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Talking with Director Brandon Zuck about ‘Into the Dark Crawlers’

Hulu’s popular horror anthology series, INTO THE DARK, is currently in its second season. The theme of each episode is inspired by a holiday during the month of its release. The newest episode, CRAWLERS, which premiered in March, is the first episode of INTO THE DARK to tackle St. Patrick’s Day. CRAWLERS takes place on Saint Patrick’s day-a night of wild parties. Three unlikely friends band together to save a college town from a vicious horde of body-switching aliens. The episode stars Jude Demorest (Star), Pepi Sonuga (9-1-1), Giorgia Whigham (The Punisher), Olivia Liang (Legacies), and Cameron Fuller (The Last Ship), and is directed by Brandon Zuck (Swipe NIght)

Culturally Obsessed & MUSE TV’s Jennifer Ortega spoke with Brandon Zuck about CRAWLERS.

PHOTO COURTESY OF HULU

Jennifer Ortega: First of all, it was so much fun…there’s so many things I loved about it. I like the idea very much of St. Patrick’s Day tied in with an alien invasion. Because first of all, aesthetically, I love the green lights in it. It lends itself so well.

Brandon Zuck: It’s funny how there’s that there’s an aesthetic connection right away between aliens and St. Patrick’s Day.

Jennifer Ortega: There’s a part in the film where they talk about St. Patrick being an alien. I was just curious about that. 

Brandon Zuck: This is really interesting. So you know about how St. Patrick drove the snakes out and saved Ireland? But Ireland is one of the very few places that doesn’t have any snakes and has never had snakes. They just aren’t there. So that makes the legend very interesting because what snakes did he drive out of there. And so it’s just like a cute little idea. But it’s an actual mystery. 

Jennifer Ortega: Missy’s take on it is great, that like St. Patrick is human and the snakes are aliens. He was protecting Ireland from aliens. How did you get involved with this film, to begin with?

Brandon Zuck: You know, “Into the Dark” happens very quickly. It’s like a moving train that doesn’t slow down for anybody. They’ve shot five movies since we shot ours.  When the opportunity came around and this script was next…I had met with people at Hulu and I had met with people at Blumhouse at different times about different things. But they knew the things I was interested in and the kinds of stories and the kinds of characters that excited me. And so when this one came up, they reached out to me to see if it was something that interested me. And it definitely was. So I jumped on it.

Jennifer Ortega: I mean, I love “Into the Dark” because I think everything is done so well and they pick these amazing directors and such great talent to be in the film that like I’ve continuously been blown away by it. I mean, I love horror, to begin with, but everything is just… they are so entertaining to watch, but the stories are really neat. 

Brandon Zuck: I think what’s really cool is they do such a good job of kind of like finding diversity and variety and you don’t feel like you’re watching the same thing over and over and over again. Each film is something brand new. It’s a brand new place and a brand new look.

Jennifer Ortega: Absolutely. They’re all so good, but they’re also different from each other, which is great. So I’ve just been a fan of it. And this was so much fun to watch. I just love the whole film. I like that Shauna is giving the narrative of the story. I mean,  I grew up in the 80s and I am a sucker for smart kind of teen banter. Like, I love “Heathers” and all of that. So like, this was right up my alley.

Brandon Zuck: Oh, yeah. I mean somebody called it “Mean Girls” meets “The Thing.”  And I wish I came up with that because I absolutely love that. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF HULU

Jennifer Ortega: That’s a great tagline. What do you hope thematically like people really get from “Crawlers?”

Brandon Zuck: The main that I was hoping for people is just to have fun. That was our motto on set. It was to have fun because we knew the exact kind of story that we were telling first and foremost. It’s just supposed to not be boring. It’s a fun way to spend 80 minutes. But there are still underlying themes, you know, obviously MIssy and Shauna connect because of people not believing them. And it’s something where their experiences and things they are going through are totally, totally different, but everybody knows that feeling of someone not believing what is true to you.

Jennifer Ortega: Absolutely. And both of them are in a situation, too, where they’re kind of cast outside because Missy was sexually assaulted and no one believes her. And Shauna has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks. So I think it’s very relatable for a lot of people because I think a lot of people feel alienated. It’s an alien movie about alienation. Like you said, “Into the Dark” is so great at bringing diversity and your cast is so diverse, which I loved. How was working with them? 

