Peculiarly, horror movies about the end of the world have enjoyed a new lease of life during the pandemic.
In waking life, a deadly virus has been spreading across the planet and forced millions to take shelter in indoors. Yet viewing figures for the likes of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and Wolfgang Petersen’s Outbreak have skyrocketed.
It might seem strange that people would choose to digest pandemic-themed media when a global emergency is happening right outside their window. But there’s actually some interesting psychology behind it.
Watching scary films about the end of the world is a coping mechanism; allowing us to imagine – and come to terms with – a potential worst-case scenario.
Whilst audience have been lapping up dystopian cinema – lockdown has proven to be a fertile breeding ground for horror flicks.
And one of the most exciting, upcoming apocalyptic productions is being shot right here in Manchester: Day of the Clones.
Billed as a mishmash of Dawn of the Dead and The Thing (shot with the methodology of Werner Herzog) – Day of the Clones is a twisty sci-fi horror about a scientist hiding in an isolated farmhouse with a group of survivors after the clones he created take over the world.
The movie is the brainchild of Manchester-born director and Hollywood screenwriter Eric Steele – who is steering the film for Vamoose Productions.
Elaborating on the plot, Eric explains: “It’s all about a small group of people confined in a very claustrophobic space who are forced to get on with each other, something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to at the moment!
“I always found the idea of clones quite creepy, and human cloning is downright terrifying. But when the pandemic hit, I thought this would be a good project because it is contained and claustrophobic – ideal for shooting with a few actors and the minimum of crew.”
Eric has called Day of the Clones his most ambitious project to date – with the movie starring a mixture of local amateur actors and some familiar professionals seen in the likes of Shameless, Peaky Blinders and Hollyoaks.
But perhaps the most intriguing performer on set is a robot – played by a “specially-built mannequin.”
Day of the Clones is Eric’s second feature film, with the director shooting the self-funded Boy #5 – a Manchester-based vampire flick – in 2019, which is currently playing the festival circuit.
Originally starting out in the movie business as a screenwriter and selling his scripts over the internet, Eric saw one of his works, The Student, picked up by the company that made Stephen King’s Creepshow.
However, it wasn’t until he met his producing partner Barry Morton that he decided to give directing a try.
Last year, the pair set up their own production company, Vamoose Productions Ltd, and are now hoping to make many more films set in Manchester under this banner.
Eric found himself drawing on all kinds of cinematic influences for Day of the Clones; including the likes of Danny Boyle’s 28 Day Later, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England, and the classic Hammer Horror films of the seventies.
But his biggest source of inspiration has been Manchester itself.
“[Manchester] is such an interesting city,” says Eric.
“Having lived here all my life, I know its good sides and bad sides. There’s tremendous wealth and poverty. There’s lots of crime but also a thriving art scene.
“Turn a street corner in Manchester and you’ll never know what you’ll find, from a giant mural to a Brazilian-themed restaurant to an ancient derelict factory.”
With its gritty aesthetic and surviving remnants of the industrial revolution, Eric calls Manchester a “horror filmmaker’s dream”.
“I think it’s that humdrum, everyday despair of the Industrial North,” he says.
“There are remnants of the city’s great past everywhere. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking through a graveyard dedicated to the industrial revolution.
“Mixed in with those amazing old mills are brand new high rise complexes that look surreal and futuristic. It’s a great combination of ancient and modern.
“For our vampire film “Boy #5” we shot outside a pub with a glowing non crucifix on the wall, outside the abandoned abattoir and in the middle of the busy city centre on a Friday night!”
Day of the Clones has so far been largely self-funded – and now Eric and his production team are looking for donations to help complete the movie.
People will receive perks in exchange for contributions, with all money raised going towards props, postproduction facilities, securing named actors for cameo roles, and visual effects.
It’s a terrific opportunity to support the local arts – and watch a thrilling, terrifying horror film play out in your backyard as a result.
Head over to the crowdfunding page here to learn more.
You can also read about Day of the Clones via the film’s official Facebook page.