Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Howard Ford Talks The Dead - Part One - Dread Central
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Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Howard Ford Talks The Dead – Part One

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In the forty-two years of cinematic zombies, we’ve seen slow zombies and we’ve seen fast zombies. We’ve seen zombies here in the US and we’ve even seen zombies across the pond. But in The Dead genre fans should prepare for something truly unique: zombies running amok on the continent of Africa.

Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to speak with Howard Ford, one half of the writing/directing duo behind the project, and because there were so many remarkable stories associated with making The Dead, we had to make the interview a two-parter.

In this first installment Ford discusses why The Dead is unlike anything horror audiences have experienced before, the trials of filming the movie in Africa, and how much influence his filming conditions lent to the shape of the story.

Shot on locations in Burkina Faso and Ghana, West Africa, The Dead is centered around an American mercenary, the sole survivor of a plane crash, who has to run the gauntlet across Africa, battling against the living dead. Along his journey the mercenary finds an ally in a local military man who is desperately searching for his son amongst the chaos. They must band together to make their way through this brand new horrific world of zombies.

For Ford getting to make The Dead was a 20-year-long process. “When we started out in the industry, our first intention was to make a horror film, but we never had the opportunity. Even over the last twenty years, we’ve made all these short films, two features, and loads of commercials; but my brother, Jon, and I never got to satisfy our urge to make horror movie,” said Ford.

High-Powered and Bloody Stills from The Dead (click for larger image)

We even wanted to make a zombie film back when we first played with the idea of becoming filmmakers,” Ford added. “One of the first horror films we ever watched on video was George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It really got to us, got to our very core in a way that I really can’t explain. I remember walking home from seeing it, and every single doorway we passed, we were completely unnerved. Every person on that street was going to try to grab us because we truly thought that there could be zombies anywhere.

Ford credits his commercial work travels as part of the inspiration for choosing Africa as the location for The Dead. While shooting several commercials on the lush continent, he began to realize the appeal of the little-used landscape in order to offer something fresh to the zombie sub-genre of horror.

Jon and I set out for The Dead to look and be completely different than other zombie movies over the last decade or so, and while doing that, The Dead developed into a zombie road film set in Africa,” explained Ford. “We wanted The Dead to be about a journey for viewers, and rural Africa was perfect for that. We wanted to make a beautiful horror movie, if that makes any sense. It’s a horrific situation for the world; yet, there are still beautiful things to be seen because the scenery doesn’t change.

It’s not just the scenery that makes The Dead a remarkable film, either. Ford spoke about how developing a compelling lead character was a key part of the equation in creating a truly inventive horror film.

At the core of the story is the idea of our main character to be a fish out of water, one ordinary guy stuck in extraordinary circumstances,” explained Ford. “Jon and I worked hard to avoid every cliché that had been done before. We didn’t want our lead to be a heroic character, either. He’s flawed and he’s definitely not the hero that is often seen in these kinds of movies. He makes mistakes and his being surrounded by hordes of zombies makes him feel useless. The Dead as much of an emotional journey as it is a physical journey for our lead. It sounds odd trying to say this about a film in the zombie genre, but the reaction Jon and I strived for is a deep emotional impact for audiences,” Ford added.

High-Powered and Bloody Stills from The Dead (click for larger image)

Once Ford and his crew arrived in Africa to start production on The Dead, he soon realized that the decision to aim for location authenticity came with a hefty price tag attached. Ford explained why The Dead would be the last time he’d ever make a feature film in Africa and how he is surprised he ever made it off the continent alive.

Ford said, “Filming in Africa was probably the worst experience of my life. I can’t even explain how tough it was out there. It wasn’t just the fact that it was hot temperatures and dusty, which are both terrible things to deal with for the equipment we were using. It’s also incredibly corrupt where we were filming, and we looked like walking money to a lot of people there.

There were even articles in the paper out there saying in fact that Hollywood had arrived, which didn’t help our situation because we were literally ripped off on every corner. Sometimes we wouldn’t even make it to the location because the police would stop us for some reason or another. Either something was wrong with our vehicle or our paperwork, even though we had done all the paperwork on a daily basis. They would end up impounding our cars and equipment until we handed over various sums of cash, and there were times where we couldn’t get cash into the country fast enough. What’s sad is that this wasn’t money towards production, it was more so that we could stay out of jail,” Ford added.

The writer/director said the police wasn’t even the biggest problem they faced there – malaria and other illnesses almost put the kibosh on the entire production of The Dead.

Rob Freeman, our lead actor, got malaria twice,” explained Ford. “He nearly died even. One day he collapsed on set and started convulsing. The doctor said if he wasn’t treated as soon as he had been, he would have been dead within three days. Rob was on a drip for two weeks, and he’s in almost every scene, so you can only imagine what that does to a filming schedule.

The whole crew was getting sick every day, and there were times where Jon and I would be discussing shots in between vomiting. I am actually someone who prides myself on sticking to a schedule and budget, but we had to throw away those ideals on this film. Every day we had to figure out who would we have available every morning and figuring out from there what we could do since someone has a fever, someone has typhoid, someone’s being treated for malaria. Being the writer/producer/director, everything sort of feel on me, and it was a very difficult time for me because I knew I had to deliver the film, but I think to be honest, we all just kept moving forward because everyone wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as we could,” Ford added.

