWS: What is the first question that someone asks you at a dinner party? It’s always, “what do you do?” People like to categorize you. I think it’s a survival impulse. They need to judge your social position, political importance, propensity for violence or likelihood to fuck. The human race conquered nature through its ability to identify, catalog and separate the world into neat little boxes. But that’s not really living life, that’s controlling it. I grew up not knowing the difference between movies and comics, books and animation, toys and videogames. They were just all the same one thing that I loved and I wanted to do it all. But then the world came in and sort of pushed me into choosing one path. I chose comics first because it seemed the hardest. Once I found some success in it, I just sort of wondered why I couldn’t start doing the rest of those things that I loved. And so a multi-hyphenate was re-born. I write, I draw, I sculpt, I paint, I edit, do VFX, photography… It’s just feels so natural for my art to bleed into multiple outlets. The only time it gets difficult is at those dinner parties. Usually when someone asks me what I do, I start with “I write and draw comic books.” This answer is usually met with a blank stare and then a long pause, followed by “…you mean… for money?… or…?” I reassure them that it’s a very good job and then I tell them “I also write and direct movies”. And then they just sort of walk away shaking their head like I have a screw loose.
The only other time it gets me into trouble is when people look at my position in comics and try to draw a direct line to my work in film. I’ve been doing comics for a very long time and find myself able to do mostly what I want. In film… it’s just a younger career for me. It feels like the same path I took in comics, just a few years behind. So, while in comics I can own a book like IRON FIST from script to pencils to ink to colors, on a film like CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO, I’m a director who was hired to a pre-existing script.
FANG: Your previous picture, ALTITUDE was an interesting film; nightmarish and felt like a comic book…from the TWILIGHT ZONE scenario to the framing. Do you do your own storyboards?
ANDREWS: I do, and I’m the cheapest guy around. When I hire myself, I work at a 100% discount. But really, I find that it is so helpful to draw those boards early on and in isolation. I think true creativity is a singular process and drawing those boards on my own is a way to really tap into that creativity. But I also find that even when I’m lining up a shot, when I’m really on my game, I feel like I’m painting images with people. I’m usually getting my hands dirty in all visual aspects from concepts to set design, VFX work to color correcting. Having those artistic muscles is a great base to work from.
FANG: Does CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO owe much to any comic influence, or any of your own work?
ANDREWS: I get the same question in reverse whenever I do a comic book interview. I’m sure they influence each other but not in a way that I’ve really cared to investigate. I can’t draw a direct connection because, again, I don’t really look at them as their individual boxes. It’s all just sort of one big expression of my artmaking. The biggest difference of course is that when I’m doing a comic I’m squirreled away by myself in my studio and when I’m doing a film, I’m surrounded by a hundred people. They really are the yin and the yang of artmaking, the introvert and the extrovert of that process.
FANG: Are you an auteur? Or is every work its own thing?
ANDREWS: That depends. In comics, I really can “own the process” and “become the machine” in a very auteur way. I can own every mistake and celebrate every success. In film, I haven’t quite worked my way up to that position, just yet. I think David Fincher said it best, that a director is like a quarterback of a football team: when they win, they get too much credit and when they lose, they get too much blame. That has been my experience so far, but I really think you can become an auteur in film, and it’s something I’m really working on for myself. Building opportunities to become the machine. Actually, in ABCs OF DEATH, I was able to feel a real ownership of my contribution. I did the letter “V” and did everything from write the script to build the robot to execute all the VFX.
But you are right when you say every work is its own thing. I was brought into CABIN FEVER after the script had already been written and parameters had already been set. I was able to noodle around a little, try to add some humor and push the body horror, but it kind of is what it was. As a director-for-hire you have to look for other areas to find your “way in”. That’s a very important process and one that is really intriguing. How do you take someone else’s creative expression and try to find a way in to that work? By the end of the shoot, I felt like I was really finding a creative groove in how I was working with my actors and I was doing some of the camera operating, as well. I have one day in particular, the last night of shooting, that I look at with ultimate fondness. Sure, we almost died in the ocean that day, but I felt like I was tapping into a certain magic while shooting.
In short, I think I’m a really good collaborator… but I’m a better auteur. That’s the experience I’ve had in comics. And I’m waiting for the film to prove that theory. Hopefully, my next.
FANG: What does Eli think of the PATIENT ZERO? Was he involved?
ANDREWS: Eli wrote me a very nice e-mail before I started filming, saying to just go for broke and not worry too much, that a franchise like CABIN FEVER can withstand getting a little crazy. I took that to heart when it came to some of the more insane set pieces we created.
FANG: What is your favorite body horror film?
ANDREWS: In the classic sense of the phrase, I think it has to be Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME. But some of my favorite sci-fi make use body-horror aspects too, films like TERMINATOR or ROBOCOP or TOTAL RECALL. Again, these boxes man! Stop with the boxes! I can tell you, that one of the aspects of a movie like this I was so excited to participate in, was the practical make-up effects. I grew up reading magazines like Cinemagic and Cinefx, books like Tom Savini’s BIZARRO and Dick Smith’s MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK. I was a huge fan of that stuff and working with Vincent Guastini was a real treat. I was able to take hold of the blood filled fire extinguisher for one scene and unleash it onto a room full of people. The crew hadn’t seen me smile so big. I have one piece of advice for you before you watch this movie: bring your umbrella.
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO opens tonight, May 29 across Canada as part of Sinister Cinema. For a list of participating theaters, head right here. PATIENT ZERO will hit U.S. VOD on June 26 and limited theatrical release and iTunes on August 1.
For further reading, be sure to pick up the upcoming FANGORIA #334 for Colin McCracken’s extensive chat with Andrews about the film.