Yet another great offering at this years Frightfest was Infestation. After watching the movie, Jonesy the Cat felt as if there were some unanswered questions, so set off on a quest to interview the director, Kyle Rankin.
Luckily for us, Jonesy’s quest wasn’t in vain as Mr Rankin was happy to oblige.
Jonesy The Cat: Talk us briefly through the conception and development of Infestation.
Kyle Rankin: Years ago I had an image of a man waking up in a giant cocoon and not knowing how he got there. I think many writers start with a picture, or an idea for one key scene, and then expand things to see if it’s compelling. I wrote the script as an speculative project (meaning I didn’t know where it would go or if it’d ever get made), and sent it to Jeff Balis (whom I’d worked with on The Battle of Shaker Heights starring Shia LaBeouf). Jeff and his partner Rhoades Rader pitched it around Hollywood, and eventually called to say Icon wanted to make it. I was floored. ‘Mel Gibson’s Icon?’ I asked, ‘Don’t they make huge, important films?’ They do, but it seems they wanted to try their hand at our low-budget, giant bug movie.
We shot in Bulgaria, and spent over a year in post-production bringing the insects to life. I’m excited to have it coming out on DVD and Blu-ray September 7th!
J: How did you get started as a filmmaker and what are your strongest influences?
K: I started making funny skits on video at the age of 14, shot a feature-length murder mystery on video while at the University of Maine, and then a film on 16mm when I was in my early 20’s called ‘The Girl in the Basement’. My films got shorter after that… I produced, wrote, and co-directed five short films that eventually helped me win Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight (through which I made Shaker Heights). That got me an agent, and a foot in the door within the studio system. As far as influences, I tend to watch older films… and my favorite directors are Capra, Lynch, Fellini, and the Coen Brothers.
J: Much of the film was shot in a handheld, free form manner. Was that a purely stylistic choice?
K: I wanted that faux documentary feel. Many of us are so used to seeing hand-held reality TV, that it now helps sell a fictional situation when presented in the same manner. It also makes the special effects more convincing, because we realize the camera isn’t locked down. This is more of a challenge to a special FX team, but it can really look fantastic if done well.
J: Infestation was a reasonably low budget affair, how did you deal with the economic constraints?
K: By bitching. A lot. Nah, the only thing I could’ve used more of is time — more shooting days. Since time is money, it’s in short supply. I hated the idea of having to move on to another scene without feeling I’d gotten exactly what I wanted, so I dealt with this by concentrating and staying focused.
J: The film is sold as a bed fellow to the likes of Shaun of the Dead and Black Sheep, would you say that you draw particular inspiration from these kinds of modern, horror comedies?
K: I’m embarrassed to have Shaun of the Dead on that list (as I think it’s truly brilliant), but I wouldn’t say any modern horror-comedy helped inspired Infestation. My influences come from older, random sources. Not only do I love old movies, but for me it’s the only way to arrive at something fresh, fun, and cool… to start back several cinematic years when seeking inspiration. Otherwise, I’d just make a lackluster imitation of a favorite flick.
J: Looking through your profile on IMDB, I notice that you have dealt with giant bugs and extraterrestrial life in previous works. What is it that draws you to them?
K: I’m drawn to BIG ideas, and I love when heroes are forced to deal with things WAY out of their depth. I truly enjoyed Ang Lee’s THE ICE STORM… but I could never make such a thing. My version would suck eggs. But I blossom around themes involving space exploration, time travel, demons, aliens, crazy weapons, and magic.
J: The ‘hybrids’ were an extremely fun idea, but its purpose remains a mystery, was that intentional?
K: Cooper has a line when he’s drunk after the fight with Cindy’s brother where he says: ‘It was doing a job, carrying cocoons around, collecting them’.
That’s about the only clue as to what I thought the Hybrids were. The bugs are so logical, that I felt they wouldn’t make anything unless it serves a purpose. You’re right that I didn’t mind if it wasn’t super-clear, but to my mind the Hybrid’s job was to collect cocoons and carry them to the nest to feed the Queen.
J: The ending leaves room for a sequel, would you consider to continue the franchise?
K: I’d love it to be a trilogy. It always pissed me off when a film had an ending that presumed a sequel… then I found myself in the filmmaker’s position, sitting in the editing room and trying to find a wrap-up that interested me. So at this point, I can only hope audiences enjoy and support Infestation and would like to see ‘Infestation 2: Buzzkill’. If they don’t, I’ll look like a bit of a dolt.
J: Are you planning to make another horror film next or will you be seeking new horizons?
K: I’m a big fan of straight-up comedy (without FX), so that’ll probably be what I focus on next. I’d like to take a break from the overly-technical side. If everything works out, a comedy called CAMPUS SECURITY may be my next gig. Meantime, I’m working on pitches and scripts and, as always, working to hone my craft and create scripts I feel passionate about.
J: What’s your favourite killer and/or giant bug movie?
K: The first thing that comes to mind is ‘Slither‘, because that too had a very B-movie set up: ‘thing’ falls from space and starts breeding. I like the simplicity of these stories (which is a very 50’s Hollywood conceit)… and for some reason buy them more than ‘crazy inbred man with a axe kills a bunch of hikers’.