Marvin Kren, the Austrian-born director behind cult zombie classic RAMMROCK discusses his latest release, BLOOD GLACIER...
Starburst: I just finished watching Blood Glacier and I must say I thought it was fantastic.
Marvin Kren: Oh thank you, thank you, I appreciate that.
It was very old school, like a throwback to an ’80s horror movie.
That was my intention.
I also found Rammrock immensely entertaining, refreshing almost. Like it injected adrenaline into a stagnant genre; was that your intention with Blood Glacier too?
Yes, well, it was never my intention to show the world that I could do it better, but you always try to make the best films you can. And you have to find a new approach, so I guess I tried to find within the genre, a personal touch, tried to find my auteur note.
To create, along with my screenwriter, characters whom I know from my private life and somehow, weave these characters into a horror film. Or a zombie film. But that’s just my personal approach, and if somehow you get something new from that combination, then yeah, great.
And plus I like to play with the genre, take the codes and play with them, combine them with other stuff.
Are there any other genres then, that you’d like to ‘play’ with?
Oh, I would love to do a thriller, a western of course - and right now I’m working with my writing partner Benjamin in person – so it’ll be a comedy, a dark drama, and a statement to our way of life.
It’s in a very early stage right now, but hopefully we’ll be shooting in the summer.
You’ve said before that you and Benjamin Hessler have a very back-and-forth collaborative method of writing – of crafting the story. So I’m curious, where and how did the idea for Blood Glacier originate, and how did the almost sinister environmental message evolve?
Well, we got so much unexpected attention from producers after Rammbock – and there was this one old, really classy producer from Austria, and he liked us, and he liked the idea of doing something like Rammbock.
And, well, actually, we didn’t do our homework and so in our meeting I just had to present to him this daydream that I had, which was about a hiker in the mountains; he climbs the mountain and looks down and there is this huge bug, like a giant beetle. So I pitched him this, it sounded a little more elegant in German, and he just knew that he could sell a horror film set in the Alps.
So we came together to start writing, to put together everything that we liked, and then I found this picture of this glacier, this ‘bleeding glacier’. This glacier, and this is a real thing, I saw it on the internet, and I just thought it was a fantastic metaphor for the world we are living in; nature is bleeding, and now it’s trying to fight back.
Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The 'blood' is actually run-off from an iron-rich lake buried deep within.
And I think that automatically, when you’re doing a monster film, you have that political message straight away – and here with nature herself mutating into the monster, you have that environmental message too, of conservation.
The opening 30mins were some of the tensest I can remember from the genre; the slow buildup to the reveal isn’t seen as much now in contemporary horror films – were you worried at all that this old-school approach wouldn’t resonate with current fans?
Imagine, in the first cut, it was an hour until you saw the first monster, but the test screenings were that awful, that we had to cut half an hour out!
The beginning was just the lives of these scientists up there in the mountains; how they argue with each other, how they hate each other – and I loved that, because it was just a very slow process, seeing how the humans were more ugly a monster than the actual creatures.
But, yeah, people didn’t like it, so the writer and I had to figure out which parts to cut – which in turn ended up being good for the story.
Would you say the ‘less is more’ motto was more of a budgetary or stylistic choice?
I guess both. Of course. In the first moment we planned to do a creature feature, we tried to say ‘thank you’ to John Carpenter, and to Ridley Scott, and all those masters – and they did their horror in that way – they showed the monsters only briefly so that the audiences had to create the rest of them in their imagination.
Though of course, we never had the money of a Hollywood picture, I still believe in the imagination of the spectator, and that this way is better than just projecting onto them my own fantasies.
Gerhard Liebmann, who plays the lead Janek – what a star-making role this is for him.
He’s even at the Austrian Film Pride event, where he’s nominated for Best Male Actor 2013.
It’s well deserved. How important was it to the film to get the casting for this part just right?
Well I started with his character it was that important. Gerhard was used to playing these little supporting roles as a little chubby man – and I saw him in a comedy actually, and I just loved the darkness in his eyes, the kind of rhythm he had. I knew that I had to meet him then because he just looks too authentic – in one way like a normal person on the street, but with a potential to be the tragic hero.
And he’s the polar opposite of the scientists in almost every way.
He’s just such an amazing actor, he’s like the chameleon; he isn’t the same in every film, he really does become another person. Sometimes you have to take a chance on that, and I was just lucky enough to have the idea to meet him.
Speaking of which, your mother was terrific in this film. Such an unexpected delight. How was it directing her?
There is footage of her at the Toronto film festival, where you welcome her up to the stage and she does the splits!
Yes, the biggest drama queen you could ever imagine.
And in this culture, she would say to me, “Oh you want to become a filmmaker? Ok then, but I am going to be in all of your films”. And she has. Otherwise I’m afraid she’d put a spell on me – she’s the boss.
Benjamin calls her his second mum too – he wrote this part, actually for her.
You’ve mentioned previously that the work of Werner Herzog was a big influence on your depiction of the scientific community here in Blood Glacier.
Well The Wild Blue Yonder – I loved the way in which Herner portrayed the science community – and we took that same realistic approach here. I wanted all the actors to see that movie; I wanted the art directors to see just this movie, and to use the same sort of materials. Werner is always such an inspiration.
You already mentioned John Carpenter and Ridley Scott; who else would you say has influenced your career, and what aspects of your own work do you think could inspire the next generation of filmmakers?
I’m very into Roman Polanski – whenever I’m shooting a movie I watch him and find great influence. The works of Kurosawa too, and also there are just some great improvisational artists that I find inspiration in.
And I’d like to see my work as entertaining on one hand, but as transporting some kind of message – like a Trojan horse. That’s what I would like to pass on to others; the outside is the entertaining horse but the inside is where the message is – and that’s what counts, that combination of the drama within the genre.
And please, forgive my English.
Trust us Marvin, your English is much better than our German!
BLOOD GLACIER is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.