Interview: David Marantz, director of zombie drama ‘Alive’ (2023)

Alive - Courtesy October Coast
Alive - Courtesy October Coast /

Available to be viewed on demand January 31, 2023, David Marantz’s Alive is an independent zombie flick that is a bit different. We asked Mr. Marantz about these differences, and also his views on what the zombie genre has to offer.

Interview: David Marantz, director of zombie drama ‘Alive’

1428 ELM: I have watched the movie, but for those who have not, I must ask: In what way are the zombies in “Alive” different from some we have seen before?

DAVID MARANTZ: Unlike many movies where the zombies are portrayed as mindless monsters, we’ve tried to create zombies that are more ambiguous and can have more depth. Even though they’re not human anymore, we wanted to explore what the zombie apocalypse would turn into if the zombies still retained some form of sentience.

1428 ELM: Like most zombie films, a selling point here would be that it’s also about human characters. What are some of the most important dynamics in Alive?

DAVID MARANTZ: Yes, a significant part of the film focuses on the relationships between the various groups that run into each other and how they all deal with the broken world they are now forced to live in. I wanted to contrast how people from different origins dealt with such a situation: how some cling to their previous ways of life while others try to adapt and move forward. And of course how such different outlooks eventually clash when they run into each other.

Alive and zombie survival techniques

1428 ELM: What sort of zombie survival techniques would you recommend for people?

DAVID MARANTZ: In Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg’s character’s number one rule is cardio and I can’t argue with that. You need to be in shape. Beyond that, I would recommend sticking with people you can trust.

Alive – Courtesy October Coast /

1428 ELM: This movie seems to be more about daylight scenes. Is there a reason for that?

DAVID MARANTZ: I’d love to be able to say there’s some deeply meaningful choice here. But the hard truth is that for an independent and self-funded movie like ours, where a lot of the cast and crew have day jobs and are mostly available on weekends, it simply isn’t practical to schedule night shoots.

1428 ELM: There’s a bit of a cult dynamic with some of the characters. What are some of your thoughts on cults?

DAVID MARANTZ: At its heart, I think one of the defining traits of a cult is a core belief that must be accepted without question. That’s what happens with some of the characters in the film: prior to the apocalypse, they belonged to some sort of organization that did have a purpose but the collapse of civilization has essentially made that purpose obsolete. And yet they still cling to that purpose and their movement becomes a cult that still believes in a doctrine that has become meaningless.

1428 ELM: What are some of the unique challenges to writing and directing a movie like this?

DAVID MARANTZ: From a writer’s perspective, it’s trying to find a new angle to tackle what is by now a very prolific genre. As for directing, one of the biggest challenges was staying consistent in terms of style and intensity throughout the production. We not only shot the film over a series of weekends but started just before the pandemic hit. We then had to suspend principal photography until the lockdowns were lifted in the summer of 2020, then had to suspend it again in the fall until we could resume briefly in November 2020, and once again in 2021.

So it was quite a challenge to keep track of what we had shot, what we still needed to shoot, and at the same time recapture the energy, tone, and look of what we had done sometimes months earlier, during a completely different season. Some of our younger cast members were almost half a foot taller at the end of filming than when we started!

1428 ELM: Do you have any favorite horror movies and TV shows, with or without zombies?

DAVID MARANTZ: One of the great things about the zombie genre is how versatile it is, even after so many years. That’s true whether it’s on the lighter side with great zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Fido, Warm Bodies, or Zombieland, or on a more serious note with 28 Days Later, Diary of the Dead, The Girl With All The Gifts, and Army of the Dead. Outside of the zombie genre, I find horror works best for me when there is an underlying logic to it and the protagonists have to figure their way out of their predicament. So I’ll have to go with two absolute masterpieces: Alien and The Thing.

Alive and the fast-moving vs. slow-moving zombie issue

1428 ELM: Was there a debate between having fast-moving zombies or slow ones?

DAVID MARANTZ: No, I always envisioned the zombies as fast-moving. Perhaps not as fast as those in 28 Days Later but certainly not as slow-moving shambling creatures. Even though the slow-moving kind is often the one most people think of when they hear zombie, I have a hard time believing the world could be overrun by creatures that walk slower than my grandmother. So, for a full zombie apocalypse story, I think fast-moving zombies are more believable.

1428 ELM: Were there any clichés you tried to avoid in making this movie?

DAVID MARANTZ: The foremost cliché I was trying to avoid is one that plagues a lot of horror movies and its characters who make blatantly bad or nonsensical choices just to further the plot. I was constantly trying to see the world through the eyes of each character and write how they would react to every situation in a way that made sense from their point of view.

1428 ELM: Are there any future projects you want to tell us about?

DAVID MARANTZ: My producer and I are currently polishing a script and drafting a provisional budget for a haunted house horror titled The Devil’s Workshop where we’re going to try to turn a number of tropes on their heads and have some fun with that particular flavor of horror.

We’d like to thank David Marantz for taking the time to answer our questions, and feel free to check out Alive!

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Are you a fan of zombie films? How would you rank Alive within the genre? Let us know in the comments section.