Unhuman's Marcus Dunstan On How Real-Life High School Horrors Became Part Of The Film - Exclusive

No matter who we are in high school, whether we are the prom queen or the shy, quiet type, the experience leaves an indelible mark that impacts how we see ourselves and who we become as we move into adulthood. This is something director and co-writer Marcus Dunstan understood when he decided to mine this delicate time in life as the backbone of his latest horror movie, "Unhuman."

When the movie's group of high school students are on a bus that crashes in the woods while en route to a field trip and then are confronted by a hungry zombie, instead of exploring the joys of nature, the teenagers themselves fighting off an expanding horde of the undead. And in this moment, the students' shared plight could bring everyone from the high school nerds to the bullying jocks together, or their ingrained divisions could lead to their collective demise.

To create his "Blumhouse Afterschool Special," Dunstan went beyond the script he penned with Patrick Melton to incorporate the real-life high school horrors faced by his cast and crew. It's a strategy that makes the movie's depiction of high school hang-ups and hierarchies all the more potent, even as the zombies just keep coming. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Dunstan explained how he used "Unhuman" as a vehicle for exploring — and healing from — the high school experience.

Dunstan 'put his arms around the [high school] experience'

"Unhuman" may be crawling with zombies, but they are simply there to play on their teen targets' insecurities and weaknesses. To ensure the characters stayed true to life, Dunstan not only reflected on his own high school experience for the film, but encouraged his cast and crew to do the same, turning the shoot into something of a group therapy session.

"Ultimately, I wanted to put my arms around the [high-school] experience and leave things that haunted me there," Dunstan explained of his approach to "Unhuman," adding, "I asked that of every cast member and crew as well, like, 'If something comes to mind, let's say we scratch the surface of a moment. Please share it. Let's put it in [the film].' And by God we did. It could be someone working with lights, camera, or whatnot. There was this, 'Let's use this opportunity to be a bit of a time machine. Does something still hurt? Does something still haunt you? Let's face it and leave it there.' By doing so, maybe we're going to help somebody [who's currently going through high school] get through a vulnerable, harrowing moment in their formation."

As a result of this directive, Dunstan indicated that "Unhuman" became a vessel for the formative memories of his filmmaking team, which makes it all the more meaningful for viewers. "There was a moment of everything in [the film] that had to come from someone who worked on this movie's actual life," Dunstan noted. "Somebody had to give something that we could donate to this experience, so it maybe hit you a little more in an unexpected, but really heartrending, way."

"Unhuman" is currently available on digital platforms.