Eric England won me over with his limited-location, high-tension piece, Roadside. The picture hasn’t exactly caught on with the masses, but it is one damn spirited little flick that sends chills down the spine. Ace Marrero and Katie Stegeman did a great job of carrying the film and it certainly resonated long after the credits rolled. It was, in many ways, a significantly darker rendition of Phone Booth. And it was really just the beginning of what looks to be an insanely promising career for England.
With Roadside in the rearview mirror, England took to work on what most would consider his official breakthrough picture, Contracted. Contracted is unsettling on a multitude of levels, and unlike Roadside, it managed to capture the attention and affection of hordes of genre fanatics. It deserves every bit of love it has gotten up to this point, and as Contracted: Phase II nears official release (the film hits limited theaters and digital/VOD outlets on September 4th), the buzz surrounding the franchise grows. But looking at the second Contracted picture really births a few questions we couldn’t easily shake, namely: Why isn’t Eric England directing the follow up to his most successful picture?
We reached out to the very approachable England, who was more than happy to address a few of our inquiries. Check out what Eric had to say about his distance from the project, his personal opinion on the final product and the status of another sequel he’s working on, Madison County 2.
Addicted to Horror Movies: Contracted was easily one of your finest films to date. Is there any specific reason why you aren’t writing or directing Contracted: Phase II?
Eric England: It’s kind of a long story, but the short version is: the business. Once a film is successful, people want a sequel. I was approached to write/direct the sequel and I agreed to do it under the agreement that there would be a bigger budget and I could do the film the way I wanted to. It was mutually agreed and I started to write the script and even wrote a treatment that was approved by IFC. Once the “official” budget estimate came in, the producers decided they wanted to lower the cost of making the film and I decided to bow out to do GET THE GIRL (which was already in progress by this point), but I would still write & produce the Contracted sequel. I even hired a director to take over in my place, but the producers didn’t see value in keeping me on board the film if I wasn’t directing, so they tried to find someone else to take over. They hired a first time director and a new writer to write a script based off of their own ideas and… Well, now there’s a Contracted 2.
ATHM: Are you directly involved in any way with the film?
EE: None what-so-ever.
ATHM: Have you seen the film yet? (If so, your thoughts?)
EE: I have. I don’t love it. I don’t think it’s a good CONTRACTED sequel. It feels like a cheap SAW sequel with zombies. It’s basically just an exploitative zombie film. But the reason the film doesn’t work for me is because it doesn’t feel like anyone had a concrete vision for what it needed to be, like the first. It felt like producers came up with ideas, a guy wrote a script and another guy came in and directed… Just doesn’t feel cohesive.
ATHM: If the films continue on in their trend of winning fans over, eventually becoming a certified successful franchise, would you be interesting in stepping behind the cameras to shoot a future installment?
EE: The producers have expressed interest for me to come back and be a part of a third film somehow, but I don’t know about directing. The sequel just fucked things up. I would basically just have to start from scratch.
ATHM: What can you tell us about Madison County 2? From what I understand you’re writing the script. How is that going, and how do you plan to make the follow up superior to the original?
EE: I’ve written a script for it, but I don’t know if it’s what will be shot. I’d like for someone else to take over MADISON COUNTY and I’d like to start an entirely new backwoods slasher story… Maybe something that spins off of MC in a way. Kind of like what PROMETHEUS is to ALIEN. But whatever happens, I hope to God it’s superior to MC — shouldn’t be too hard to do. 😉