8 Questions to Die For: ’51′ Director Jason Connery

In cooperation with After Dark Films and Lionsgate, on Saturday, February 26, at 9PM (ET/PT) SyFy is premiering 51, one of the eight “After Dark Originals” exclusively on their channel.

Instead of acquiring the films after the fact, as with “8 Films to Die For”, these Originals were developed from the ground up at the famed genre distributor in an effort to create “high quality horror films” with full input from the After Dark team.

B-D reporter Chris Eggertsen put eight questions to the directors of each of the films, in a series we’ve been calling “8 Questions to Die For: Interviews with the Directors of the After Dark Originals”. In this latest installment we interview director Jason Connery, helmer of the horror/sci-fi mash-up 51.

The film follows a group of reporters as they’re given access to the top-secret Area 51 facility for an unprecedented look inside, only to end up fighting for their lives after one of the aliens held at the base decides to exploit the opportunity by attempting an escape. See inside for the full interview.
Nothing quite does the trick like a good ol’ fashioned sci-fi horror flick, and while there are few truly good ones, director Jason Connery is giving it the old school try with 51, the first of several planned films (including Oren Peli’s Area 51 and J.J. Abrams’ Super 8) dealing with the top-secret Area 51 government facility, around which conspiracy theories have been floated for decades. Connery’s film deals with what happens when the alien life forms secretly being held there decide to attempt an escape when several top reporters are invited inside for an unprecedented tour. In the interview, the director tells us whether the existence of those other higher-profile Area 51 films bothers him at all, his thoughts on the existence of extraterrestrial life, and whether the majority of the effects featured in the film are CG or practical.

Bloody-Disgusting: Your film is rated “R” for “bloody violence”. So just how bloody do things get?

Jason Connery: Well, things do get pretty bloody! Without giving too much away, there are a number of Alien life forms in the facility and they all have different things going on, but I can safely say there are a couple who are just plain mean, and seem to be perpetually hungry!

BD: So the synopsis says the aliens are “staging an escape” from the Area 51 facility, which kinda makes me want to root for the aliens. Are we at any point supposed to feel sorry for them – i.e. the “sympathetic monsters”, or is it mostly just “go, humans, go!”?

JC: There is one alien in particular who is staging an escape, but before it escapes it has a piece of information it needs to know, and when that information is garnered, we as an audience will have real sympathy to its findings!

BD: This is not a “found footage” film like Oren Peli’s upcoming Area 51, and luckily you’re beating that one to theaters by a mile, but did news of Peli’s project at any point make your heart sink a little? Or maybe that little J.J. Abrams project known as “Super 8″ (which is also about Area 51)? It’s a crowded field out there.

JC: There are so many different avenues to explore with Area 51, peoples imaginations run rampant with Conspiracy theories, which I think is fantastic! There is plenty of room for them all, the more the merrier I say, Whenever I have spoken to people about the film, they all have their theory, and all have been different.

BD: Do you believe there’s something of an extraterrestrial nature contained at Area 51? It’s ok if you say no – I think we can all happily agree your answer will not affect our enjoyment of the film either way!

JC: I think there is something there, why not? The universe is so incomprehensively huge, I think they got things there!!!

BD: Forgive me, but I have to ask the perennial question given that this is a movie about aliens – how much of the effects work is practical, how much is CGI?

JC: The Aliens are all practical, I believe in having as much “real” and then using CGI (if the budget allows for it) to enhance the practical, we are obviously working on a limited budget and time, but even if it were bigger I would do it this way, there is something about a physical entity that works for me. Call me old fashioned!

BD: Can you talk at all about the look of the aliens? I will assume based on the one screen grab I have seen (some sort of tentacle threatening star Rachel Miner) that they aren’t exactly of the human-esque E.T. or “Fire in the Sky” variety.

JC: I would prefer not to go into too much detail as far as the looks, but there are a number and they all look different. I will say that there is definitely a hat tip to the original “Gray” [the humanoid aliens with the large black oval-shaped eyes that are most commonly featured in abduction stories], and another one has an ability to appear changed at certain times…obscure enough for you?

BD: Tonally, would you say your film is more “Alien” (suspense-oriented) or “Aliens” (action-packed extravaganza)?

JC: In fact the film is both! It starts off as all suspense…. what is going to happen? Is there any alien life forms here? And then moves into action packed extravaganza with a relentless drive towards the final outcome!

BD: Will you be returning to horror/sci-fi again anytime soon? Any future genre projects in the works?

JC: I am about to shoot an action film for Warner Bros and After Dark, but I think I will be returning to a project after that with a back drop of the 1947 Roswell spaceship incident, It is a collaboration with SyFy again and I think the idea is really fun!