The undead are well and truly alive in contemporary cinema. It was all vampires vs. werewolves for a while, with the international success of franchises such as Underworld, Van Helsing, and the Twilight films.
Then, the zombies got a well deserved resurgence. There were black comedy outings in cult favourites like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, full-blown horror with 28 Days Later, and mass destruction in TV’s The Walking Dead and Brad Pitt’s epic movie adaptation of World War Z.
Zombies were the new buzz word in Hollywood, but Australia was yet to come onboard. Enter Plague.
Set in outback country Victoria, Plague depicts the struggle for survival in a world overrun by a mystery infection. Co-Directors Kosta Ouzas and Nick Kozakis explore a world where desperate survivors have to deal with the breakdown of their society. Hungry, tired and afraid, the threat quickly shifts from bloodthirsty zombies to the very people on whom they have come to rely.
I caught up with Ouzas and Kozakis and Exile Entertainment director Alexi Ouzas to talk zombie apocalypses, Australian cinema and taking Plague overseas…
What made you want to make a zombie film?
KOSTA: The idea was always to make an intimate film about a group of characters that are forced to survive a ‘zombie apocalypse.’ It seemed to be both a challenging and exciting story to tell. It was also one where we felt we could best utilise our individual skill set.
What do you hope makes Plague stand out amongst the rest?
KOSTA: Plague focuses on playing out the scenario as it might in real life. There are no heroes in this story and no real villains either. It is a story about human beings doing what they can to survive. By exploring the human element and revising traditional genre tropes we feel we have come up with a story that will stand out. For this reason, we also believe the story opens up to a much wider audience.
The Aussie outback seems like the perfect place to host an apocalypse. Apart from Wyrmwood, why do you think zombies Down Under haven’t been explored that much?
KOSTA: That’s a great question and I think it has to with Australia’s reluctance to make traditional genre pictures in the last 20 or so years. Back in the 1970’s when we were making those films, the zombie genre was just beginning with Night Of The Living Dead and its influence had not reached our shores. Now, I believe we will see a huge reemergence of not only zombie films but many other genre films as low budget filmmaking has become a lot more accessible.
Tell us a bit about the premise?
KOSTA: The story begins as Evie waits with a group of survivors for her husband’s return. They are unsure if he is alive or not and the decision on whether they should stay or go tears the group apart. We wanted to explore the idea of selflessness vs selfishness. When the social contract between people within a society breaks down, what are your moral obligations? What sort of choices will people make when there is no society left to guide them. By exploring this idea and having a female protagonist, also uncommon in the genre, the film has a much different tone to traditional zombie films.
Are they fast zombies or slow zombies? Which do you find more terrifying?
NICK: They’re fast moving zombies. They’re not the undead type, they’re infected human beings carrying a virus. We always felt the zombie genre was one that reflected culture. In Romero’s classic films it was the slow, mindless consumerism of the time that he wanted the zombies to represent. In our current climate we felt something out of control, fast and unpredictable was something that better reflected the fears in todays society and it is for this reason we find them terrifying.
What is “the plague” the characters suffer from?
KOSTA: The characters suffer from an infection that induces psychosis and is highly contagious. For us it represents the idea of a disease that turns mankind on itself. We are destroying each other and the environment around us and this is the kind of madness we wanted the plague to signify. It is in a sense a reflection of our worst nature.
Who is the cast and how did they come on board?
KOSTA: The cast are all local actors who we met through a mix of the network we built while at film school and with the assistance of our casting director Benjamin Rigby. We did not go through the audition process, but rather met with actors we thought were suitable and discussed what ideas they might have for the role. The whole process was very enjoyable.
Where was it shot?
NICK: We shot the film in Victoria in a town called Merton, which is just below Mt Buller. A friend owns the property so we had full access to the set, which was great. Shooting with such a low budget in a secluded area allowed us to have far more control over the environment and we had no interruptions. Once we wrapped for the day, we would all pack into three vans and drive back to our accommodation on Mt. Buller.
You had a screening early this month in Southbank. How’d it go?
ALEXI: The screening on 2 June 2015 at Backlot Studios was a success as it allowed us to put the film in front of members of the press that hadn’t seen the film. We held a private screening for friends and family in October 2014 at the Astor theatre and we had around 750 people attend which was a fantastic turnout. The film then played at Monster Fest (Melbourne) and A Night of Horror (Sydney) in late 2014 but we wanted to show the film in a more intimate environment for the press. Backlot Studios has great facilities and we held a Q&A after the screening. The film will play at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival on Saturday, 4 July 2015.
Why did you want to release the film on iTunes?
ALEXI: We are releasing the film on iTunes because we want to embrace the disruption currently occurring in the distribution business, and iTunes is the ideal platform for us to use. The film will be released on 24 June 2015. We will release part of the film for free online (available at www.catchtheplague.com) and then let the viewer decide whether or not they would like to purchase the complete movie. We will also provide additional content as a bonus, such as behind the scenes footage and directors’ commentary. This will provide the interested viewer with an insight into the filmmaking process.
Are you hoping to give Plague an overseas platform? If so, how?
ALEXI: The film’s worldwide rights excluding Aus/ NZ were acquired by Screen Media (USA) in March 2015. The film was released on all VOD platforms on 12 May 2015 in the USA. This is being followed by DVD release on 16 June 2015 as well as a release on Netflix USA on 16 July 2015.
The film was screened to international buyers by Screen Media at the Cannes Marche du Film 2015. The film’s rights have been sold to Latin America and Screen Media is currently working through sales into further territories.
Screen Media is also getting behind our online release strategy in order to further promote the film in the USA.
If a zombie apocalypse struck tomorrow, what would you do? Any tips?
NICK: We all really feel we would take the same course of action our characters took. Find somewhere safe to hole up and wait things out. What is the most important thing, and I think a lesson some of the characters in the film learnt also, is choose your fellow survivors carefully. The threat in these situations might not always come from the outside, but from those you think you can trust and rely on within. You have to remember, there are no rules anymore, there is only survival.
Plague is available to buy on iTunes now!
For more information, head to http://plaguefilm.com