How ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Inspired Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk’s Directorial Debut ‘Hell of a Summer’

Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk were tired of the garbled Gen Z stereotypes plastered about modern Hollywood — so, they created their own narrative in “Hell of a Summer.”

“Our number one conversation was how annoying it is to see new teen movies and how badly our age group is represented,” says Wolfhard. “And we’re like, ‘Why don’t we just do it?’” And so they did.

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Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 10, “Hell of a Summer” serves as both Wolfhard and Bryk’s feature directorial debuts (Bryk says it’s a “dream come true” to have the film premiere at Toronto). However, the two actors didn’t just co-direct the film — they also starred in and wrote the feature.

The film extends the duo’s portfolio of joint projects, having previously co-starred in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “When You Finish Saving the World.” What’s the secret to their synergetic success? “We’re friends first,” reveals Wolfhard. “It feels like this film is a visual representation of our friendship in so many ways,” adds Bryk.

Bryk says the film is “the result of our shared sensibilities,” recalling that the plot of “Hell of a Summer” came together with a shared concept for a slasher comedy. “I’d written this scene for this idea of a character who published a kill list at a sleepaway camp,” with its ranking being determined by “hotness and popularity.”

Bryk’s proposal incorporated a sense of irony in the notion that the exclusivity of the list angered fellow campers who hadn’t been ranked high. “I told Finn [about it] in passing, and he’s like, ‘Dude, I wrote the exact same scene,’” continued Bryk. “That became the basis of like, alright, we should do something with that.”

Wolfhard and Bryk agree that Edgar Wright’s 2004 horror “Shaun of the Dead” was a “huge” inspiration for their own film. “To us, that was kind of the epitome of a film that does homage to classic horror films while also being a really great character-driven comedy,” says Bryk.

“Specifically in ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ Shaun’s just trying to get his girlfriend back. He actually doesn’t care about the zombie apocalypse, like at all,” Wolfhard explains. “So I would say that this is a movie where people are given full license to be weird and narcissistic in the face of death,” adds Bryk.

Their idea was to take “this world of horror, which is very iconic, and also [create a] good teen comedy [defined by] good teen characters.”

“I think that [Gen Z is] so often written and represented by people not of the generation,” says Bryk. “We both [have] read a million scripts where it’s like you’re reading what somebody else thinks a young person speaks or acts like, and I think that often can be very two-dimensional or cliche.”

Will Wolfhard and Bryk merge their modern point of view in future projects? “I imagine that we’ll still be working together,” Bryk offers. “We have the same exact tastes and movies and things, so I don’t think we’ll ever go too far away.”

“We’re pretty interlinked,” Wolfhard adds in celebration of their co-directorial debut.

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