Director Brandon Christensen’s latest movie Z was just recently released On Demand, DVD, and Blu-Ray. It’s been streaming on Shudder for a while.
His previous movie Still/Born was also on Shudder and became a hit among subscribers. He recently talked to iHorror about Z, the psychology behind it, and working with leading lady Keegan Connor Tracy.
iHorror: I watched Z. It’s currently playing on Shudder and it was just released on VOD, DVD and Blue-ray. Shudder seems to be rising to the top for streaming horror movies. What do you think of having your film be an “original” and what do you think of the platform overall?
Brandon Christensen: “I’m a huge fan of Shudder. They released my first film Still/Born as well. It kinda took on a life of its own because they really understood the film and they were able to push it out and market it properly which we really didn’t get with our regular release.
I just think that they are legit horror fans. You know they are a super-small company, but they have Sam Zimmerman who is sort of curating everything for them and he does a great job of finding hidden treasure that are out there and finding cult favorites and stuff like that to populate their catalog. They just have an incredible passion for horror and it shows in how vast a varied their lineup is. I’ve been able to work with them closely as they were getting our films and it’s always great.
They’re very fair to filmmakers. They treat them with respect, and they like to collaborate on a lot of stuff. I’m a big Shudder fan.”
Do they produce films?
“They do a little bit, yeah.”
When you read Colin’s screenplay for Z, what stood out for you in it?
“Well, Z was actually something that my wife and I wrote the very first draft of. Colin actually came on for the second draft and he and I wrote that together.
Z and Still/Born kind of explore mental illness in a way. In both, characters suffer from bouts of anxiety. Were those themes that you wanted to deeply explore or am I reading too much into it?
“No, I think in Still/Born especially we had looked into different mental illnesses that we could use to kind of balance the demon with. And I think in Z it’s a very similar thing. The film talks about nature versus nurture a lot and sort of what is inherited through your bloodline and what is passed on just by, you know, they way you raised your kids.
So we definitely have this link in the family (in the movie) where it seems like the father had a terrible situation happening with Beth when she was a kid now that Beth is his age she’s having a terrible time with her kid.
You can sort of slap a supernatural label on it and go ‘oh no it’s Z.’ But I think if you look a little bit deeper it kind of talks a little bit about what we are doing to our own kids and how that’s going to affect them when they’re older.”
Yeah, that came through for me. Your main character Beth, played by Keegan Connor Tracy, finds a way to sort of cure herself of the demons. Keegan has a degree in psychology I read. Did she have any input with you on the movie and that aspect of the story?
“Yeah definitely. She definitely brought a lot to the table there. She had a lot of suggestions for the scripts and stuff that we were able to implement. And she did a ton of work on the character—she was building it up for herself. She had a big binder of notes and things like that. She would refer to them in conversations. I think her degree definitely helped there.”
It’s almost like two movies in one. The first half focuses on the child then the twist and then the second half deals with personal trauma.
On another note, tell me this Brandon, did you mean to throw a few shout-outs to Steven Spielberg in the movie?
“I can’t think of any. You know what they were?”
First, there is an electronic toy scene and they seem to come alive on their own. Then there’s a shot with a television and static like in Poltergeist, and there is an alphabet learning toy in Z similar to the Speak & Spell E.T. used to phone home.
But, what else are you working on? Are you working on anything we can look forward to in the near future?
“I’ve got a film that I’m shooting in October. It’s a little bit different than Z and Still/Born. There’s no moms involved, there’s no kids involved thankfully. So it’s a really small cast; a really small production.
It’s gonna be totally different. There’s no supernatural entities or anything like that which is really exciting. The monsters are the people in film. So it’s going to be really fun to play with those characters.
But, going back to your question about Spielberg real quick, I think that—I think Spielberg has kind of imprinted so many touchstones on filmmakers. I think it’s probably hard not to be influenced by him. You just learn so much from watching his work through osmosis that it’s probably not a surprise that things that he has created are still kind of making their way through the matrix, so to speak.”
I loved Z. I’m glad it’s on Shudder and other mediums now. I’m glad more people are getting to see it and I look forward to your next film. Do you shoot mainly in Canada?
“My first two films I did. But this next one I’m actually shooting in the states. I live in Vegas and we’re shooting just outside of Vegas in Charleston, it’s kind of a mountainy area: it’s really pretty.”
Well, thank you, Brandon, talk to you soon.
“You too. Bye.”
Z is now available on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray.