Today, Contracted: Phase II is set to infect theaters and VOD courtesy of IFC Midnight. Directed by Josh Forbes, the sequel stars Matt Mercer (who appeared in the original Contracted), Morgan Peter Brown, Anna Lore and Marianna Ralka. In the first film, audiences were introduced to a savage infection that caused the mental and physical breakdown of one of the infected and for Contracted: Phase II, the implications of the virus (and the mysterious man behind it all) are revealed to be something much bigger and more dangerous than anyone was ever prepared for.
Daily Dead recently chatted with Forbes about his involvement in Contracted: Phase II and discussed the pressures of directing a sequel, collaborating with the film’s stars and much more.
I'm curious, just because I noticed this was your first feature, how did you end up getting involved with Contracted: Phase II? Was this something that was brought to you?
Josh Forbes: Yeah, I don't know how well you know J.D. [Lifshitz] and Raphael [Margules], but they had produced the first one. For a variety of reasons, Eric [England, writer/director/producer of the first film] wasn't going to come back to the sequel and they had a script written by Craig Walendziak and were looking to bring on a director, so that’s how it all happened.
When you came on for Phase II, did you get to work with Craig at all on the script or was everything pretty much good to go once you came on board?
Josh Forbes: You know, it was a tight schedule. The movie was pre-sold. It was kind of like the train had already left the station. There were a few things that I got to fiddle with, but for the most part we were kind of locked into "this is the script, this is what's been approved, this is what we're going with," which is always fun.
Because sequels are always a huge challenge, whether it's a returning director or new director coming into a franchise, was there any added pressure when you were directing?
Josh Forbes: Oh yeah. The one thing that alleviated the pressure was that this was such a different movie. We're taking such a right turn with this. The analogy that I always keep thinking of is Alien vs. Aliens. Where the first movie, it's all about tension and whatever, building this thing up. Now it's like, okay, well, the cat's out of the bag. We know what this disease does. We don't have that trick up our sleeves anymore. We have to run with it.
But it was definitely tricky. The first movie is very much Eric England's baby. I actually messaged him before we started. It was like, "Hey, I know you’re not really involved, but I just want to let you know that I respect your work. I just want to let you know that I'm doing this." It felt like the closest thing I could equate this to was like being a stepdad or something. Like, "Okay, I'm in love with your mom now and I'm going to take care of her."
But it's been kind of tough because he's been pretty vocal about his un-involvement with it. He's been kind of crabby about it but again, it makes sense. I wouldn't want somebody directing my sequel, I guess. It is what it is. For me, it is a really great opportunity to make a movie and to take these existing characters. We don't have to set them up, we can just get them out the gate and get them running. Start by grossing people out, then scaring people and just having fun with it.
The analogy I keep bringing up to people is it felt like doing an episode of TV, where you have a preset cast, having the same crew and DP, and the same producer. It felt like there’s already a tone that's set, so let's see if I can put my spin on it and make this the best it can be, if that makes sense.
I thought it was fun to see Matt Mercer get to step up and be the lead this time around; I thought he was great in The Poisoning and so it was cool to see him take the reins for Phase II. How was it working with him and with Morgan Peter Brown, who also had a lot on his plate for the sequel?
Josh Forbes: You know, it's funny. I didn't know Matt. I just knew him from the first movie and so I was like, "I don't know how you can make a movie around that guy." I just felt like his character was kind of a weirdo. He's kind of the creep, but not creepy enough to be "creepy interesting" or anything.
Anyway, what was fun is that after meeting Matt and hearing his take on the character and how his ideas were able to take that character who was just so milquetoast in the first film and sort of make the movie about his journey to be a man, and to stand up for himself and to take charge, was cool. In the first movie he's just so passive. In this one, he's like a dork that becomes an action star. It's so cool to me. He actually becomes a badass but then, it's funny because in reality, Matt's a really sweet guy. I like that vulnerability in him.
And Morgan is just fantastic. He's so funny and so smart and so genuine, and a big horror fan as well. Morgan and I had a horror trivia team at the Jumpcut Café, which just recently closed. We got to hang out through that and he's a super funny guy, but I definitely could see a dark side in him, or saw that he could harness that potential. And in talking with him, he's like, "Yeah, I usually get hired to play bank clerks or just a normal, nice guy.” He believed he could knock this role out of the park and he did. He’s kind of like a tall Kevin Spacey or Paul Giamatti [laughs].