Eduardo (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) Sanchez got in touch with Fango to talk up ALTERED, debuting on DVD December 19 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. As befits the movie’s title, the original screenplay was quite different from what ended up on screen. “The script was sent to me by Jeff Johnson, who ended up being a co-producer on the film,” Sanchez tells us. “It was called PROBED back then, and it just floored me. I loved the idea of turning the basic alien-abduction premise on its head. It was originally much more of a comedy, but it was a really fun read.”
PROBED was written by newcomer Jamie Nash—and it turned out that, even though the two had never met, he and Sanchez were practically neighbors. “It was very strange that after a worldwide search for scripts, I ended up digging one by somebody who lived 45 minutes from my house in Frederick, Maryland,” Sanchez says. “Jamie is a great writer and collaborator. He’s very generous with ideas and is always open to notes, which is crucial. I hope to keep working with Jamie for a very long time.”
Sanchez was able to reunite on ALTERED with many people who had served on BLAIR WITCH’s crew, so the shoot was something of a family reunion. “The film was produced by Gregg Hale and Robin Cowie and co-produced by Michael Monello, Matt Compton and Jeff Johnson; the executive producer was Bob Eick; Tony Cora did the music; Andrew White was the production designer; and Christian Guevarra was the art director,” he reports. “All of them are alumni in one way or another of BLAIR WITCH. They were all great to work with again. We can all hopefully continue to make films together in one way or another.”
Considering that BLAIR WITCH’s budget was a reported $35,000, one assumes that Sanchez could create wonders with the seven figures he had on ALTERED. “The budget was well below $8 million, but we shot a completely different movie than BLAIR WITCH,” he explains. “First off, we actually paid ourselves and everyone else who worked on it, we shot it on 35mm, we used a soundstage at Universal Studios in Orlando and had serious special effects makeup to deal with. It was a much more expensive undertaking than doing a Hi-8 video movie with three actors in the middle of the woods.”
According to Sanchez, the film’s real surprise will be the nasty critter the lead characters (a group of friends who were alien-abducted years before and capture an extraterrestrial for a little payback) have to deal with. “We got really lucky and hooked up with Spectral Motion, one of the premiere effects houses in LA right now. They’ve done stuff for HELLBOY, BLADE: TRINITY, FANTASTIC 4 and LADY IN THE WATER. They liked the script a lot—and felt we should’ve kept the PROBED title, by the way—and built us a great creature named Foki, which was played by Misty Rosas. It ended up looking really great, and it’s really terrifying on the screen. It’s a mean son of a bitch, for sure. You’ll see what it does to these poor guys.”
It has been rumored that ALTERED was intended as a parable for 9/11 and subsequent incidents, but Sanchez begs to differ. “It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination trying to be some direct allegory of 9/11, but it does deal with the scarring and fear that a severely traumatic event can leave on people. The guys in the story are plagued by the memories of their abduction, and that fear changes their lives forever, not unlike the changes that have occurred here in the United States since 9/11. In ALTERED, the guys go out and seek revenge for their tragedy, and this vengeance, not the abduction, ends up leading to their doom. We’ll see what happens with the war on terror.”
While a new BLAIR WITCH installment is still said to be under discussion, Sanchez can’t confirm whether it will actually happen—and ALTERED’s DVD-premiere status (after having initially been announced as a Rogue Pictures theatrical release) won’t help. “I had hoped ALTERED would assist in getting the BLAIR WITCH sequel off the ground, but I don’t know now,” he says, adding that his BLAIR partner Daniel Myrick’s new movies for Warner Home Video’s Raw Feed line “may get more attention and possibly bring Lionsgate to the table again. But it would still be many years away. I have a very busy 2007 coming up, and I know that Dan is going to be slammed, too. But it would be great to make a prequel to BLAIR WITCH one day. I have that treatment sitting around here somewhere…” Look for more on ALTERED in Fango #259, on sale in December.