Our chat with Lionsgate’s “Squealer” writer/director Andy Armstrong & co-writer/producer Danielle Burgio, about the social commentary behind their intense thriller movie
Tyrese Gibson (The Fast and the Furious franchise) and Theo Rossi (“Sons of Anarchy”) star in this terrifying thriller inspired by real events. When young women start disappearing in a small town, a police officer and a street-smart social worker follow clues to a remote pig farm, where they discover the local butcher has been bringing his work home. Enter the world of a serial killer and experience for yourself the bloodcurdling horror of a film that’s bound to take your breath away.
Now available in Selected Theaters, On Digital and On Demand.
I got to talk about the social commentary because I absolutely love the line all life matters and have to really believe that all lives matter. So I want to talk about how important, between the horror and everything that’s happening around the story, how important was for the two of you to make sure that that message is still there and that people can get a grasp of it?
Yeah, I think authenticity is something that is very, very important to us. And we wanted to keep everything, everything in the movie grounded in reality. We didn’t ever want to step over a line that makes it, uh, sort of too fantastic or too, uh, too sort of designed, you know, I wanted to make sure that everything was hung on the back of real life and that it that it’s, uh, it’s it’s, you know, beauty or horror are never one dimensional.
There’s always, even within the horror, there’s this beautiful landscape, there’s beautiful sunsets, it’s beautiful things happening. Um, and the darkness happens within that. And I think for me, that was sort of one of the important themes of the movie.
Absolutely. When we were writing this, you know, obviously this story, it’s inspired by a true story. So it’s not entirely true. We took some liberties with it. We were very much wanting to be respectful to any victims or anybody that was connected to this story and also to honor the crowd of the horror genre. But throughout the entire process, Andy and I really wanted to hit on exactly what you’ve brought up that these lives matter, that these women.
Even though that there are sex workers or drug addicts or whatever, that they are just as important. And unfortunately, in society that doesn’t always come through. So one of our lead characters, Lisa, who is the social worker, this is this is her plight. This is what is so passionate for her. And this is what sort of spirals the story that she gets. She gets a glimpse of something that starts to unravel.
And it’s her passion for this thread. This, like every one of these human beings matter, and especially these ones that are people are overlooking just because they think they’re disposable. And that was a part of the true story that we really wanted to lean into.
You just mentioned something really important talking about Lisa specifically, I pride myself on spotlighting films or projects that have female leads and I was pleasantly surprised to see by through the final act we see how everything transpires, when we see Lisa in that situation, having to overcome the situation and just trying to deal with her emotions, even though this was based in a true story, was, this is a liberty that you guys took or was that there from the beginning?
I think there’s some there’s an accuracy and truth in that, you know, the fact that, the biggest sort of letdown in real life that the victims had is that, as Danielle said, is that they’re sort of on the fringes of society. So it’s as simple as not enough people care enough about those people and I think that’s better in a story sense.
I think that’s it’s sort of better to see that through the eyes of a woman, I think. I think that was important that that’s Lisa’s thing, is that she’s recognizing this lack of empathy and lack of sympathy that we have for these people and is trying to get something done about it. And a lot of the mostly men are sort of disrespect, you know, disregarding it because these characters are not they’re not important enough in their lives, you know, and I think that if there is a message and under the sort of horror movie theme, it’s, it’s that that just as Danielle said, it’s everybody is important, you know, no, no, life is really worth less than another.
And it’s a sad thing that we have in real society is that people tend to unless it’s in their own backyard, they don’t sort of regard them. And I think it gets worse with the internet, and there are lots of things that we can see. It’s easy to disregard people as unimportant. And, you know, no one’s unimportant.
Yeah. In terms of the thread of her, of Lisa’s storyline, I mean, I think, you know, in writing the script, we always, you know, wanted her to be that force, that driving force. And I don’t want to give up, give away too much. But what I particularly love about her is that she, you know, she’s very human. She’s very flawed. She has a lot of demons of her own. She is far from squeaky clean. And she it’s not like she just shows up as some, like, you know, badass chick. She has quite a lot to overcome. But yes, that was all. That was all very intentional, I think, from the beginning for us.
I think the social commentary is the thing that stood out to me the most, and I think people are going to grasp that fairly quickly, but what do you expect people to take away from the story once they finish seeing?
Hope it’ll operate on lots of levels. You know, first, the very basic level of people that want to see blood and gore and sort of victimization of women. But I hope on another level, there will be this fact that these people are just, they’re just unlucky enough to not have people in their lives that care enough about them and think that’s I hope the movie works on both those levels. You know, a lot of people that’s going to go over their head or whatever, but think there is a definite, uh, you know, I certainly have compassion for those sort of people. And so I think it is in, you know, it is important that they recognized. And so I hope it works on that level too.
And I think for me, you know, I think the, the main reason people like to see movies, it’s either for knowledge or for just, you know, to escape life as we know it, to take a little break. So I hope that we’ll take them on a ride. I hope they will experience a wide range of emotion. Um, and if I had any other final thing to take away, maybe it’s don’t take drugs from strangers.