Brad Sykes Interview: The Cult Film Plaguers Returns

It’s a new year, and with it come many milestones. One milestone being celebrated is the ten-year anniversary edition of Plaguers. The film is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital. Originally released in 2008, Plaguers has developed quite the cult following since then. In commemoration, the film will has been recently released with a full audio commentary and a Q&A with the cast and crew. I got to interview Brad Sykes, the writer, and director of Plaguers. Read on to find out how Sykes made this fun-filled practical effects-laden movie, Plaguers in the interview below.

LRM: Hey. How are you today?

Brad: Good. I see you’re calling from a 757 number. Are you in Virginia Beach or Norfolk area by any chance?

LRM: I’m in Hampton, Virginia, actually.

Brad: That’s where I’m from too. I’ve lived in LA now for 20 years, but I grew up in Virginia Beach. I was born in Norfolk. I grew up in Virginia Beach. So anyway, I saw that 757 and I was like, “Oh, I know that area.”

LRM: Did you make any films in Hampton Roads?

Brad: That’s actually where I first started making movies in Virginia Beach. I started doing shorts and stuff like that with my friends in high school. So it’s just kind of funny. Yeah. I don’t meet a lot of people from the area, not that often.

LRM: Okay. That’s pretty cool. So you’re from the area, that’s pretty interesting. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to go ahead and dive into the questions here.

Brad: Yeah, let’s go for it.

LRM: Awesome. So Plaguers 10 years later, what has or hasn’t changed since you originally made the film?

Brad: Well, the movie itself hasn’t really changed. I mean, in terms of the release, this is a much better release than we had the first time around. For one thing, the actual release of the movie, this time we’re doing a Blu-Ray, which is a really, one of the main reasons we wanted to do this because the first time the movie came out in 2009, we did not have a Blu-Ray release. We just had a DVD and since we’re doing a Blu-Ray and having an upgrade in terms of the picture and the sound quality and everything. We also thought it would be nice to have a few new special features on there.

So my producer, Josephine, and I recorded a new commentary with our editor, Brad Jacques. And we also included a Q and A that was done after a screening that we had of the movie, a local screening that we had in 2012, at this indie movie theater that was doing a series. And ours was actually the first film they played and so we had like half the crew come down for that and that was taped and we had that recording so we put that on the Blu-Ray and the DVD as well.

So then, of course, it also has the same special features that the previous disc had, I think a commentary of Steve Railsback our lead actor. And also like a pretty nice making of that we did over at Universal that just really gets into the nuts and bolts of how we made this movie. So it’s a pretty nice relief. I mean if you saw the movie before, this’ll give you new stuff to watch and listen to. And if you haven’t seen the movie then this is the best time to see it.

LRM: Awesome. Now do you produce and direct all your films with your wife?

Brad: The last five or six movies that we got. I mean, pretty much we started our company. I mean to answer that question is yes. We started our company, which is called Nightfall Pictures, in actually now about 15 years that we’ve been running Nightfall because we started in late 2004 but it really… It was kind of getting the first movie off the ground, which didn’t shoot till 2005. But that’s how we do all our films. Yeah. And I direct and she produces. And actually that’s how we did Plaguers. I also usually write them as well, but we’ve done some co-writing. Like on the last two films that we did, one of which is called Hi-Fear is in production right now. We co-wrote it.

So actually the last two times we co-wrote, which was fun to do because that’s really how we both got into filmmaking really was as writers and, writing scripts, and film criticism and things like that. So we were, that sounds like our beginnings in the movie business for both of us. So it’s fun for us to collaborate. But yeah, that’s how we’ve done all the films and she produces and we’re both on the same page and we have a lot of meetings and it makes meetings a lot easier. You don’t have to drive across town on the freeway to have a meeting, or you don’t have to have a conference call or whatever. You can just sort of sit down and find a good time that works and just sit down and hash things out. So it makes for great communication.

LRM: That’s great how that works out. That sounds like it’s a great working relationship.