Brandon Zuck: They were incredible. I’m a huge fan of every single person on the cast and the crew. We had a hard job to do, you know, having to really get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. And, you know, there’s a lot of moving parts and rewrites and everything happening. And they just rolled with it every step of the way and came back with these amazing performances and had such great chemistry with each other. And that’s because, like, honestly, they’re all just such wonderful people. Like everybody was so great to work with. Everybody was friends when the cameras turned off. The whole thing was a really wonderful experience. Everybody was on the same team. It was great. 

Jennifer Ortega: I love that. I’m curious about you. Like, what’s your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

Brandon Zuck: I always kind of just knew that I wanted to work in film and television. It was never a question. I was a child actor and kind of grew up on-set and, you know, doing commercials. Just coming out of high school and college, I just knew what I was going for and what I wanted to do. It might have taken a little while to sort of find my way. I do a little too much exploration in my 20’s. But you know it’s all story mining.

Jennifer Ortega: It’s true. I think the 20s are just a decade to be an idiot. That’s my experience, at least.

Brandon Zuck: I started off writing when I was much younger. I didn’t understand certain things yet. I had to go out into the world and get heartbroken and wake up in jail. I had to go out and get the shit kicked out of me in order to like to learn about certain things. Figure out story and then come back to it a little bit later. And I was like, OK, I know it’s true. 

Jennifer Ortega: It’s true because you have to have like lived and, you know, get out of your comfort zone. I think in life for me I can relate to.

Brandon Zuck: Yeah. You have to go find the things that excite you and the things that terrify you. And you have to do a little bit of exploring. I think what’s really important to storytelling, in general, is specificity. And it doesn’t matter if your story doesn’t look like somebody else’s. If you tell it in a truthful way, people can connect to it.

Jennifer Ortega: I love that you said that because I always think like the most effective writing is authentic storytelling. No matter what the story is, it’s coming from a place of vulnerability and a place of authenticity. And it could be the most outlandish thing, but there’s something in there that was true for that person.

Brandon Zuck: Yeah. And I think that’s also why we like consuming stories at all. Truthfulness and authenticity. But also, you know, nobody necessarily just wants to see what they know. Like sometimes you watch a movie or you read a book to go exploring, to walk into somebody else’s shoes.

Jennifer Ortega: Absolutely. That ties back into like, why I’m so glad they have like a diverse group of directors and writers on “into the Dark” because everyone’s perspective is different. I love different people’s perspectives. Everybody has a story. 

Brandon Zuck: I think it’s very empowering. And it’s a very important thing to be mindful of just for the sake of good storytelling. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF HULU

Jennifer Ortega: Is how the challenge of working with stunts?  And I love that there were practical effects as well. I love Practical effects.

Brandon Zuck: It was that was important to us. It was important to do practical effects because obviously there is like an 80s throwback kind of vibe of the movie and you want to have that sort of tone, which was part of the fun of it. And we are just so lucky because our effects team and our stunt team are all stars Every time we were doing stunts and effects, you know, if you mess up you have to reset the shot. You have to put the new window back on the car, you have to clean the green goo off of the actor. You know, it’s a big risk every time you do it. And when I tell you, like so many of those were nailed on the first take. It was such a joy to be part of it. Like I was watching like an audience member by the monitor, just excited to see what was going to happen. We were shooting like, you know, nine pages in a day. We really lucked out. And also just like just as a fan of this kind of genre, it was fun to watch.

Jennifer Ortega: I’m curious because I really like this. I want to see what you’re doing next. Do you have anything you could talk about that’s kind of in the works?

Brandon Zuck: I don’t have anything that’s been announced yet. But I do have a pilot that I’m working on so crossing my fingers. Hopefully, it will get picked up and we’re going to announce it. And there’s a feature that will be announced pretty soon. I’m writing so there are a few things coming, but nothing has been announced yet. OK. So hopefully very soon.

Jennifer Ortega: I’ll keep an eye out because I really love this and I can’t wait to see what else you create to the future. Thank you.

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Jennifer Ortega

Co-owner of Muse TV & Culturally Obsessed | Executive Producer | Film Nerd | Ultimate Valley Girl

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