Q&A: Director Scott Dow on “THE WALKING DECEASED”Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
In a weird way, there’s an art to doing a horror spoof correctly, even though some horror fans would disagree that’s at all possible. Certainly, if you rely too much on an easy gag or anything too on-the-nose, you risk alienating your audience and being labeled as a cheap ripoff. On the other hand, if you stride too far away from the source material, you risk confusing your target audience and misrepresenting the film. So therefore, it’s important for a spoof to not only understand its source material, but to appreciate itself as a film, and build upon that material to earn some genuine laughs from the characters and dialogue.
Luckily, director Scott Dow understands the zombie genre, allowing him to turn THE WALKING DECEASED into the rare spoof that works almost as much as a film itself as it does as a parody. Dow recently spoke to FANGORIA about the craft of creating a spoof, working with practical SFX in a comedy and embracing DECEASED’s R-rated zombie inspirations…
FANGORIA: So how did you first become involved with THE WALKING DECEASED? Had you any input from the beginning or did you come aboard later on in the process?
SCOTT DOW: I came aboard a little bit later. [Writer/actor] Tim Ogletree was working with a producer in Texas, where they came up with the idea and started writing THE WALKING DECEASED. Tim and I have been friends for a long time, so he told me he had this film brewing, so when they finished the script and started raising funding for it, he contacted me. We’ve only ever collaborated on business stuff but he knew we had similar tastes in comedy, so he sent me over a draft and asked if I’d direct it.
FANGORIA: For as much as the film emulates moments from the properties it’s spoofing, they are some great character moments and some genuinely funny material. Did you approach THE WALKING DECEASED with a mentality to go beyond what people might expect from a spoof?
SCOTT DOW: Yeah, I think so. I know our goal was when we finally got to filming, with these characters that are based on source material and pop culture, that we had our own story and our own brand of humor so that when we would build off of mannerisms, we would have our own style that we could develop each day. We weren’t chained to emulating what has already been done or some “bizarro world” version of that. So, yeah, definitely; we wanted the actors to feel like they were actually playing a character and playing it real so they could allow the comedy to come from that.
FANGORIA: When you got the script, was there any specific scene that caught your eye?
SCOTT DOW: Yeah, for sure. I thought the scene early on where the Sheriff shoots the girl was so wrong, but at the same time, it was so funny and I was super tickled by that. Also, the scene with the zombie strippers; I know it’s been done before- even video games like DUKE NUKEM have crossed that line- but I had never seen a full-on zombie stripper scene before so that was pretty funny. But both of those scenes are pretty dark, but they’re both weird too so it’s okay.
FANGORIA: What specifically about your sensibilities as a director did you want to bring to THE WALKING DECEASED?
SCOTT DOW: Well, I wanted to bring something that was a little dark since I wasn’t afraid to go into some risky territory. I think when you do an indie film, you don’t really feel those restraints in terms of “should we pull back here?” In fact, it’s kind of like, “You know what? We’ve made it this far. Let’s swing for the fences.” I wanted to go big and get some really, really funny laughs in there.
When you look at some of the comedies in the last five years, such as what Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are doing, they’re really pushing the envelope. There’s some really funny stuff in them. On one hand, it’s like, “Oh, we can get a PG-13 with this and get some more eyeballs on it,” but given the nature of THE WALKING DECEASED since it’s in the zombie apocalypse, I didn’t want to hold back.
FANGORIA: Absolutely; if you watch an episode of THE WALKING DEAD, which ANYONE can watch on television, the content on there is even far beyond that of a PG-13. Considering you’re trying to appeal to that same crowd, isn’t it befitting that you guys push your boundaries with an R-rating?
SCOTT DOW: Yeah, totally. I guess THE WALKING DECEASED is gratuitous in some senses, but I wanted every head shot and gross-out factor to play for a joke. So that stuff was always motivated; we never did the gratuitous stuff just for the sake of it. But you make a good point: we are trying to reach the same audience as THE WALKING DEAD, and they’re not afraid to do some pretty sick stuff. I did want to be toe-to-toe with what they could get away with while having some pretty engaging content as well as embracing our genre.
FANGORIA: Was there anything you hoped that the script would cover when you first read it? Were you bummed out that any zombie property didn’t make the cut?
SCOTT DOW: That’s a good question. I think that we did a pretty good job of fulfilling our wish list. We had no business shooting with a phantom camera and we did, and that was something that was incredible when it came together, since that’s what they shot ZOMBIELAND on. So having some ZOMBIELAND-esque characters and seeing their super-slow-mo shots, it’s a filmmaker’s dream to be able to do that, so we have scenes in THE WALKING DECEASED that are in bullet-time, basically, where a zombie’s face will ripple in slow motion.
So I think, honestly, my expectations were tempered from the start, so the whole thing was a big game of “What can we shoot? How much money do we have?” We were stretched thin beyond stretched thin, so to pull off as much as we did, I can’t honestly say that I think we left anything on the table.
FANGORIA: Doing comedy right on a schedule and on a budget is hard enough, but when you throw SFX into the mix, it must have been a real challenge. What did you find more daunting as a filmmaker: nailing the comedic moments or the bloody practical SFX moments?
SCOTT DOW: It would easily be the practical SFX. With the comedy stuff, I felt really comfortable with the actors, and I felt really comfortable with Tim [Ogletree], so I felt really good about that. But with the SFX, it was really a challenge since we had to budget every single blood hit, every single squib, the amount of blood, and they had to match the fake replica weapons that we had.
We had a really good post-VFX adviser, so he was able to help us with it, but the practical stuff really was the hardest part because things don’t always go to plan. We were shooting in the mall and some of the squibs didn’t go off properly during the take, so we had to have the actors put fake blood in their mouth and spit it out when the got hit so it’d look like blood splatter on the glass. It’s moments like that which make you really nervous and anxious, and it’s tough, but man, it’s so much fun.
FANGORIA: Some of the cast, like Dave Sheridan and Tim Ogletree, have had experience with spoofs in the past. What was your reception to their approach to the humor and perhaps any improvisation they brought to the table?
SCOTT DOW: There was a fair amount of improv, and I’m definitely a fan of it. I’m not a mumblecore guy but if guys can add to the jokes from the script, that’s my favorite thing in the world, and Dave Sheridan is incredibly talented in that field. He brought this incredible energy on set, so I think part of me as director wants to detach from the scene and let the actors do their thing, but at the same time, that can be a monstrous headache in terms of coverage and continuity, so it’s all about picking and choosing those right beats.
FANGORIA: With the marketplace being what it is and things finding second life on streaming, should the opportunity arise to do another WALKING DECEASED arise, would you be interested in returning to the director’s chair?
SCOTT DOW: The quick answer is yes, of course. I had so much fun because it’s a great genre and there’s a lot of things I got to do, between action, horror, comedy and drama. Horror is one of those genres that is so fun to work in. It’s funny because I have spitballed ideas with Tim in case anybody ever wanted to make a sequel, considering we left the film in an interesting position. But I’m always open to returning, for sure.
Scott Dow’s THE WALKING DECEASED is now in select theaters, VOD and Digital HD.