December 14, 2012

Interview: Joe Zerull (dir. A CADAVER CHRISTMAS) - Part One


Interview with Joe Zerull
(director A Cadaver Christmas)- 
Part 1

[ SKIP TO PART TWO ]

It's the holiday season. Halls are being decked, bells are jingling, and Santa Clause will soon be coming to town.

It's also that time of year when horror fans go through their film collections looking for yuletide-themed horror movies to bring some fear to their festivities. In the world of Christmas horror, there's plenty of deadly dolls, sadistic Santas, and gift-sized gremlins to choose from, but Christmas zombies have been virtually nowhere to be found. That is, until A Cadaver Christmas -- the grindhouse-styled horror/comedy from director Joe Zerull -- was released earlier this year.

A Cadaver Christmas tells the merry tale of a bloody janitor, the town drunk, and a disgraced local cop who must save Christmas and the rest of the world from flesh-hungry cadavers. Directed by Joe Zerull, A Cadaver Christmas is now available on video and VOD from Level 33 Entertainment.
Today on The Zed Word, we get Joe Zerull under the mistletoe to ask him all about the making of A Cadaver Christmas. From its beginning as a 48 Hour Film short, Zerull looks back at the making of this soon-to-be holiday classic and opens up a stocking's worth of goodies about his influences, and the struggles of turning a quirky short film into an independent zombie feature

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ZED WORD: What was your inspiration for the original A Cadaver Christmas short. Why combine Christmas and Zombies?

JOE ZERULL: In 2006 we participated in the first ever Fall Shootout for the 48 Hour Film Project. The 48 Hour Film Project is a competition that takes place in cities all over the world…where you are given your genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialog. Then you have to write, produce, direct, edit, and turn in the film in 48 hours.

What made the Fall Shootout a little different was Sam Adams Beer was sponsoring the event - so each film got a different Sam Adams beer to include in their movie. We got a Christmas themed beer ["Old Feziwig Ale"], and then we drew Science Fiction for the genre. I'm a horror junkie and my original idea was to cover [Dan Hale, who plays the janitor] in blood and have him go into a bar talking about a science experiment gone wrong in the cadaver lab at the university. In fact, I wrote a quick script titled "Cadaver Lab" but once we got that Christmas Beer it changed to "A Cadaver Christmas"


ZW: Can you talk about your influences? Treevenge and The Evil Dead get little cameos in the movie, but what other directors, films, or overall film-making philosophies informed your work on A Cadaver Christmas?

JZ: Evil Dead has influenced so many independent directors and producers because of its anti-hollywood sensibility, especially for people like me living in the Upper Midwestern United States. A bunch of kids from Michigan drove down to Tennessee to make a film on their own…that romantic part of filmmaking was most inspiring because it meant you didn't have to move out West to make a movie. The film does crazy things with the perspective of the camera that were very innovative, and with a lot of hard work and creativity they accomplished the impossible. I can't say I'm looking forward to the remake because the idea alone takes away that independent spirit.

Times are different now. Advances in technology with cheap DSLR cinema quality cameras have made it easy for anyone to become a filmmaker, with the ability to produce stellar images on less than a dollar budget. This is an awesome and terrible thing at the same time. It is awesome because people like me get an opportunity to live out a dream and do something that would not have been afforded to them a decade or more ago. However, there are hundreds of people out there like me who have dreams and aspirations to make a film and we have flooded the independent genre filmmaking market - which is great for distribution companies but bad for indie filmmakers looking to make it a full-time gig. There are tons of great little indie horror films out there whose directors never make a second film. Audiences now might not care about that kinda thing like I did growing up.

Growing up for me was all about John Carpenter movies…especially the ones with Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell was, and still is, an onscreen idol of mine. My grandpa had John Wayne. My dad had Clint Eastwood. I love both those actors and have always thought of Kurt Russell as the secret love child they had together. So while writing dialog for certain characters in my film, I wrote them as if I was Jack Burton. Big Trouble in Little China is probably my most-watched and adored film by Carpenter, so it definitely had the biggest influence on me while writing Cadaver.

I discovered TREEVENGE while making Cadaver…and absolutely loved it. The idea was original and brilliant and the payoff was absolutely amazing. In recent years there have been several genre movies that have shown violence towards children and or babies…for the most part those movies are terrible and the violence is unjustified and only for shock value…but in TREEVENGE…that baby deserves it!

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What setback delayed A Cadaver Christmas for almost a year? How does the director of a Christmas zombie movie imagine handeling the zombie apocalypse? Find out in Part Two of our interview over at Horror in the Hammer.