I caught up with director Héctor Hernández Vicens to chat horror and the importance of atmosphere in it, film-making, influences, George A. Romero and his new film, a re-imagining of Romero's cult classic, 1985's Day of the Dead, Day of the Dead: Bloodline. Bloodline is in select theaters and On-Demand and Digital HD January 5.  

Day of The Dead: Bloodline is set in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled world where a former med school student is tormented by a dark figure from her past. The only thing is, he's a half-human, half-zombie hell-bent on destroying her world. Day of the Dead: Bloodline stars Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Marcus Vanco, and Jeff Gum.

Hello Héctor and welcome to The 405! I'd like to start – if I may – by asking what got you into film-making?

Well, I've been a show runner and a film writer for 3 years, and one day I decided to write a script for me to direct. This was my first movie The Corpse of Anna Fritz, three years ago. Of course, before shooting this movie, I was working a lot with editors, DPs, all the staff of the movie studios.

Favorite films and directors? Which have been most influential on you as an artist?

Well, thousands of movies and lots of directors. My favorite directors – for example – are Polanski, Michael Haneke  – directors like Scorsese, Coppola, who explain very interesting ideas with very deep characters. For me, the best action director is Martin Scorsese. I love psychological thrillers and psychological dramas – for this reason, I love Haneke and Polanski.

In talking about horror movies, I like directors who create atmosphere and work with deep characters. Movies for example like The Fly, Alien, The Thing, and of course the first of the Zombie Trilogy by George A. Romero and also Zombie by the Italian director Lucio Fulci.  

Very interesting. What makes a great film?

A lot of things really. A great film has to have a lot of things right to really be great.

I think firstly the script – it must have an interesting idea and interesting conflicts and interesting and deep characters. This is the first thing.

Then of course comes direction. Direction is really done well when all the shots have intention or the shots explain something or try to create something like the actors do – when all the shots are working the motions like the actors.

Then of course you have all the people like the DPs and the composer who have to work in the same direction, creating from the same subject and in the same form and style as the director.    

Johnathon Schaech as Max in the horror film “DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE” a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Getting into Day of the Dead: Bloodline, what initially attracted you to the project?

Well, the zombies in the movie. When I read the script, and I saw the title "Day of the Dead: Bloodline", and that I could make a George Romero movie – I remembered when I was a teen,  and I would go to the theater up my street and watch all these kinds of zombie movies and other general American movies. Some of them are very strange in a number of ways, even not taking into account the script – but I loved the atmosphere, the stories of these kinds of movies.

I thought, "ok. Maybe I can create an atmosphere, maybe I can create the suspense, maybe I can play a little with the characters in the script."

I think you certainly succeeded with all that with the film.

Thank you [Laughs]

I think an interesting part of that dynamic of the bunker. It added an extra level of suspense with all the characters in such closed quarters.

The characteristics of the zombies in Bloodline are quite interesting as well: particularly how they move quite fast when they're usually the opposite, moving painfully slow…


(T-B) Johnathon Schaech as Max and Lillian Blankenship as Lily in the horror film “DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE” a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

and the Max (Johnathon Schaech) character too, having some brain function preserved. I’m wondering if we could get a look at your creative decision-making in the visual language you crafted around the zombies: particularly the make-up, use of blood and the like, and the attendant cinematography (I found the blood to be rather explosive in the aptly named Bloodline but the cinematography I found to have an oddly erratic grace about it).

Yes. There are the two kinds of zombies: the fast ones and the slow ones. The producers wanted fast zombies in this movie. I like both. When you have slow zombies, you need maybe thousands of zombies to create danger because they walk very slowly but there are zombies everywhere so you can't escape. When you have fast zombies you only need a few of them to create a real danger to the characters. It's a different way to use and craft the suspense.

Max – you asked about Max – he is a half-zombie. He isn't really a zombie because when he was a regular guy and bitten by a zombie but he has a genetic disorder so he didn't turn completely into a zombie. So his brain doesn't work as a live brain – he is dead – he is rotting, and he needs to kill people to eat their flesh to feed. Max is somebody who is dead and hates the other zombies. He also hates regular people and he hates himself.

I think that makes him interesting as a character – Max is hate. Max is devastation. Max is sadness. Only love can save him a little.

Absolutely. There was a very interesting dynamic built-up between him and Zoe (Sophie Skelton).


(L-R) Sophie Skelton as Zoe Parker and Lillian Blankenship as Lily in the horror film “DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE” a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

What did you seek to do differently from Romero's 1985 Day of the Dead? What did you want to preserve about Romero's original?

I think it is the same because if not Bloodline would not be an original movie. The original part of Bloodline is mainly Max. In Romero's movie, the characters are investigating the zombies with one of the most infamous of Romero's zombies – Bub (Sherman Howard) – with the objective of basically domesticating them. They try to domesticate the zombies. So the zombie of Day of the Dead by Romero, Bub, the regular zombie the characters work with, is a domesticated zombie.

But in our movie, Max isn't a regular zombie. He has parts of a zombie and parts of a live guy. So this is the main difference. In Bloodline the film, Zoe's objective is to find a vaccine to the zombie virus, and in Romero's Day of the Dead, it was domestication of the zombies. So this is the main difference.

What is next for you?

I am going to direct another movie, that like my first movie, will be written by me. It will be, like The Corpse of Anna Fritz, another psychological thriller piece with plenty of horror – psychological horror made from realism.

In Anna Fritz, I started talking about human evil. In this next film, I will be exploring that subject some more.

Anna Fritz sounds fascinating as well from even just the story. It also had me wondering, did directing Bloodline feel like a natural progression from your first film?

It's really another kind of movie. The Corpse of Anna Fritz is really a director's movie and Day of the Dead: Bloodline is a producers' movie. So when you make a producers' movie, you have to listen to the producers and really make the kind of movie that they want. In Anna Fritz, I was one of the producers, I was the script writer, and I was the director. So, I was able to take control of all the decisions and for this reason The Corpse of Anna Fritz is a movie made completely by me with completely my style, my voice, and my subject.

In the case of Bloodline, I am working for other people but I have very much made it in my style, my chosen atmosphere, my style of suspense, which also worked in Anna Fritz.   

(L-R) Sophie Skelton as Zoe Parker and Johnathon Schaech as Max in the horror film “DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE” a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Thank you Héctor!

Thank you!