An Interview with the Director of the Most Messed Up ‘ABCs of Death 2′ Short
You might not be familiar with the name Chris Nash, the Canadian director behind the final segment in 'ABCs of Death 2,' the twisted sequel to last year's horror anthology. "Z is for Zygote" sends the sequel out on a high note, with a wonderfully grotesque and cringe-inducing bit of body horror, that will surely make even the most seasoned horror fans squirm. Prior to his involvement in the sequel, Nash directed the "Skinfections" trilogy of short films and competed in the 26th director competition to be featured in the first 'ABCs of Death' film. We had a chance to sit down with him and discuss his fantastic short for the sequel, the reactions to it, and his plans for a feature.
When we got to your segment at the end, I had such an intense physical reaction to it that I was actually nauseous. I was laughing uncomfortably, but I was also concerned for the people around me that I might seriously vomit. There's something very visceral about your segment.
I suppose so. I mean, I'm pretty distant from it because we were working on the effects for quite a while, so I guess I don't look at it ... It's a shame. I guess I don't look at it as real at all. All I see up there is a big chore that took way too long to do. But yeah, I appreciate that. I appreciate any comment where the reaction's visceral and more instinct and more like you can't actually negate it, rather than an emotional reaction because it's really, I feel, not that hard to manipulate anybody emotionally. But getting a physical reaction is...
It's really difficult!
It's like laughter, too. Like faking a belly laugh, it's ... you can't.
And you're tapping into the same thing here because you're getting a physical reaction and eliciting laughter from people at the same time, which is a wonderful mixture of things.
I didn't mean for it to be funny at all.
But it's funny in a really morbid way.
I guess in a way that you've got nowhere else to go. Like you can just sit there and take it in, like how absurd it is.
Well I think people are laughing mostly because they don't know how else to react. You hit a very uncomfortable nerve.
Yeah. That's fine.
That's a great reaction!
I guess that's all there is. That's the only reaction that's complementary.
So you got this job because you sent a very angry e-mail to Tim League, CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse and one of the producers of 'ABCs of Death,' correct?
No, I don't know who said that ... maybe ... well ...
This is what I was told...
[Laughs] It wasn't an angry e-mail.
Was it your 'Jerry Maguire' mission statement about horror films?
I guess so. I guess in a way it was a big, drunken manifesto. I submitted for the first 'ABCs of Death' contest. When they announced the first 'ABCs of Death' I was really excited, and then they announced they were going to do the 26th director contest, and I was really on and off about whether or not I was going to submit, but with a few weeks left to go, I decided, let's just circle the wagons and get this done. So we submitted and we did pretty well in the contest. We got a lot of well-wishes, and they had the premiere at Toronto and Ant [Timpson, producer] and Tim were kind enough to send an invite out to any of the people who entered the contest who were in the area saying hey, why don't you come to the premiere. So that's where I got to meet Ant and Tim. But what I really liked about the contest in the first year and what we've seen this year too is that it grew a really strong community of filmmakers. I got to be friends with some of the filmmakers for the first year. You became way more involved in it than you ever thought you would, and it just kind of felt like we were all a part of something, like we were all on a bizarre internet field trip, like we all experienced it and we all learned something about each other.
So I was really excited and I thought the competition in the first year was really fierce, too, and when I went to see the actual film, I thought there were some directors who really hit it out of the park and who really tried. I thought there were some that were having fun but not necessarily challenging themselves. But I thought there were those few that were just really lazy, and I was kind of angry. You're given this opportunity to take part in this barometer of what the horror landscape is right now and you're kind of throwing it away rather than making your mark. So when they announced that the sequel was happening at Cannes, I thought I wanted to remake one of these segments that I thought was really lazy and just kind of make it as good as I can using that concept. I was batting it around to my wife and to my friends, and I wasn't too drunk, but I had some courage in me, and I spent a few hours writing this huge e-mail about how much I really like the concept but ... basically everything I just said. And that I wanted to be a part of the second one even though I've got no credits to my name and nobody knows who I am.
But you've made some shorts.
I've done shorts, but who cares about shorts?
Well plenty of people care about shorts.
[Laughs] People like skits. People like features. Nobody likes shorts.
Do you have plans for a feature? Do you think your participation in 'ABCs of Death 2' may help you with that?
I hope. The endgame I think for a lot of people who do shorts is to do features.
Well obviously, but I think based on the strength of this particular short alone, I'd love to see what you'd do with a feature.
Ummm ... I wouldn't go that far.
You're too modest.
But if the opportunity came about ... I'm working with my producer, Pete [Kuplowsky], who also produced the "W is for Wish" segment that Steve Kostanski did. So I'm working with him, I've been working with him for over a year on this feature that we're trying to develop, but it's proven to be a bigger story than I thought it would be.
Judging by the strong body horror element of your segment, are you inspired by directors like David Cronenberg?
Yeah, I mean, I like body horror, but I like any kind of angsty, anxiety-inducing movies or stories or storytellers. I like Cronenberg. I like Vonnegut a lot. It's kind of weird. I guess you wouldn't be able to see a lot of Kurt Vonnegut in the segment, but yeah.