In Below Zero, the new film written by Signe Olynyk, screenwriter Jack “The Hack” is suffering from a severe case of writers block. In a desperate effort to clear his head and reach his agent’s deadline, he decides to lock himself in an abandoned slaughterhouse freezer for five days with no means of escape. While there, the line between fiction and reality blurs until he’s unsure of what is real and what is horror.
While watching the film, I found myself enthralled with a storyline that led in many different, intriguing directions. The result of which allows one to watch the film freshly with subsequent viewings; finding something new and exciting about it every time. In a way, it’s almost like a choose your own adventure book.
The exquisite cinematography and cast that includes horror legend Michael Berryman, Edward Furlong and Kristin Booth only adds to fun! Whether it’s Berryman’s amazing performance as a slaughterhouse butcher, the angst of Furlong trying to reach his deadline or Booth channeling her inner scream queen; Below Zero is a thrill ride like no other.
I had the chance to speak with writer Signe Olynyk and actor Michael Berryman, who discuss their experiences working on Below Zero.
goJimmygo (gJg): What’s the origin of Below Zero?
Signe Olynyk (SO): I like to consider it an autobiographical horror/thriller.
Originally, I set out to write a film with a concept of a guy being locked in a freezer. The problem was, that was as far as I could go; I didn’t know what to do next.
So, I started doing searches on the Internet on slaughterhouses and found one that was for sale. I’m a firm believer in doing research and tapping into details that you don’t normally know about, so I paid them a visit and asked the lady if she would lock me in the freezer for five days. It really was one of the best things I could have done.
gJg: How would you describe the story of Below Zero?
OS: It’s a smart, twisted horror film; actually a story within a story, about a blocked writer who struggles with a deadline. He arranges to have himself locked in a freezer and while there, the story he’s writing actually begins to unfold. Fiction and reality blur and he can’t distinguish between what’s real and what is not.
What was it like working with a legend like Michael Berryman?
SO: We were so lucky to have Michael. I really have to credit to my partner, Bob Schultz. He’s a real horror fan and mentioned Michael for this role. I think this is one of the best performances of his career. He really gets to flex his acting muscles and play a character with arc. Having Michael on board also allowed us to appeal to the horror fan base.
You also had two other great actors in Edward Furlong and Kristin Booth!
SO: Eddie was great. His character was one that he really identified with and I think that appealed to him. We really got lucky with Kristin. She is such a talented actress and her star is always rising. In fact, the day we finished filming she was cast in The Kennedy’s mini-series on HBO.
So we’ve got the horror fans with Michael, Eddie taps into the mainstream and Kristin is the rising star. We wanted to get the best cast we could to help us reach the widest audience. I think we succeeded.
Did you also happen to notice that the “creepy” kid in the film was actually a little girl? Sadi Madu did a great job too. She’s the daughter of the owners of the slaughter-house we filmed at. She came to the auditions disguised as a boy and just blew us all away.
How has the reception been for the film?
The fans enjoy it and have really responded well to it. They appreciate what we were trying to accomplish by bringing something new to the genre. We’re winning awards and have been all over the world with the film. It’s a fun, exciting time.
gJg: One of the things I loved most about this movie was your character (Gunnar). It was interesting to figure out what his motive was.
MB: It’s not fully revealed until the very end which I thought was fun. It’s very Alfred Hitchcock-ish.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the film. It was well written and I liked the musical score as well; particularly as it was used in certain scenes. Any time you have elements of beauty mixed in with counterpoint, it plays very well.
gJg: What was your experience like working on the film?
MB: It was great. We shot the entire film in only a few weeks and Eddie and Kristin both gave excellent performances. Signe and Bob were both professional and very easy-going. They’re also involved in a conference called The Great American Pitchfest. It supports writers with a lot of seminars. They are big supporters of the ‘written word’ so to speak.
The whole town of Edson (Alberta) was really happy we were there too. It was a treat. It’s a very beautiful area up there.
gJg: You recently did a signing in Burbank. What are the fans saying about Below Zero?
MB: We’re finding that people who have seen the movie really appreciate it. In fact, they like to watch it a second and third time because they get more out of it. Then they appreciate it even more. Visually, it’s beautiful and the music score is interesting and fresh. It’s not dependent on gore and splatter as much as it is on the mysterious things going on.
Below Zero is available now at Amazon and streaming on NetFlix
Article first published as Below Zero: A Chilling Thrill Ride on Technorati.