By: Kayla Caldwell
THE CHANGED is an homage to a sub-genre of horror, featuring one of the most iconic horror actors, the beloved Tony Todd. It hones in on fears we can all relate to, like being trapped, feeling helpless, genuinely not knowing what to do next. Ahead of its release, we were able to chat with director, Michael Mongillo. Through the delightful conversation, we discussed his horror inspirations, what it's like working with Tony Todd, and the fact (that all horror fans know) that horror has always been "woke."
CREEPY KINGDOM: Where did you get the idea for THE CHANGED? MICHAEL MONGILLO: I'm a very big fan of Philip Kaufman's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). I'm a big fan of Don Siegel's version. I like Abel Ferrara's version, Body Snatchers (1993), and I've always just enjoy enjoyed that, you know, little sub-genre of pod people, movie and sci-fi sci-fi thriller. So, also, being a fan of Alex Garland, and a lot of the people who are doing a lot of revisionist type of storytelling and genre, I thought I would take a crack at doing the same thing for the pod people genre. CREEPY KINGDOM: Could you talk a little bit about the decision to have the change happen after a kiss? MICHAEL MONGILLO: It really was one of those major shifts, you know, again, in a revisionist way, the whole idea of those, aliens being plant-based or some kind of biological organism always just seemed kind of sloppy to me in those movies, as much as I loved them. So, it was just one of those things that I thought would be a much more interesting conveyance of the entity in that story. Also, maybe backing up to the first question, this script was based on the first 10 pages of another entire script that was much more expanded. It wasn't quite a chamber piece, and in this film, if you've seen it, there are certainly some religious overtones, and one of the religious overtones is being betrayed with a kiss, and that plays into what will now be the sequel, we hope.
CREEPY KINGDOM: One thing I talked about with Jason Alan Smith (Mac) is the scene when he's trying to get everything under control, and he just goes upstairs and has that kind of freak out for a minute, but then saying, "Everything is okay." That was like an interesting scene, because regardless of whether it's a situation any of us have actually been in, the emotion there is so relatable, and the kind of need to be like, "I can do this, but I need to absolutely freak out first." MICHAEL MONGILLO: Oh, I'm so pleased to hear you say that. It was so condensed, and, of course, everything's happening in about a 24-hour period that, to find moments where we could have those characterizations, where you could see something that's relatable, and that the audience could either identify with or sympathize with or empathize with. It was very important to me to try and find those moments. So I'm really pleased that you responded to that moment. CREEPY KINGDOM: I also always love seeing a heroine in a movie, so interesting kind of seeing Clare Foley's character's journey as well, from being at school and feeling so isolated, to joking with Mac and being resolute in the decision to fight back. MICHAEL MONGILLO: I think she's wonderful, and, you know, in 24 hours, there's not a lot of room for an arc, but if somebody has one, it's definitely her. I love Carlee Avers' role, too, where she's just immediately fierce, and that's the one who you have to watch out for.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Aside from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, are there any other horror sub genres that connect with you? MICHAEL MONGILLO: When we were pitching it, it really came down to what you might imagine. It is based on the movie that you saw, which is really the plot of Night of the Living Dead, with the story of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 'Cause we have all these people sequestered in what many people call a siege film. Right? So, it of course echoed into those kind of, you know, Assault on Precinct 13, the original Night of the Living Dead, and those kinds of stories where people are trapped in one place, and trying to keep it open and trying to keep it fresh. For horror, you know, I suppose technically this is a horror film, what I call a social horror film, you know? There's definitely a couple of jump scares in there, and it's very creepy, and people have said it makes them feel very uncomfortable. But, I don't think people are going to get, you know, the blood and guts and those kinds of visceral thrills that they might from another type of horror film. CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah, I think another thing, too is just the times that we're in now. We're not dealing with aliens or anything, but just the feeling of being trapped in your house, and kind of being aware of something outside that you're trying to avoid. So I feel like you can pull a lot of current feelings from it. MICHAEL MONGILLO: I think so, too. You know, the funny thing is, it being so relatable in the age of COVID, I think that's what's so great and enduring about all of these landmark films, you know, Philip Kaufman's version, and the original is even though they're a reflection of the time that they're made, they're always going to resonate, I think, with people down the road. You know, just it's going to be the new thing, right? CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah, I mean, it's the great thing about film. MICHAEL MONGILLO: Exactly. CREEPY KINGDOM: There is a horror legend in THE CHANGED. Could you talk a little bit about working with Tony Todd? MICHAEL MONGILLO: Oh, Tony Todd, what a delight! Honestly, I've had the opportunity to work with some pretty big names in my so-called career. And, he, Virginia Madsen and Lacey Chabert are just all the nicest people. I've enjoyed everyone, but those are people I want to hang out with. And, of course, what an amazing thing to, you know, going back, how many decades to the original Candyman, and all these years later, I just loved that film so, so much, and I've had the opportunity to work with both Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd since then. So, I can't say enough good things about him. He was actually the person I wanted in that role, when we started talking about casting. I said, gosh, if we can get anybody, I want Tony Todd - and we were able to get him.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Wow. That's awesome. What do you hope people get out of watching THE CHANGED? MICHAEL MONGILLO: Well, you know, it's tough to make a film, especially nowadays and claim to be apolitical, but I didn't want to make a political statement. I really just wanted a story about people. This is an echo of what we talked about with the actors and other people involved in the process of the film, is that you could look at the film in two ways; and that's either everybody's right, or everybody's wrong. In my opinion, everybody's right, and everybody's wrong. And that's what I like about the movie, because I really didn't want to plant my flag in one direction, or one sociopolitical viewpoint or another, but obviously those parallels are pretty easy to draw. CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah. But I think that's just another great thing about horror. And it's funny when people say, you know, oh, "horror's woke now." And it's like, there's always been subtext in horror. You just have not been paying attention. MICHAEL MONGILLO: Yeah. How many books have been written on the last girl? You know, I mean for how long it's been there. And the fans know.
THE CHANGED releases in theaters and on demand March 4, 2022.