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Unhuman Director Marcus Dunstan Reveals The Nod To Rom-Coms In His Horror Film - Exclusive

On the surface, horror movies and romantic comedies have little in common, but whether characters are running from a man with a knife or running toward one another for a kiss, both revel in heightened situations — and that's especially true if the story focuses on teenagers. With its talk of high school crushes and funny flourishes, "Unhuman" (the zombie frightfest from co-writer and director Marcus Dunstan) bakes a fair share of romance and comedy into its terrifying premise, and in the process illustrates some of the ways those genres can mix with horror, as well as where they depart.

"Unhuman" tells the tale of a school field trip gone terrifyingly awry when the bus transporting the students runs off the road and a bloody figure appears at the door and attacks. Soon the teens are fighting for their lives against an enemy that just keeps coming, but even as more of their classmates appear to transform into zombies, they continue to tentatively flirt with the objects of their affection and do what they can to maintain the high school social hierarchy. Dunstan spoke exclusively to Looper about why he baked nods to romantic and teen comedies into "Unhuman."

Dunstan used 'Unhuman' to comment on well-known movie genres

"Unhuman" includes plenty of bloody action and nail-biting setups, but Dunstan didn't want the start of the movie to hint at the horror to come. Instead, he decided to make the opening minutes of his film reminiscent of rom-coms and teen comedies, with scenes including a minor accident that leads to adorable flirting, a car of popular kids jeering as they hurl a drink at a less popular boy, and two characters laughing while talking about the classmates they're crushing on. Dunstan included these moments because, at heart, "Unhuman" is a story about the consequences of bullying, and beginning the film with romance and comedy enabled Dunstan to subtly point to the way many beloved comedies about the teen years glorify bullying and other bad behavior. Meanwhile, the rest of his movie tips its hat to the way many horror movies punish bullies' terrible behavior.

"I wanted to give that 15 minutes or so of ... remember those seminal romantic comedies and teenage comedies that are now being re-reviewed for, in some cases, having some absolutely appalling morals stuck in there?" Dunstan explained. "Remember the movies that were considered appalling that actually had the scared straight program modus operandi, like 'Friday the 13th'? Hey, if you're a jerk, you're dead. If you do drugs, you're dead. If you cheat on someone, you're dead. The romantic comedies and the teen movies were like, 'Guess what? Let's get trashed and harass the geek.' I wanted to take that, use all of it, use every aspect of it."

As a result, viewers may find the high school bullies that populate "Unhuman" every bit as horrifying as its villains.

"Unhuman" is currently available on digital platforms.