Brad: Yeah. And we’ve both worked independently before that. I mean I directed a bunch of movies for other producers and she worked in production while she was here. And we just kind of always wanted to work together, but we were sort of waiting for the right opportunity and then after a while we just sort of like, cause there wasn’t, let’s just say there was an opportunity kind of presented itself and I said let’s do it. And we didn’t know how many more films we were going to make after that together, but we at least wanted to try to make one and then go from there. So that’s, that’s how it worked out.

LRM: Great. Plaguers has won several awards. What’s your most memorable win?

Brad: I can definitely tell you the most memorable for that. We premiered the movie in Spain of all places. There was a festival called the Estepona Horror Film Festival, which is basically in like a down on the coast, like the Southern coast of Spain. Kind of near, basically you can cross over to Morocco like in an hour on the ferry. They stopped the festival a while ago but in 2008 they were having their edition and they selected our movie. And that was in September, 2008. That’s when the movie had its world premiere.

That was a really cool festival. The audience loved the movie and it’s really cool. That’s the best when you can see your movie with an audience, like an unbiased audience. Hopefully. In LA it’s hard to find an unbiased audience. But other parts of the country or other parts of the world you can usually find more like just regular viewers who are just watching a movie. And people really enjoyed it and they had some prizes that they were giving out at the end and the movie did win best screenplay.

We did win some awards which you mentioned. We did win some other awards later on. We played at a festival called Shocker Fest, which was actually in California up here, San Francisco. And we won best actor for Steve Railsback and we got a special award that they give out every year. And they picked our movie that year. So we ended up with two awards there. The one in Estepona, in Spain, was great because we had such a great time there in general with the people who ran the festival, and had such a great time with the screening. So we were hoping we might get something, but we didn’t know.

And so it was pretty cool. It’s pretty cool to have that be our premiere and to win something at the same festival. It was one of my best, favorite, memories of the whole movie, frankly. It was kind of a hard, I mean it was a hard movie to make in the sense that it was. Not hard to shape, but hard to get it off the ground. And also the post production was very difficult. So by that point we were kind of tired of it and it kind of renewed our faith in the movie, I guess we did make the right choices with some of these things. We did make an entertaining movie that people liked. You really don’t know because you have no perspective on it at that point as a filmmaker.

LRM: Definitely. Where did the idea begin or originate for Plaguers?

Brad: Well, I mean I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid probably since I saw Aliens in the movie theater. I’m dating myself there, but that’s okay. Since I saw Aliens and other Sci-Fi horror movies, whether they were in the theater or they were on video. Movies like The Thing or Life Force or this type of stuff. I always thought it’d be cool to make a movie like that, to kind of combine the two genres. And I hadn’t really seen one in a while. Before we did Plaguers, let’s just say the 2000s, early 2000s I hadn’t really seen anything that was a real, true, Sci-Fi horror film in the sense that it took place in space, entirely in space, and dealt with that type of material.

And I’ve also never seen a movie that was, what I would call, a zombies in space movie. There’d never really been one up till that point. And the problem of course was, how are you going to get the financing for that, or how are you going to make this movie, because these type of movies are always more expensive to make than like a slasher movie or something like that. And in I think it was 2003, it might have even been, going back to 2003. And it still took a few years after that before we were actually standing there calling action and cut. But, that’s how it started.

LRM: What’s Plaguers about? For those that aren’t familiar with it.

Brad: I mean briefly I would just say that it’s about a crew of a ship, that’s kind of like a transport vessel, that’s coming back to earth after a long run.

LRM: Now where can folks that visit the LRMonline site, where can we tell them to go check out Plaguers?

Brad: Well the one thing is, I mean thanks to Wild Eye, our distributor, the movie’s available everywhere. I mean it’s, streaming, it’s on every streaming platform you can think of, Amazon Prime, it’s on there. Vudu, X-Box, Comcast, there are, I mean everybody’s got the movie, Microsoft, everybody’s got the movie available. And if you want to purchase the physical media, which I’m a fan of, there’s also DVDs and there are Blu-rays. And actually, one of the cool things has been, the movie is in Walmart right now. The movie is in every Walmart store in the country. And that’s the DVD release, not the Blu-ray, but the DVD. So that’s been really cool for me to… For any independent filmmaker nowadays to get your movie into the store. Out on the shelves.

