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Debuting today on DVD from Inception Media Group, THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED is a combination of horror
and Western tropes that unleashes flesheating ghouls on a California town.
Fango spoke to first-time writer/director Rene Perez about the movie, and we’ve
also got an exclusive clip to share at the end of the interview.
FANGORIA: Tell us about THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED’s storyline.
RENE PEREZ: It’s the California Gold Rush, and miners find
an ancient meteor. They crack it open in hopes of finding emeralds, but end up
unwittingly releasing alien spores that infect the entire town and change the
people into ravenous, bloodthirsty mutants. A bounty hunter comes into town
with his Indian warrior prisoner, and they come face to face with the zombie
hordes. The two have to team up to survive.
FANG: Have you always been a fan of zombie films and
PEREZ: I’ve loved the Clint Eastwood Westerns since I was a
kid, and still do. But to this day, I haven’t seen an entire zombie movie all
the way through. All of the ones I’ve been exposed to have been comedies or
campy. Zombies are a subgenre of horror, and I think if you’re gonna make a
zombie movie, it should be scary.
FANG: So what led you to do a zombie Western as your first
PEREZ: My producer, Mattia Borrani, wanted to do a zombie
movie. I said, “Let’s set it in the Wild West, but I could have just as easily
done the Dark Ages or the Viking era. In the end, we chose the West because we
live in California and there are lots of ghost towns and cowboy re-enactors and
enthusiasts we knew could make the project come together. So it was a
production choice at first; I never had any thoughts of doing a Western before,
but once it became a reality, that whole angle came alive for me; it was a
whole new world of possibilities. So I got to work on the script, and that got
the actors excited, and I think the cast and crew’s excitement for the project
comes through in the final product.
FANG: What sets this movie apart from other recent zombie
flicks and horror/Western movies?
PEREZ: We have a lot of action in addition to the horror; it
could be said that THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED is just as much an action movie as
it is a horror film. Another thing that might set us apart is the fact that we
have no comedy. Our movie has two goals: To rock you with the action and to
scare you to death. We have a lot of bone-breaking mayhem, lots of nudity and
horror. There is plenty of gore too, but the horror in our movie goes beyond
that, and beyond just having explosions of sound to startle you. I’ve noticed
that most genre movies these days just surprise you with loud noises. That’s a
part of horror, but it isn’t everything. We use suspense and terror in addition
to the gore.
FANG: Was it more difficult shooting a period piece on a low
budget than it might have been doing a contemporary story?
PEREZ: I’d say it was probably more difficult. I’ve done
both types of movies now, and they are each challenging in their own way. My
movies are made for about $30,000 each, which is an extremely low budget to
produce a feature film with. Having those kinds of money limitations is a lot
bigger of an obstacle than anything to do with the time in which it’s set. But
I’ve found that the bigger the limitations are, the more creative a filmmaker
has to be. So our movies aren’t as shiny and glossy as the big-budget kind, but
we make up for it in creativity.
FANG: Do you have slow or fast zombies, and why?
PEREZ: Our zombies are actually mutants, and since they
aren’t back from the dead, I chose to make them slightly faster and stronger
than humans. The reason I did this was because of the heroes. Most horror
movies have weak heroes, which makes the villains seem like more of a threat.
But in my movie, we have a gunslinger and an Apache warrior. These guys can
fight. So I had to make the zombies/mutants as threatening as possible.
FANG: Are you amused that the film is being released as
COWBOYS & ZOMBIES in Britain?
PEREZ: No. I think it makes me look bad. I finished THE DEAD
AND THE DAMNED in 2009, and at that time we hadn’t even heard of COWBOYS &
ALIENS, which the British distributor is obviously trying to emulate. We
completed our movie before they even started filming theirs, and now people are
going to think I took their idea and substituted zombies for aliens. Filmmakers
have no power over the distribution companies, who do what they think will be
most profitable. That’s show business. It’s not the end of the world for us.
We’ll survive—I hope.
FANG: Do you have more horror films in the works?
PEREZ: Yes—I just finished filming OBSIDIAN HEARTS. The
movie is almost complete; I’m doing the music for it now and hope to have it
done this September. (See a teaser trailer below the DAMNED clip.)
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