There’s a new kind of zombie flick just about to be unleashed into UK cinemas (Friday to be precise) and the man responsible for it had a new kind of experience writing it.Acclaimed comic book writer Mike Carey (Lucifer, Hellblazer, X-Men and Crossing Midnight), as well as the author of the Felix Castor series of novels, published a new novel in 2014 called The Girl With All The Gifts. It was a delightfully dark and bizarre tale of a very special girl called Melanie, who could be key to the cure of a fungal infection which turns humans into zombies. It received all kinds of positive review and now two years later we have the film version with a script by Carey. So clearly he adapted his own novel, right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.
• You can read our review of The Girl With All The Gifts here. The following interview contains very mild spoilers.
MyM BUZZ: Our cute, furry friends don’t come out of this movie too well. Did you make it specifically to upset pet owners?
Mike Carey: “Not so much, but that’s an interesting and satisfying side effect.”
We don’t remember the book being quite so peticidal?
“Yeah, the line about, ‘Do you fancy a cat?’ ‘I’ve already had one,’ isn’t in the book, only in the movie.”
Is it true that you wrote the book and the script at the same time?
“Yes it is. They were both based on a short story that I’d written, called ‘Iphigenia In Aulis’. And I was pitching it around. I submitted it for an anthology, An Apple For The Creature, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner. And having written it I kept thinking there’s more to this story and there is more to this character.
“So I was picthing it everywhere, and I got Little, Brown saying yes to the novel and Poison Chef greenlighting the movie development at the same time.”
Was that a weird experience?
“Yes it was a weird experience but it was incredibly positive. I don’t think it will ever happen to me again. Because what it meant was I was living with this story all the time during that development process and I was kind of making parallel decisions for two versions of the story that ended up pulling against each other. So it illuminated a lot of the decisions in a really positive way. So there are things in the novel that don’t make it into the movie and vice versa because of the logic of the two media.”
Was there anything you were forced to leave out of the movie foe budget reasons?
“The was one. That was Rosie, the big armoured lab. In the book one of the climactic scenes is Caldwell driving away in Rosie with Melanie stuck inside. Well, for the film, Rosie was a build; it couldn’t move. The cab is real. It’s a big military truck. Everything else was just constructed so it couldn’t possibly move. It would have cost another couple of hundred thousand to build something that could move.
“But mostly it was about finding different solutions. One of the wonderful things about working with the director, Colm McCarthy, was that he’s a very in-camera sort of guy. If there’s a low-tech solution rather than a CGI solution to a problem, that’s what he’s going to take.
“I mean obviously there are CG effects in the movie. We didn’t drape the BT Tower in fungus, for example. But an awful lot of what you see is real world setting. The look of the hungries is achieved through make up and prosthetics. I think part of the epic scale is that this is a real world and you get immersed in it.”
You mentioned the hungries. Are we allowed to call it a zombie movie?
“Well, we didn’t use the Z-word on screen at all. And it doesn’t appear in the novel, of course. Which is really just a mind game. Which is, if you don’t use the word, then it helps people stay one step removed from the concept just a little bit. So there is a little bit of a negotiated space before you think, ‘This is a zombie movie!’
“But it is a zombie movie.”
So in your words, in a world overrun with zombies movies, why should people see this zombie movie?
“I think because of Melanie. I think the crucial difference is that this is a monster movie where the protagonist is the monster and we’re seeing things very much from the monster’s point of view.
“But she’s both a monster and an innocent, a little bit like in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where the creature only becomes monstrous because he’s treated so badly by his creator. So it’s a film that tries to put you in the uncomfortable position of sympathising with the monster, the thing that is threatening humanity.
“There’s a sense that by the end of the movie there’s another candidate for that role, for the role of monster, apart from Melanie.”
One thing we thought made the film stand out is that it has a proper resolution, which zombies films rarely have.
“It’s definitely building to a climax which we hope people won’t see coming, but we hope people will think was inevitable afterwards. In a way it’s the only way the story could end. And we see it as a happy ending but that depends on how far away from it you’re standing.”
Do you have a favourite out of the film or the book?
“I don’t. I loved the process of working on both simultaneously. Every time I see the movie I watch it with a sort of slightly stupefied ecstasy because it’s so close to the vision in my mind. The entire process was joyous. Being on the set while the movie was happening. Being in the movie. All of these were things I didn’t have any kind of previous experience of. I can’t imagine going forward taking part in anything else that was so intense and so pleasurable.”
It’s tempting to say that the film is such a complete entity in and of itself that it doesn’t need a sequel. But have there been discussions?
“Inevitably we have thought about it. We have had that conversation a few times both with Little, Brown and with Colm and Cammy Gatin the producer. But I think we all feel the same way about it which is that you could do it, but it would be a different story in a completely different genre. It wouldn’t be a zombie movie. It would be something else. And the original audience might find that something else difficult to enjoy.
“What I have done is a prequel. It’s called The Boy On The Bridge, it comes out next May and it’s set 10 years before the events of The Girl With All The Gifts. So it’s some years after the breakdown, when they’re still trying to find solutions, and it’s a completely different cast. Caldwell is mentioned in a few places but she doesn’t appear. But there is an ending that does play into The Girl With All The Gift in an unexpected way and reveals some new things about that world.”
What are your favourite zombie movies?
“I love Zombieland. I thought was hilarious and surprisingly moving. In a different way I loved Warm Bodies. I didn’t expect to like Warm Bodies – the sort of Romeo and Juliet zombie story. It shouldn’t work but it just does!
“Shaun Of The Dead is, if course, amazing. I’ve only seen the first season of The Walking Dead but I enjoyed it very much.”
What do you make of the Lucifer TV series?
“I’ve only seen a few episodes of it. I enjoyed them. I enjoyed them quite a lot. It’s obviously a long, long way from what I was doing in the comics, but I think that’s fair because all adaptation is re-invention, and there was no way they could do the comic straight in a network show. So this is something else. And that something else is, I think, quite cool. I’ve got no problem with it. As Neil Gaiman says, you play with the toys, then you put them back in the box and somebody else comes along and plays with them.
“I felt the same way about the Constantine movie. The idea of Keanu Reeves as John Constantine is ludicrous beyond belief. But if you can forget Hellblazer, and it’s a good movie.”