That’s an accomplishment. And so it’s been really cool for me the last few weeks, just get emails from people saying, “Hey, I saw your movie.” Or, “Hey, I bought your movie.” Or, “Here’s a picture of it.” In your Walmart in Texas, or New Hampshire, or wherever it is. So the movies everywhere. It’s definitely out there. I mean, I would recommend the Blu-ray if you like these types of films, if you like Sci-Fi horror movies, if you like eighties style Sci-Fi horror, I would recommend getting the Blu-ray. Or at least the DVD because you get all the bonus features, which I think if you’re at this type of film you’ll enjoy, because we do talk a lot about some of the stuff we’ve talked about on this show.

Brad: Talking about the facts, talking about the sets, how we built things, how we design things, how we executed stuff. So yeah, it’s really everywhere. It’s really, I’m happy to say that it’s widely available. So yeah, it’s not hard to find.

LRM: Awesome. Thanks. We’ll definitely pass the information along to the readers of LRMonline. Let me ask you, Brad, what do you think of superhero comic books?

Brad: I’m, I mean I’ll be honest, like the actual comic books, I never read them. I mean, I actually read some comics when I was like in high school. I was kind of into certain… Some comics, not like, I don’t know, kind of weirder things. Like there’s this comic called Marshall Law that, actually, now days might be a good time for it. It was kind of like a anti-superhero thing. It was very dark. That was something I liked a lot. But I wasn’t into like Superman, Batman, all those kinds of stuff. I just wasn’t. And I watched the movies that were made back then about them, like the Tim Burton Batmans or whatever. But I’m not really into that stuff. I mean, I’ve seen some of them but I don’t follow that. So I’m probably not the best person to ask about that. You know what I mean? Like I watch a lot of different types of movies, but I don’t really watch a lot of those.

LRM: Interesting.

Brad: My comic book experience recently was last year, there was an independent comic publisher named Sparkle Comics and they actually asked if I would be interested in having one of my older movies made into a comic. Made this movie called Goth. It was a movie I did in 2003 called Goth. It was like a very dark horror film, independent horror film, about a Gothic girl who kind of uses the Gothic subculture to do all kinds of nasty things to people. And it had a little bit of a cult following. And anyway, they were, the people who run the company were big enough fans, the comic company, big enough fans of the movie to ask me if I would be interested in being involved in something like that and give them their blessing and everything.

It was just a unique thing and kind of proof that no film you make is ever really finished or ever really dead, let’s just say. Here we are on Plaguers 10 years later. Goth was 15 years old when that comic book got published now. So you just never know man. And you make movies, some movies you make they really do kind of disappear or fall into the black hole sometimes.

But then other films, they have fans that you might not know about at the time and then they kind of have resurgence later on. So it’s that’s sort of the cool things about movies sometimes about the making movies is that the opportunities come up, you know? And it’s always cool to hear from people who really were affected by your work, enjoyed your work and like to continue it in some form. So that’s my comic book experience really.

LRM: Horror is an interesting comic book genre. 

Brad: If they like horror comics the company’s called Sparkle and Blood Scream, Blood Scream Comics, and they have their own website. You can find it. They got comics, I mean my comic is just one of their titles. They’ve got actually stuff that’s more traditional superhero stuff and they’ve got like horror base, like literally, based around other horror films or stuff like that. They’re a big horror fans, needless to say. But they do all kinds of stuff and they’re always doing new things. Like they just did a Nosferatu comic that’s really cool. So they’re doing a cool thing and I always like to try to… Indie companies, they always need, they could use more support. Marvel’s got plenty of fans and money. But it’s nice to see other people doing things too, doing their own things, or things that are outside the mainstream a little bit. And so yeah, if you like things a little bit different. Yeah, I would definitely check out their… they’re pretty cool.

LRM: Well, I want to say congratulations again on the Plaguers anniversary. And thank you for taking time out for the interview with the LRMonline. It was awesome speaking with you today, especially since you’re a Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, native.

Brad:Yeah man. We got to stick together.

LRM: Definitely. Alright, well thanks again. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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