The Creepy Kid…
When I was in kindergarten, my parents thought it was okay for me to watch Stephen King’s IT on ABC. For most of the film, I sat on the basement steps watching balloons of blood inflate and explode from a distance. No matter how far back I sat, how small that screen was, it still terrified me.
Growing up, I carried that series with me — the burden of knowing Tim Curry’s Pennywise could be lurking under my bed, or deep within my closet. Initially a sense of dread, it soon transformed into excitement and turned into a feeling that I tried to recapture. Whether it be watching Night of the Living Dead on a sleepover, browsing the local video store (remember those?) to see which movie cover promised the best idea — I loved the thrill of being scared.
My two greatest accomplishments are building a family, and being a filmmaker. Eight years ago, I had my first son, and four years ago I was starting production on my first film Still/Born. While they seem like completely separate endeavors, without one, I wouldn’t have the other.
When I was given an opportunity to make my first feature, I had to first figure out what kind of story I’d like to tell. My youngest son was just exiting the baby stage at the time, and so we had gone through the trials and tribulations of that. Starting to regain my sanity, I was able to look back at some of the things that stood out in his first year. Problems with breastfeeding, problems with sleeping, problems with remembering things — mostly problems, and it led me down a rabbit hole about how much worse it could be. The singular vision of a woman flanked by two cribs, holding one child, the second nowhere to be seen struck me.
That was the launching point for Still/Born.
Colin Minihan and I wrote the film together, exploring both the natural and supernatural, able to mine from my own experiences — late night watching a baby monitor, for instance — and adding a sprinkle of nightmare.
As the film made its release on Shudder on Mother’s Day 2018, I had been trying to find that next image that could spur that singular idea, and once again I was able to look inward to find it.
My oldest son had started kindergarten that year, and for the first time, we were letting him go out into the world. Monday to Friday, he’d spend his day with other people, with other rules, and when he’d return home he would have all sorts of new thoughts and ideas that, frankly, we had no way to control.
At first glance, it’s quite charming to see their eye beam at some factoid they learned. But then you start looking at it differently, remembering some of the creepy things your kid has told you. How they might come into your room and complain that the “green girl in the closet” is scaring them. And you know it’s not true, but coming from their sweet, innocent face, you can’t help but wonder.
And thus, Z was born.
Having grown up with horror in my life, I’ve been able to see my outlook change over time — from when you’re young and anything is possible, to being an adult where you’ve more or less adopted a certain set of rules you adhere to. When I was a kid, Pennywise could very well be in my closet. But as an adult, I know that that’s ridiculous.
But what if?
It’s that hesitation that can allow the what-if to settle and spread, and being able to look at my own kids through that lens gives me the ability to find what is truly terrifying when you have kids. It’s that what-if that I find myself so drawn to, the twist on the duality of a single event. On one side, perfectly normal. But on the other … something dark.
With Z hitting Shudder, once again on Mother’s Day, I can only guess what that next inspiring thought will be. Because as innocuous as life can sometimes seem, there’s always something horrifying hiding beneath the surface.
Z is now available to stream on Shudder in the US and the UK.
Brandon Christensen is a horror filmmaker that has terrified audiences with his films Still/Born and Z. Married with three children, Brandon’s work has been inspired by his experiences as a husband and father. He’s now waiting for their next milestone to exploit for maximum horror.