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Dartmoor…the UK region’s name evokes tales of phantom
hounds, deadly mires and devils that lurk in fog-shrouded hollows. It’s a
landscape wherein you can imagine many a monster lurking—but a zombie invasion?
Enter David M. Reynolds (pictured below) and Devon-based
Realm Pictures, the determined young crew behind the accomplished short feature
ZOMBLIES. Setting off with a crew of volunteers to the barren lands of Dartmoor
with but a few fistfuls of borrowed money and gallons of their own brand of
fake blood, they created a 50-minute action B-movie romp replete with
motorcycle chases, air strikes and a veritable horde of the undead.
What really sets ZOMBLIES apart from the plethora of other
indie ghoul flicks is its firm refusal to compromise on production values, a
determination accomplished with a number of resourceful variations on otherwise
expensive techniques: Homemade compressed-air cannons allowing for safe, cheap
explosions, the use of stunning local backdrops, including an abandoned factory
complex, and industry-standard visual FX produced in the basement of the shared
house the team live and work in. This may be grassroots horror, but it had
lofty ambitions, as Reynolds discussed with Fango.
FANGORIA: It seems nowadays that everyone and his
grandmother is picking up a camera and making a zombie movie. What made you
choose this particular genre trope to showcase your ideas with ZOMBLIES? Is it
a subgenre that fascinates you, or was there some particular aspect of it that
you thought needed a shot in the arm?
DAVID M. REYNOLDS: It’s nothing new for a filmmaker to cut
his teeth in the noble art of the no-budget horror—you just have to look at the
early work of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. A lot of people go for zombies because
they’re cheap and easy to produce on an independent production. We went zombie
for precisely the opposite reason: We wanted a challenge.
I had the idea a long time ago while debating the necessity
of fast zombies in today’s cinema. My argument was that, in the same way
audiences have become numb to bright colors and fast edits from MTV, today’s
audiences are more and more difficult to scare—hence necessitating the use of a
faster, more dangerous enemy. Rightly or wrongly, this is proving the case, at
least where the primary intention of the ghoul is to terrify; comedies and
nostalgia flicks are immune to this. So the idea for our B-movie was born: a
crack unit of black-ops troops whose job is to travel beyond “the wall” into
the infected zone to perform weapons tests and routine missions at the behest
of a private arms company. What if we take this confident and well-trained unit
of slow-zombie killers and present those complacent characters with a new,
faster threat, in the same way the complacent audience of the old-school zombie
flick is now assaulted with the likes of 28 DAYS LATER, the DAWN OF THE DEAD
So our movie was to be an action flick! That meant guns, air
strikes, explosions and a zombie-slaying motorbike chase scene—it is a B-movie,
after all. Original in its own way, and yet deliberately clichéd in all the
FANG: It has an unusual running time for a short. What made
you choose this particular duration, and were there ever any plans to extend it
into a feature?
REYNOLDS: At 50 minutes, ZOMBLIES has been described as
“festival death”—it’s a terrible running time for a movie if you want to get
distribution. Truth be told, it was never conceived as a short feature, as it
is now billed. It was originally 30 minutes, but it just ran away with itself! Never has a lesson been learned more thoroughly. The “one
minute per page” theory of screenwriting is simply not applicable to movies
that are essentially one long action scene. We have been asked to extend it into a feature by interested
distributors—but it is what it is. The story is a 50-minute story, and two
years on, we are ready to tackle new things.
FANG: Although your projects have been admittedly low-budget
thus far, it’s evident from the way they’re made that they have loftier
ambitions. Are there any key movies that set you on the path to filmmaking?
REYNOLDS: Lofty ambitions! It’s our greatest strength and
our greatest weakness. I just can’t aim low. I find it literally impossible to
come up with nice ideas that won’t cost much. There is no doubt that ZOMBLIES
is a $10-million movie at heart. We just had to find the best way to produce
that with $15,000!
I have pretty mainstream tastes when it comes to cinema. I
grew up addicted to Spielberg, Lucas, anything with adventure and escapism.
When I started film school, I went through a phase of being a little
ashamed of that. Everybody around me was prattling on about Dadaism and German
Expressionism, and I came to realize pretty quickly that a lot of those people
were posers and weren’t actually getting anything done. I quit film school and
haven’t looked back! Don’t get me wrong, German Expressionism is great—but
there is something deeply wrong with not being honest about what you genuinely
FANG: It’s a novel approach to offer something akin to a
“guerrilla film course” with a Kickstarter scheme, as opposed to the usual
signed-poster and credit expendables. What inspired you to take this route?
REYNOLDS: I used myself as a yardstick: I am the target
market. There are a thousand movies on Kickstarter, and I hadn’t heard of most
and hadn’t donated to any. And yet it’s not difficult to get money out of me—so
what was wrong?
We have tried really hard to give whatever we can to people
in exchange for their support. We have lighting workshops; plans for DIY LED
lights; and, perhaps most interesting of all, a copy of ZOMBLIES with 10 really
in-depth tutorials for making killer indie action movies with no money.
We have had a fantastic response so far. People seem to
really be getting behind the idea. One of the tutorials is how to construct a
compressed-air cannon to add safe explosions to your movie—good clean fun!
Check it out here.
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FANG: Your new project, THE UNDERWATER REALM, recalls such
vintage classics as 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and—dare I say it—films like
the Amicus picture WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS. It’s an unusual style of picture to
tackle these days. What led to that decision, and has it created any particular
REYNOLDS: WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS! Now there’s a movie! “It got
THE UNDERWATER REALM is the one idea I can’t walk away from.
It’s the fact that nothing like this has ever been done before, it’s the fact
that it’s impossible—and the fact that instead of some far-off alien planet, or
magical kingdom, the amazing world of our story really exists, right beneath
20,000 LEAGUES was filmed in a metal tank. Ours is actually
shot in the water. There are a thousand problems to combat, and it’s a huge
challenge we are tackling one step at a time. How do you eat an elephant? Bit
FANG: What next, and what would your dream project be?
REYNOLDS: We are currently writing a trilogy of feature
films set in the world of the Underwater Realm. Our dream is that, with the
completion of the five short films we are currently producing, we will have the
opportunity to tell these stories. Imagine a fantasy trilogy about an ancient
race of men living beneath our oceans!
The finished picture, having attracted a legion of devoted
fans, is set for a UK DVD release in March 2012. You can watch ZOMBLIES below
and see its official site here, and follow the progress
of THE UNDERWATER REALM here.
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