Editor's Note: We are getting spoilery here, so be advised all ye' who enter! Stop scrolling if you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to ruin one of the most delightful surprises awaiting you.
It's the end of the world and you're stuck in the master bathroom with your mom, your dad, and your sibling, and you're literally stuck, because a tree just crushed the master bedroom like Gallagher to a watermelon. Your prospects look bleak. Then: Sounds from the other side of the door, scratching, sniffling, and panting. It's your long-missing dog, Spot! He's back! Mom and Dad told you he ran away, but here he is to rescue you! What a good boy. "Who's a good boy?" you ask, standard rhetorical praise given by dog owners to their dogs.
Then Spot replies in a voice like nails raking your soul: "I'm a good boy!" And you jump and scream and maybe mess up your pants.
Sean King O'Grady didn't mean to make a pandemic movie when he took on the task of adapting Max Booth's novella We Need to Do Something, but he did anyway. Speaking with FANGORIA, O'Grady suggests that that's the best way to make movies about current events: By accident. That's partly on Booth, who apparently somehow knew how the COVID-19 pandemic would go down before it even happened (and didn't bother telling anyone). But this moment in the film, when the chamber drama's cast of characters - Melissa (Sierra McCormick), Bobby (John James Cronin), Diane (Vinessa Shaw), and Robert (Pat Healy) - have their anxieties and claustrophobia eased by the arrival of their dear Spot, belongs to O'Grady, who found the perfect (and perfectly unexpected) actor to voice the unseen monster, credited as "Good Boy."
O'Grady graciously broke down that moment for FANGORIA and how it fits into the film's larger designs:
Apart from being a very effective scare, the film's big cameo really threw me off, and I'm interested in how that happened. One minute I'm watching [McCormick & Cronin] getting attacked through the door by something that identifies as a good boy. Next, I'm watching the credits roll and Ozzy fucking Osbourne's name comes up. That's one of the biggest surprises I've had in a horror movie all year. Can we talk about how that came together?
Well, if you're going to have some sort of demon dog from hell coming around in the apocalypse, who better to voice that creature than Ozzy?
Fair enough, yeah.
So, we thought it was appropriate, and fortunately one of our executive producers, Donovan Leitch, is family friends with the Prince of Darkness. So he was able to set that up. The way that came together was, he sent us over this long recording that had a bunch of different versions of [the line], and it's some of the greatest stuff I've ever heard. It's terrifying. It's hilarious. Everything that you would want to get from Ozzy, we got from Ozzy in one fifteen-minute straight take. One of the things that we did that was really fun was that we recorded this while we were in production, and we didn't tell any of the cast that we had Ozzy doing it; we didn't really tell them anything.
So what we did was we did the first take of that scene, just like you normally do whenever you're doing a take of something - usually you've got somebody off camera who's sort of yelling the lines of whomever's there, and making sounds, whether it's a thunderclap and you're yelling "thunder." I realized pretty early on that that wasn't as effective as just making noises that would actually surprise them. So we had our editor [Shane Patrick Ford] take the audio tapes and put them together with the sound design and then Max Booth, the writer, actually hit a button and played the Ozzy tape with all the sound design, as it actually stands in the movie, extremely loud onset for take two.
So they went into it expecting just to hear a voice off camera, say, "I'm a good boy." And then what they got on the second take was this absolute nightmare apocalypse happening outside of this bathroom door, and the reactions that you get in the takes that we use are those real reactions. That's genuine terror on their faces.
That's as effective a technique for them as it is for us sitting at home, although I suppose since most of us are watching at home, we don't have the benefit of having massive theater speakers blasting that into our ears. Now I'm wondering what the rest of the recording sounds like. That's a Blu-ray feature if ever I heard one.
It very likely could be. One other thing to add about that! For anybody who reads Max's book, which this movie is based on, that moment was just as effective. When I was reading the script for the first time, it was the only time up until that point that I actually had a jump scare while reading the script. That was actually the moment where I knew I needed to make the movie. So for me, I always thought that Max deserved for us to do something pretty special. For the "good boy" moment, I didn't in my wildest dreams imagine we could make it Ozzy.
So that moment probably would be as effective with someone other than Ozzy, but based on how everybody reacted on set it would be a fundamentally different moment without Ozzy, too. It feels like this was a moment that demanded that kind of voice, if that's a fair way of putting it.
I think it absolutely demanded that type of voice. But you can't even say "that type of voice." Ozzy has a singular voice. To be able to bring that sort of power and that sort of energy into that moment is a nightmare come true.
Which is exactly what the movie is, too: A horrific, exaggerated version of what we've been living stuck in our homes for the last year and a half or so.
Yeah! That's exactly what attracted me to it. It's not at all a pandemic movie, but it hits on all the things that I think have been - obviously except for people who become ill and died - all the things that have been harder for the rest of us over the course of this. It's the isolation, it's the claustrophobia, it's the fact that whether it's your friend groups, your familial bonds, whatever, the people that you've been in these small groups with, or quarantining with, all your bonds have gotten stronger, or they've gotten weaker. This, to me, even though it was written before the pandemic . . . the psychology of it was really interesting.
I think that it really did capture that family dynamic as it broke down. Really there's a lot of things that happen that are terrifying that are coming from the outside. We don't really know what those are, and ultimately those aren't the things that cause the destruction of this family. It's the way that they interact with each other. It's their dynamic. They just self implode, and I think that, hopefully not in quite as nightmarish a way, that's happened with a lot of people. I think everybody's seen that. So it felt like something that I could relate to and certainly felt that other people could relate to.
It's one of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, but also was really fun. And that, to me, felt like another piece of energy coming out of the last year and a half: If you can't find some humor in this darkness, how do you even get out of bed?
If you can't laugh at some point, all you're going to do is cry. To your point about the family eating itself alive, one of the reasons this moment is so successful is that they're looking for comfort on the outside, and they think they've found it. What could be more comforting than the beloved family dog? Except there's a breadcrumb trail leading up to the moment where we sense that this isn't the dog, because the dog ran away; that's parent-speak for "the dog died." Do you feel like that's essential to the moment, this perversion of something so fundamental and comforting to a family?
Absolutely. And we all know Spot's dead. If you look at the parents, the way that they exchange looks, they know that it can't be Spot, but that is absolutely the closest thing we have to a tender moment between all of the family members in the entire film. That's not just a clever setup to a jump scare. I think it is, as you mentioned, a family taking comfort in something from the outside, which is, I think, again, something that we've all experienced. This is the dumbest thing ever, but I remember the first time we had takeout delivered to our house at the beginning, when things were super locked down and nobody knew what to do, and everybody was bleaching their groceries. Just having food delivered to the house that we didn't make, that was a different flavor than we had for the first three weeks or whatever, that was super comforting.
So imagine that this animal that you loved, or even just some animal that happens to be friendly, something from the outside world was coming to you and seems to be wanting to make a connection with you. That's really all you'd need to react the way they reacted.
We Need To Do Something is now available to stream, click below to watch.