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Q&A: The Vicious Brothers talk “EXTRATERRESTRIAL”

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There are few horror debuts that have been as divisive as GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, the found footage haunter from Tribeca favorites The Vicious Brothers, the alias of filmmaking duo Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan. While that film has gone on to various degrees of cult acclaim and notoriety, The Vicious Brothers amped the scale considerably for their follow-up, the alien abduction film EXTRATERRESTRIAL. With a bigger cast and bigger budget, the Minihan-directed film written by the duo also serves as their first traditionally shot narrative, although still within their mischievous and creepy cinematic voice. FANGORIA caught up with Ortiz and Minihan recently to talk EXTRATERRESTRIAL, moving on from found footage and what subgenre they may tackle next…

FANGORIA: Considering you found success with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, what informed your decision to move away from found footage for EXTRATERRESTRIAL?

STUART ORTIZ: When we made GRAVE ENCOUNTERS about 3 years ago, the found footage thing wasn’t dead yet. Colin and I were really big fans of that style of filmmaking, like in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. It’s a cool style of filmmaking, but we certainly grew up on a healthy dose of James Cameron and Steven Spielberg so that’s always been more in our blood than found footage is. It was good to work on this film because we got to use that muscle a little bit more.

FANGORIA: Was there anything that you specifically wanted to do as filmmakers in EXTRATERRESTRIAL? To that point, was there also anything you wanted to avoid doing?

COLIN MINIHAN: I think we set out to make an independent film that didn’t look like an independent film. We wanted EXTRATERRESTRIAL to look like a much bigger picture. In the way that musical scores are composed, bigger is better, and that’s how EXTRATERRESTRIAL works visually as well. It feels like a large film, as if it was made for well beyond our budget.

FANGORIA: You both had experiences working with relative newcomers on the GRAVE ENCOUNTER films but now you were able to work with them alongside genre actors like Jesse Moss, Gil Bellows and Michael Ironside. How did it feel to direct a cast with that kind of caliber?

ORTIZ: It was a lot of fun working with those guys. Gil and Ironside were both awesome, and obviously we were both fans of the work they’ve done in the past. It was a real pleasure to work with those guys and they were real pro’s.

MINIHAN: The rest of the cast were great as well. Jesse Moss, for instance, is a comedian and an actor who has been in a ton of different horror movies. We were fans of his performances in the past, even in smaller films, and we made a discovery with Brittany Allen, who came out of nowhere with a great tape for us. We were just super blessed to get a great cast for this film.

ORTIZ: We also brought back Sean Rogerson, who was the lead in GRAVE ENCOUNTERS. We liked working with him so much and he’s good friends with us so we brought him back for EXTRATERRESTRIAL.

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FANGORIA: When putting together EXTRATERRESTRIAL, how did you decide on the tone of the film? Did you want it to be more realistic or fantastic?

ORTIZ: For the beginning of the movie, we wanted it to be as realistic as it could be, and we were walking the tightrope a little bit to make it a film that’s accessible to everyone. For whatever reason, sci-fi movies tend to (and this is a really bad pun) alienate people but we wanted to do something that really hadn’t been done before and it seems that people are turned off by the idea of an alien movie.

So we started the movie very accessibly: it’s a cabin in the woods film with 20-somethings. It’s a very familiar plot that we start with, but as it goes on, it goes more and more larger than life. So by the end of the film, though, we’re on the mothership!

FANGORIA: Was there anything you wanted to specifically do differently from previous films in the alien abduction subgenre?

MINIHAN: We wanted to play on some of the tropes and the mythos of alien abduction by taking something that’s conceptually very funny an executing it in a very terrifying manner. One of the things in the film is that one of the characters gets probed anally, and it’s all fun and games until that probe comes out, let me tell you. [laughs]

ORTIZ: We wanted to change up the formula of the alien abduction film, to an extent, but one of the ways to achieve fear is to make something that’s familiar to an audience look believable. So when it came to the designs for the aliens, we wanted to play with what the mythos has said those creatures would look like. We adjusted it a little bit and had some freedom, but we didn’t want to change it too much so that people were like, “Oh, that’s a gnarly alien.” We wanted people to think, “Oh, if I saw an alien, that’s what I think it would look like.” We also did research on real abduction scenarios, but we did our own thing at the same time.

FANGORIA: Considering you’ve now made films both traditionally and by the found footage style, could you ever see yourselves going back to the found footage style following your experience on EXTRATERRESTRIAL?

ORTIZ: I will say that we want to make movies more in the vein of EXTRATERRESTRIAL, but we have nothing against the found footage style and I wouldn’t say that we won’t ever return to it, definitively. If the story is right, sure, but if it’s found footage, it means all the characters have to die and the footage will be found, whereas we could do something that’s more like a mockumentary, which has a found footage feel. But there’s nothing like being on set and blocking a scene in found footage, where you sort of give the actors the camera and say, “Go play!”

The testament to whether or not you’re a good director is if you can go off and shoot a real film. There have been some flukes when it comes to found footage, like when you see filmmakers make some decent and then never go on to make anything substantial because they didn’t know how to make a film in the first place.

FANGORIA: Now that you’ve done both alien and ghost films, are there any other subgenres of horror that you’ve considered bringing your aesthetics towards?

ORTIZ: Definitely; we have a script written that is our own take on the “vampire” thing. It’s basically like vampires in a drug rehab clinic, where the people running the clinic are infected with a vampiric disease. So instead of having patients, they kidnap people and force them to stay there where they’re essentially bloodletting them. But that will be our take on the vampire mythology.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL is now on VOD and will be in theaters November 21st from IFC Midnight.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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