Mark Young breaks down the film and why horror films are so popular

In the year 2012, the world's refineries have run out of fuel. Without gas, food or electricity, civilized countries have spiraled into looting and anarchy, and much of the world population has starved to death or killed each other.

Such is the setting for Mark Young's cannibalistic tale Tooth and Nail. We recently sat down with the director to discuss this film and what it's like being a part of 2007's After Dark Horrorfest.

How did you come up with the idea for Tooth and Nail?

Mark Young: My producers had a project drop out at the last minute, and I was given an opportunity to present a concept to replace that film. There were only two criteria: it had to take place in the empty hospital where the last film was shooting, and it had to fall squarely in the horror genre. This was perfect for me, since I loved the aesthetics of the hospital and am also a big horror fan.

The run-down state of the hospital suggested the post-apocalyptic storyline, which coincides with my personal interest in the current state of world affairs. The rest of the story came from an article I'd read about the fine line between civilization and savagery. I became rather keen on telling a "Forbidden Planet" meets "Lord of the Flies". I had roughly two weeks to write the first draft of the script before we began shooting.

Since it seems that audiences have gotten a bit comfortable with certain forms of violence and on screen scares, in what ways did you try and subvert their expectations with Tooth and Nail?

Mark Young: A lot of movies today forego story and characterization just to get to the violence. This is essentially pornography, and once the visceral thrill is over, what's left to enjoy? You have no choice but to do more, and to make each act more graphic then the one before it. Don't get me wrong - my films are always part art house, part slaughterhouse. But the violence is not the driving force, the story and characters are. As a result, the violent act has so much more import.

What was the most difficult part of making Tooth and Nail?

Mark Young: We only had two weeks to prep and 20 days to shoot a rather ambitious film. Fortunately, I had an amazing cast and crew, and my producers John Sachar and Patrick Durham were very hands-on. They kept me out of trouble and helped steer the ship.

Is there something you learned while making Tooth and Nail that you didn't know before? Something that hit you after the production was over?

Mark Young: For me, making film is an organic process. It continues to develop and coalesce through production and even into editorial. Your brain is operating on so many levels, even ones you are not immediately aware of, and sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Tooth and Nail is primarily about the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest, and what people will do to survive. I realized that on another level, I was subverting expectations by playing with gender issues as well, which is certainly unusual in a horror film.

Why do you think horror films are so popular now? They seem bigger than they've ever been?

Mark Young: I think on a broad level, the success of horror films comes and goes in cycles, and perhaps we're just riding the crest right now. One thing is for sure; the smaller hardcore horror fan base never disappears. It could also be a reflection of our times; with all the angst in the world, perhaps a little bit of thrill riding and escapism is a necessary thing.

What's it like being involved with the After Dark Horrorfest? Do you feel that maybe it's like Sundance for Horror Films?

Mark Young: We just barely completed Tooth and Nail in time to premier at Screamfest 2007, and the next day it was announced we would be a part of Horrorfest as one of their eight theatrical films. I can't imagine a better end for the film. Is it the Sundance of Horror Films? Only if I get to go skiing somewhere.

What are you working on next?

Mark Young: I have finished a number of scripts I'm excited about, and it's just a question of financing.

Tooth and Nail hits movie theaters November 9th - 18th as a part of After Dark Horrorfest 2007.

B. Alan Orange