DOOMSDAY is the new post-apocalyptic thiller from writer-director Neil Marshal, who gave us DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT. Although the visceral impact of those two horror films earned him honorary membership in the so-called “Splat Pack,” Marshall films’ evince a stronger narrative drive: they are dramas about group dynamics breaking down under extreme pressure; the pressure just happens to take the form of werewolves or mutant cave dwellers.
DOOMSDAY may not be a horror film, but it utilizes a similar narrative strategy, with a small, elite team sent into dangerous territory, where they encounter brutal danger beyond anything they could have anticipated. Set thirty years in the future, the premise is that Scotland has been walled off to prevent the spread of a plague the broke out in 2008. When the disease re-emerges in London, the Chief of Domestic Security (Bob Hoskins) assigns Major Sinclair (Rhona Mitra, previously seen in HOLLOW MAN and SLEEPWALKERS) to lead a unit into the quarantined territory in search of Dr. Kane (Malcolm McDowell, Dr. Loomis in the HALLOWEEN remake), who may have found a cure. The assignment is a bitter homecoming for Sinclair, who was evacuated out of Scotland as a child, leaving her mother behind. Like Marlow searching for Kurtz, she heads deep into the heart of darkness, encountering wild savagery along the way, in the form of the remnants of society abandoned by the government - the immune survivors who have fought tooth and nail to stay alive in a land reduced to a primitive medieval state.
It’s all much bigger and more elaborate than Marshall’s previous films. In an exclusive interview, the writer-director sat down and discussed the switch from horror to sci-fi action-adventure, promising that DOOMSDAY would still deliver the blood-and-guts thrills his fans have come to expect.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Your first two features were relatively modest horror films, with small casts and limited locations. How big a jump is it from werewolves and cave dwellers to the apocalypse?
NEIL MARSHALL: It has been a huge leap. Before this, I was just dealing with a cast of eight/nine people maximum stuck in a single location for the rest of the movie. This one is suddenly – bam! – whole countries. There’s fifty or more speaking parts; I’m dealing with thousands of extras, logistical action sequences, explosions, car chases – the works. It’s been an adventure.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Was it hard to get someone to put up the bigger budget? Obviously, you had proved you could make a horror film, but did the men who write the checks trust you with something bigger?
NEIL MARSHALL: It became a bit more tricky because obviously I was taking a step up. The budget for this was ten times bigger than what I worked with before. But the guys who financed it just shared my passion for the kind of films I was going to pay homage to with this: the post-apocalyptic movies from the ‘80s, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, MAD MAX, THE WARRIORS. We all shared that same vision. Luckily, they came on board on the basis of that and trusted my ability to pull it off.