Writer-director Kathryn F. Taylor’s unique carafe of suspense and spook premieres on VOD and DVD 9/6 from Uncork’d Entertainment.
In the film, FBI Agent Griff Krenshaw (Speight Jr) is sent to a top-secret prison and research facility where the U.S. government has segregated federal inmates possessing the so-called “evil gene,” a rare genetic defect that triggers violent, psychotic breakdowns in those who carry it. As Griff attempts to investigate the death of the facility’s head researcher, he becomes convinced that there’s an evil force at work in the prison . . . and it isn’t human.
The Evil Gene will be available September 6 digitally on iTunes, Xbox, Google, Vudu, Amazon, DirecTV, Dish and more. Also available on DVD from Walmart and Family Video.
We had an opportunity to speak with writer-director Kathryn F.Taylor about the film.
LEGLESSCORPSE: Are you a horror fan, Kathryn?
KATHRYN F. TAYLOR: Yes, although I prefer more classic suspense horror, like “The Shining,” “Psycho” or “The Exorcist.” In the last 10 years or so, some of my favorite horror films have been “The Others,” “Frailty,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” and “Mama.” Within the last year, I’d say “The Witch” and “It Follows” have been my favorites.
LC: What’s your first horror movie experience? Remember it well?
KT: I’m probably dating myself a little here, but it’s really hard to pick out a “first horror movie experience” because I was a tween/teen in the ’80s, and just about every sleepover or party involved renting one of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday The Thirteenth” sequels. What I can tell you is the first time I saw a horror film that scared me so much that I had to sleep with the lights on for several days. It was the first time I saw “The Exorcist.” I didn’t get to see it until I was in college because I grew up in a very religious household and my mom wouldn’t allow me to see it while I was living at home.
LC: Is it fair to say The Evil Gene is a more intelligent horror movie than most?
KT: I don’t know if “intelligent” is the right word, but there are no college coeds making silly decisions, like going into a dark basement alone with a deranged killer on the loose. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’80s when the “formula” of so many horror movies involved very poor decision-making, but people getting hacked up because they didn’t make smart decisions doesn’t scare me very much personally. The films that have stayed with me all involved protagonists who confronted forces that were overwhelming even when the protagonist is making reasonable decisions, and that’s what I’ve tried to bring to The Evil Gene.
LC: How does one write a horror movie – do you write the story around the scares or the scares around the story?
KT: I think you can do it either way, but I prefer to start with the story and then heighten your scares.
LC: What was it about this particular story that interested you? A lot of it is very believable!
KT: I got the idea for the script after reading an article about research the University of Connecticut was performing on Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza’s DNA. I was astonished to find that there is a lot of debate among geneticists as to whether there is a genetic marker that predisposes some people to commit violent acts. If you go searching online, you’ll find a lot of articles in scientific journals and even a few books on the subject. Although the scientific research is real, the characters and situations in which they find themselves are entirely fictional. However, I still did quite a bit of research to ground the story in a sense of realism.
LC: What can you tell us about the lead character, Agent Krenshaw?
KT: Griff Krenshaw is a decorated Iraq War veteran who is now an FBI agent. He is back on his heels after a recent “excessive use of force” incident. As punishment, he’s assigned a thoroughly thankless job – having to investigate what appears to be an open-and-shut case of suicide that merits an investigation only because it happened in the middle of an inter-agency conflict over a highly classified project. He’s determined to get his punishment done and behind him, but he’s stymied both by the politics of the project and the strange things that begin happening to him once he’s on site.
KT: Producer Giulia Prenna brought Richard onboard after meeting with him at a film festival. He read and liked the script, and wanted to meet about it. As it so happens, I had just finished rewatching Band of Brothers on HBO On-Demand, and I was thrilled that an actor of Richard’s caliber would be interested. I am very thankful that he took that leap of faith with us and agreed to do the film.
LC: When did you shoot the film?
KT: Principal photography occurred between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013.
LC: What’s the journey been like along the way? Did it go to festivals or did you submit it straight to distributors?
KT: I think we’ve had a pretty typical journey for a small independent film. It took awhile for us to get through post-production because we had to keep raising money along the way, so the film wasn’t finished until almost a year after principal photography wrapped. We did go to a couple of festivals in the Summer of 2015, and the film did well in competition at the festivals we attended. We signed with our North American distributor, Uncork’d Entertainment, late last year, and they scheduled it for a Fall 2016 release. It’s exciting to finally get the film out to the public.
LC: Have you a favorite moment the movie?
KT: It’s really hard to pick just one. There are many moments that I will always have fond memories of filming because we had such an amazing cast and crew. However, I would have to say that the scene between Cameron Richardson and Anthony L. Fernandez featured at the beginning of the trailer is one of my favorites. It was Anthony’s first day on set, and when we ran through the scene to block and light it before filming, Anthony really went into character and I think it sent a shiver down everyone’s spine. After the blocking, one of the crew members came over to me and said, “I think I just peed my pants a little bit – that dude is really scary!” In real life, Anthony is one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet and a real pro on set, but when he goes into character as Juan, he’s electrifying. It was sometimes a little frightening just to be in the same room with him when he was in character.
KT: I don’t know that they’ll ever find a single gene, but from my research, I understand that there’s a protein present in some DNA that can have an impact on whether a person ultimately becomes violent. Geneticists are still studying the matter, and I guess I’ll believe what they determine after study.
We’re looking forward to The Evil Gene, and certainly appreciate Kathryn taking the time out to talk to us about it! We wish her all success!