Deadly Movies Indie Scene | The Dead and the Damned
Rene Peraz has created a cracking zombie flick. I usually die a little inside when I receive another zombie horror to look at. However this is a distinctly different beast. A period horror set in the Wild West, ‘The Dead and the Damned‘ is well shot, well acted, and very well executed, a feat lost on most Indie horror films (especially zombie movies). I genuinely have no hesitation in saying ‘The Dead and the Damned‘ is hands down the best Indie zombie film I’ve ever been asked to look at (and I get sent a lot of bloody zombie films!). This week Deadly Movies chatted to the director Rene Perez about the movie, gore effects, low budget filmmaking, zombies, cowboys, and all things in-between. Click more to read the full interview as well as more exclusive images, poster art, and trailer link.
Deadly Movies: Zombies and Westerns? Genius. The zombie market is incredibly cluttered these days, everyone with a video cell phone is making zombie movies. You’ve come up with something a little different here that instantly sparks intrigue.
Rene Perez: I’ve think if your gonna do something, make it as unique as possible. If I were to make a regular zombie movie, I would have to compete with all of the bigger budgeted zombie movie’s out there. In Hollywood an ultra low budget movie is a half million to one million dollars. And since our entire budget was only thirty thousand dollars, I had to find an option to stand out in a big way. I thought we could do that by best setting the story in the wild west.
DM: One thing that low budget and Indie filmmakers often get wrong is the effort put into the physical look of the movie. Your movie looks great, how have you achieved this on a budget?
RP: One of the reasons I chose the wild west is because we could get the look right. I wouldn’t have done a western unless I thought we could make it look real. My crew and I live in California and there’s a lot of wild west re-enactors and aficionados. We even found a couple of really nice people who had built wild west towns on their properties for their own enjoyment. For us it was like having a giant movie sets. Both of those things gave us a genuine costume and set look. As for lead actors, I chose an actress with natural beauty as opposed to a modern glamour look. Our lead male actor was a friend of mine and I knew he has a star presence but in a more subtle way. Our Indian warrior actor was a real life Apache so that was lucky for us. All in all, the actors looked like they could be in a big budget movie instead of a low budget movie which is usually filled with college students.
I don’t like to plan things out intellectually for artistic projects. Especially movie’s. Instincts are better than shot lists and plans in my opinion. I like to just feel things out when I get to the location. That way I can use the energy of the location and the actors to guide the way. Also on our budget, planning things out ahead of time is a waste of time because things change on a hourly basis. You can’t really plan things out unless you have the money to make those things happen. Basically I show up, see what changes/ restrictions have occurred due to money constraints and then try to achieve a good scene with what we do have on hand. So to answer your question, I think we achieved this look by being artistic as opposed to acting like filmmakers. Filmmakers need a lot of planning and resources. A real artist can make something out of anything.
DM: The costumes and makeup look superb.., I genuinely mean that. It’s all to easy to make sloppy, cheap looking Z-effects. But you’ve delivered some pretty gruesome looking members of the living dead that all have subtle difference in skin tone etc (I spotted some blue skin creatures in there, reminiscent of Savini’s ‘Dawn’ zombies?!). Talk us through the creature designs and makeup process.
RP: The make up cost us the most time, money and suffering more than anything else on this movie. But I think it’s imperative to have zombies that look scary. I’ve never understood how some zombie movie’s get away with just putting blood around an actors mouth with some light color make up pasted on their faces. They usually just look like people acting foolish. I wanted to avoid that at all costs. And if an actor looks scary, it’ll be easier to act scary. Making the movie scary was essential for me. So many zombie movies these days are overly campy, some by choice, some not. I myself don’t see the point in making a non-scary horror movie. Zombie movies are horror and I went out of my way to exclude any camp or comedy of any kind. I focused on suspense, action and horror. So having scary looking zombie’s was a must.
DM: Horror fans can be brutal, and there’s one visual choice you’ve made a narrative decision that will stir some controversy…, Runners! Your zombies are of the fast paced variety made famous by ’28 Days Later’ and the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake (both great films IMO). Why did you go for runners over walkers and what do you say to those who will say it goes against all that is sacred in the zombie genre?
RP: Slow zombies only work in masses or in a confined space. If we had slow zombies in our movie, our hero’s would simply out run them. We have action heroes as our lead actors. Most horror movies have weak males so that the women feel more of the threat. For example, if the men in Jason movies were tuff, they wouldn’t be afraid of Jason. That’s why you don’t see a Rambo type guy playing the boyfriend in the Jason movies. In the Dead and the Damned we have a gun slinger bounty hunter and an Apache Warrior. And although they are afraid of the zombie’s, they fight back in a big way. So the zombie’s had to be fast and scary if they were going to fight against our hero’s. Also, our zombies are actually mutants. They aren’t back from the dead. Our story starts with a group of gold miners cracking open an ancient meteor. They were hoping to find emeralds but all they get were alien spores which mutated them into ravenous zombie’s. And since they aren’t back from the dead I saw no need to make them slow. Our zombie’s/mutants are faster and stronger than humans. They just aren’t as smart.
DM: I noticed the use of both practical and digital effect work in the kills. Where possible do you try to do practical ‘in-camera’ effects or are you an endorser or digital gore?
RP: I’m not sold on digital FX. Not for little movie’s like mine anyways. I tried to get as much of the effects to happen for real but practical FX are getting to be more expensive than CGI FX. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. For example, when one of the zombie’s got shot, we added in a CGI blood splatter instead of an old fashion squib inside of the costume. I prefer the look of the old fashioned squibs but once you do that the costume is ruined. And you usually only get one take, and you have to have a licensed Pyrotechnics guy who is part of a union to set up and pop off the squibs. So yeah, it gets expensive. On the other hand, the digital blood was very cheap. And all I had to do was film it in a way that the fake blood would not bring too much attention to itself. I’d say we had an equal amount of both types of effects.
DM: You’ve raised the dead in the Wild West. If you could make the dead walk in another time or place where would choose? I’ve always been partial to zombies vs the English crusades. I’ll split that idea with you if you like!
RP: Crusades sound great and this is a good question. I did think about a sequel right after we finished filming the first one. And I thought if there is a sequel, I’d like to set the time period in the 10th or 11th century. And I’d set it in Scandinavia so that I can use Viking warriors. That would take a bigger budget though. It could be ‘The Dead and the Damned- Viking Age’ or something like that.
Be sure to check out the ‘The Dead and the Damned’ trailer here, you won’t be disappointed.