By SHAWN MACOMBER
If horror cinema were a certain behemoth amusement park, it seems fair to say we’ve been in a real It’s a Small World moment: Lots of slow-burn, ethereal type stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is nice to shift gears occasionally and get that adrenaline pumping with some spectacle, velocity and oh-wait-am-I-going-to-die? over at Space Mountain.
This, essentially, is the switch-up that UNHUMAN (available on digital today from Paramount Home Entertainment) represents. The movie doesn’t stop moving the moment we meet its widely varied young ensemble, and it just gets more intense once a bus crash strands them amidst flesh-hungry human ghouls. Earlier this week, we spoke to director Marcus Dunstan about the heart of the film (which we wrote with his longtime creative partner Patrick Melton; today we drill down into this gleefully deranged attack with young cast members Uriah Shelton (FREAKY), Drew Scheid (HALLOWEEN KILLS), and Benjamin Wadsworth (MTV’s TEEN WOLF).
I really enjoyed how UNHUMAN has a lovely, human side, but then is also this kinetic, bonkers rollercoaster funhouse of a movie.
URIAH SHELTON: I agree with you, man. I think we had a real run-and-gun vibe. Well, I mean, minus the gun–run-and-sword? Is that a vibe?
BENJAMIN WADSWORTH: Just run. [Laughter]
SHELTON: Whatever the label is, UNHUMAN doesn’t waste time or beat around the bush. It knows exactly what it is–and it goes all out to deliver. And while it has a lot of action and gore, UNHUMAN still finds a way to slip in humanizing elements and do the sort of cool, smart character development that helps you care but doesn’t bog the movie down. That’s fun to watch–and it was really fun to make.
DREW SCHEID: I feel the same way! And it is cool that instead of the danger creeping and creeping and creeping around the edges until three-quarters through the movie, UNHUMAN just has the danger sprinting right at us and the audience within the first 10 minutes. And that energy really carries through the whole thing and conveys so much emotion and fear. The intensity of this movie…there really are only a few moments when it lets up at all. Which is pretty cool and unusual.
You all have a great rapport, and the movie works in part because the characters do as well. How important was building that sense of camaraderie?
SHELTON: We were really blessed to have the time beforehand to hang out, get to know each other. Grab food, grab drinks. Play basketball. And I think the on-set dynamic really comes through on screen, because it’s not fake. I came out of this shoot with friendships that will probably last the rest of my life. Like, I love these guys. I play VR games with Ben every day. I see him probably more than I see anyone else. It really was the work that formed those bonds. It was a hard work environment, but it was so rewarding because everybody was going for it; everyone really wanted it to be the best it could be.
What’s it like working with Marcus Dunstan? He’s done so much interesting work in the genre, yet UNHUMAN feels next-level for him—like he suddenly got much closer to the vision he’s been working toward.
SCHEID: Oh, Marcus is one of the most fun, creative, incredible directors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Like, he’s so full of joy for his work, and then is also so smart. He understands how to capture scenes and stunts and sequences in such a unique way. But he also welcomes your ideas and will let you try different things just to see, even if you’ve already tried 10 things that day that didn’t work. Which is beautiful and extremely rare. “You want your character to slip on a hot dog? Could be cool!” He’s probably the best cheerleader of all time, actually.
WADSWORTH: Definitely. He’s so positive and happy, so full of passion and energy. He’ll be explaining a scene and then put music on to set the tone and his long hair is flying everywhere. It’s infectious. Suddenly you feel yourself getting pumped up and thinking “Yes…yes…yes!”
SHELTON: The guy is a freaking beautiful human, man. I got to location in New Orleans expecting the typical friendly but serious, kind of detached director. I got the exact opposite. Like Ben said, Marcus is pure passion. He’s so happy to be doing what he’s doing and just goes at it 100 percent.
His personality type sounds like it matches the velocity of the movie.
WADSWORTH: They should make a movie about Marcus. It’d be very entertaining.
SCHEID: Honestly! Oh my gosh. I would love that [laughs].
And it shows: The movie exudes love and passion and genuine excitement.
SCHEID: I know what you’re saying. There’s no one you can really compare Marcus to. Just like there’s no other movie you can compare UNHUMAN to. Because it plays with all the famous archetypes–the nerd, the jock, the popular girl–but it riffs on all that in a completely different way. It’s an original film from an original guy.
WADSWORTH: Right. What other movie are you going to see a guy tripping on horse guts…
SCHEID: …while ski shoes are flying at people. Name the last movie to do that! I dare you!
Oh boy–I feel like somebody reading this is gonna say, “Oh, there’s actually a super-underground Czech film that already did tripping on horse guts and ski shoes way better.”
SCHIED: I believe you’re thinking of that German silent movie from 1915.
SHELTON: Very early grindhouse.
You seem to have had a particularly good time working together. Is this a band you’d like to get back together someday?
SCHIED: Now that you mention it, no spoilers, but it kind of ends like the AVENGERS movie. It leaves a lot of doors open.
WADSWORTH: I think what Drew is saying is, everybody e-mail [producer] Jason Blum and ask for UNHUMAN 2.
SHELTON: The first movie isn’t even out yet, but, yes, let’s go! Let’s make the hashtag #UNHUMAN2 go viral!