For over two months in early 2007, city dwellers of Cape Town, South Africa bore witness to ominous signboards tied to lampposts emblazoned with the word “DOOMSDAY.” These were not in fact directions to the headquarters of a congregated cult predicting our imminent demise, but indicators of the many locations being utilized by writer/director Neil (THE DESCENT) Marshall’s brand new explosive opus, for which Rogue Pictures just announced a release date (via parent company Universal) of March 14.
With this, his first big studio picture, Marshall and producer Benedict Carver’s budget has eclipsed the former’s memorable previous efforts (also including DOG SOLDIERS)– every penny utilized to eye-popping effect, from gory deaths to several destroyed Bentleys.
Furthermore, the $30 million has been stretched even further by the choice to shoot in South Africa, where the exchange rate falls in the dollar’s favor. “We set the whole deal up pretty quickly, actually,” Carver tells Fango. “We developed the script and went into preproduction in September 2006.”
Set in the UK several decades in the future, the story is jump started by the appearance of the Reaper virus, which spreads without mercy. In a radical move, Scotland is cut off from the rest of the UK as a quarantined area, and in a last-ditch effort to contain this deadly epidemic (which reduces its victims to a bloody mess), a crack team of highly equipped experts are sent into this no man’s land to extract a cure.
In this search, they’re faced with brutal, marauding survivors who have evolved into a bloodthirsty new breed.
The soul of DOOMSDAY lies in a few other screen classics beyond those you’d expect, such as 28 DAYS LATER or RESIDENT EVIL. “DOOMSDAY is more in the vein of THE ROAD WARRIOR, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE WARRIORS,” Marshall says. “The viral element is an impetus to propel the movie and the story.” With this film, Marshall is taking the postapocalyptic action-adventure genre and injecting large-scale bang and gore. Case in point: The man in charge of the carnage, acclaimed makeup FX artist Paul Hyett, tells us, “I must have gone through at least 1,000 pairs of surgical gloves” in the process of wrangling blood, limbs, decapitations and then some.
The cast is headed by Rhona (THE NUMBER 23) Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Adrian Lester and Alexander Siddig, along with Marshall regulars Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson and Emma Cleasby (from DOG SOLDIERS); MyAnna Buring and Nora-Jane Noone (from THE DESCENT); and Leslie Simpson and Craig Conway (from both).
Together, they’re thrown into a high-octane, deadly adventure amidst city ruins and deserted streets, forests, hills and mountains, through a torrent of death, destruction, cannibalism and a whole lot more.
While the rest of the world may only know South Africa for its wildlife and political injustice of the past, the country has built a reputation as a sought-after filming destination, with highly professional crews and great locations (which can double for any part of the world, from tropical islands or the French Riviera to LA or the Scottish Highlands). While chatting between shots, Mitra raves, “I absolutely love Cape Town; I could easily live here.” And Buring had an opportunity to fly back home for a stretch when she wasn’t shooting, “But I said, ‘No way, I’m staying!’ ”
Besides the industrial areas, many other Cape Town locations within about a two-mile radius have been facelifted into a ruined Scotland by production designer Simon Bowles. They include the grand old city hall, the rise from which Nelson Mandela gave his first freedom speech after his release from a 27-year prison sentence. Dressed in ivy with rubble and car wrecks strewn about its perimeter, its extreme makeover couldn’t help but attract attention from passersby. Literally up the road (in the District 6 area), an open field was covered with tombstones, while a private railway platform and steam engine were messed up for a getaway sequence. Much further along the coast, at Rock View and the Grabouw area, hair-raising car chases and brutal action broke the silence of the private road winding through a rocky nature preserve. “I like to make every location or set really special,” Bowles says. “There is the argument that if it’s done really well, you shouldn’t see it, but I like to make it so fantastic that you can’t miss it!”
With a shooting schedule of over two months, the man behind the lens, cinematographer Sam McCurdy, is reteaming with Marshall for their third outing together (the DP’s other credits include THE HILLS HAVE EYES II and the upcoming THE SICKHOUSE). With the larger budget, have things been watered down to appease the financiers? Hardly, according to Hyett: “It’s more gory than ever!”
Look for a full DOOMSDAY set-report feature in Fango #271, on sale in February!