From "Night of the Living Dead" to "Dead Alive" to "28 Days Later", the zombie genre keeps on going and going and going... and, quite frankly, that's cool with me. I love 'em. The original "Night of the Living Dead" probably gave the weakest, albeit coolest, explanation as to why the dead walk. Because when hell is full, the dead shall walk the earth. Since then, nuclear waste, radiation, a virus and aliens have all been responsible, as well.
For indie horror filmmakers, zombie films offer a fairly easy entry point into filmmaking. There are only so many plotlines (you're either involved in the spreading of the zombie crisis or you're trying to survive the zombie crisis) and it doesn't take much to create an army of zombies. Make-up is minimal, acting skills to play a zombie are even more minimal. However, the problem then becomes, how do you separate yourself from all these other zombie films? Well, by tweaking, changing and working with those two plotlines and/or by adding lots of gore, boobs and humor. "Dead Country" does all of that.
"Dead Country", written by Anthony Davis, Clifford Hoeft, Kaye Redhead and directed by Andrew Merkelbach is filled with the necessary guts and nudity, but also plays with the plot by adding a bit of a sci-fi twist. You see, a spaceship filled with hazardous material explodes over a small town, turning the townsfolk into zombies. Then, it's up to the alien responsible, plus a small group of survivors to stop the problem from spreading. It's a great new addition to the zombie genre and Brad had a chance to discuss the film with Andrew Merkelbach...
Describe your background and what got you into filmmaking
I made my first "home" movie at age 8 on a friends camcorder and before that time I used to direct and act out stories with action figures. He-man sure had some crazy adventures lol I've always had a fascination with movies. I've always been good at drawing, so I used to watch a movie a then draw my own version of the story. I can remember going to the video store every saturday with my parents and choosing a bunch of movies for the weekend. Even though I was like six or seven at the time, I couldn't resist secretly taking a peak at the horror section of the store. Some of those video covers used to freak me out, you know, but I kept coming back for more every weekend. It was like a forbidden taboo or something. I was lucky enough to sit through the second half of Return of the Living Dead and the first half of Evil Dead 2 thanks to my then teenage brother and sister. I can remember the folks not being too happy about it, but my siblings were cool, because they used to either fast forward or talk to me during the more horrific moments. It never bothered me though. I knew it wasn't real. That's what I often say to people now. Horror movies back in the old days were totally unbelievable and that what made them so fun. The old story of a monster under the bed or a zombie army outside is all OK. Although I think you have to be very careful with todays psychological / reality-based horror.
What are the directors and/or films that have inspired you the most and why?
There are so many great directors, stars and movies that has inspired me as a filmmaker. George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Lloyd Kaufman's Toxic Avenger, Blake Edward's Shot In The Dark, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu, John Carpenters Halloween, Lew Landers The Boogie Man Will Get You, Bill Malone's House On Haunted Hill, Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, Bruno Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead, Peter Rogers Carry On films and most of Steven Seagal's and Van Damme's action flicks. All of these movies and people have made me want to get out there and make my own horror opus.
Film school: yes or no?
Yeah, I've done a bit of film school. Haven't we all in this industry? lol Although the irony is that I was already practicing most of what I being taught. I've researched a lot on my own. And I've learnt a lot from first-hand experience too.
What was it that made you decide to add the sci-fi angle to, "Dead Country" and how did you accomplish the effects?
My previous films all had sci-fi connections, so I just thought I'd bring some techno-babble over to this project lol I've always liked the whole hazardous-waste-makes-zombie's scenario, but making the waste of an intergalactic nature just gave the story a different dimension.
What elements, do you believe combine to make a great movie?
A not too complicated story. Sex, violence and possibly gore, because all three of those things sell. Also, I think if your making a low budget horror, you really don't want to take yourself too seriously. Primarily it has to be fun for people to watch. Humor is always good. And I think you have to be aware of your target audience at all times. Don't try and make it in the image of Shakespeare lol
How did you go about securing financing and what was the budget?
The project was mostly self-financed, but I did have some help along the way.
What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?
We used many different cameras for Dead Country. Although everything was shot on digital video. All up the shoot took us 10 months.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome to make, "Dead Country?"
The weather! lol Some of our shoots we're shot on incredibly cold winter weekends!
Film festivals: yes or no?
Dead Country hasn't been screened at a film festival because we wanted to release the film straight to DVD. However, I've had three previous shorts screened at RadCon.
How's the disribution going? any tips you can give for people looking to get their movie out there?
Dead Country's on shiny DVD thanks to Midnight Releasing and it's doing swell. It sounds kind of corny, but my advice is never give up. Be persistent and never stop giving your all in whatever you do.