Even though Ford describes his filming experience in Africa as ‘Hell on Earth,’ the writer/director said that despite all the obstacles, he wasn’t leaving the continent without completing filming there.

For me, when I commit to something, I commit to it until the death so leaving was never an option,” explained Ford. “I was just focused on getting The Dead finished, and I had to be reminded often that people’s lives were at stake there, including my own. But we didn’t have the money to just go and finish the movie on a sound stage. We wanted The Dead to be realistic and not another CGI movie with chroma key and green screen backdrops.


The Dead – Trailer Variant 2
Uploaded by dreadcentral. – Check out other Film & TV videos.

Part of what makes The Dead so special is that it feels real with real locations, shot with real people, with real backdrops. There is something to be said for that kind of filmmaking. Keeping the movie grounded in the reality of its location the entire time hopefully makes audiences feel like this thing could actually happen. If we went to a sound stage, it would have defeated the purpose of setting the story in Africa, and I don’t think we would have made a quality movie,” Ford added.


For more on Ford’s experiences on making The Dead, make sure to check back later this week as Dread Central talks with the writer/director about filming in Africa, his career-spanning ongoing collaboration with his brother and why slow zombies are the only true kind of zombies. (Click here for Part Two of our interview.)

Heather Wixson

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Want a LEGO Godzilla Set? Here’s Your Chance!

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The longest-running franchises in cinema history, the Godzilla films have created a cultural icon in the form of the titular beast. Simply hearing its roar or seeing its silhouette is enough to let us know precisely what we’re looking at. Having ventured out of cinema and forayed into TV shows, comic books, video games, and countless merchandise options, Godzilla still hasn’t managed to break into one of the world’s most popular toy company: LEGO. However, that might change if BRICK_101 has their say via LEGO Ideas, where they submitted a design based on the 1954 original film!

Here’s the description from the site:
This model contains approximately 850 LEGO pieces, stands 9 inches (23 cm) tall, and measures 17 inches (44 cm) from head to tail. Godzilla has had many different designs over the years, but we based ours on the original 1954 movie. The arms, legs, jaw, and tail are hinged to allow the model to be posed in a variety of positions. In addition to Godzilla, the set also includes a small microscale train for Godzilla to stomp on or chomp on and a flame piece to represent Godzilla’s atomic breath.

The website allows people to submit their own ideas (such as this Call of Cthulhu set) and then allow the public to vote on whether or not they want to see it get made. Should the idea get 10,000 votes, it then gets moved up the ladder within LEGO’s headquarters and a decision is made to see if they want to make an official set.

So, if you want to see LEGO make an official Godzilla set, click on the link above and cast your vote!

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#Brainwaves Episode 78 Guest Announcement: Legendary Film Composer Harry Manfredini

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The Friday the 13th franchise without the music of Harry Manfredini would be like peanut butter without jelly. McDonalds without the Big Mac. Knetter without Creepy. His music defined a generation of horror fans, and few could have done it better, if at all. Now Manfredini brings his equally as unique voice to Brainwaves Horror and Paranormal Talk Radio.

Join us this coming Wednesday, February 21st, at 8:00PM PT/11:00PM ET for all the shenanigans fit to be had!

It’s radio without a safety net, kids. It’s Brainwaves: Horror and Paranormal Talk Radio.

SUPPORT BRAINWAVES ON PATREON!

Listen to Stitcher

Brainwaves: Horror and Paranormal Talk Radio is available to subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher.

Spooky, funny, touching, honest, offensive, and at times completely random, Brainwaves airs live every Wednesday evening beginning at 8:00 PM Pacific Time (11:00 midnight Eastern Time) and runs about 3 hours per episode.

Knetter and Creepy will be taking your calls LIVE and unscreened via Skype, so let your freak flags fly! Feel free to add BrainWavesTalk to your Skype account so you can reach us, or call in from a landline or cellphone – 858 480 7789. The duo also take questions via Twitter; you can reach us at @BrainwavesRadio or @UncleCreepy, @JoeKnetter, or @MrDarkDC using the hashtag #BrainWaves. You can also check us out on our Brainwaves Discord channel!

Have a ghost story or a paranormal story but can’t call in? Feel free to email it to me directly at UncleCreepy@dreadcentral.com with “Brainwaves Story” in your subject line. You can now become a fan of the show via the official… BRAINWAVES FACEBOOK PAGE!

Brainwaves: Horror and Paranormal Talk Radio is hosted live (with shows to be archived as they progress) right here on Dread Central. You can tune in and listen via the FREE TuneIn Radio app or listen to TuneIn right through the website!

For more information and to listen live independent of TuneIn, visit the Deep Talk Radio Network website, “like” Deep Talk Radio on Facebook, and follow Deep Talk Radio on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to Brainwaves on iTunes.

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Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own

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Starring Parry Shen, Kane Hodder, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Felissa Rose, and Tiffany Shepis

Directed by Adam Green

Distributed by Dark Sky Films


Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.

Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.

Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.

Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.

In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.

Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.

Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.

Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.

Special Features:

Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.

While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.

Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.

The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.

But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.

So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.

Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.

Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.

BUY IT HERE!

Special features:

  • Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
  • Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
  • Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
  • Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
  • Trailer
  • Victor Crowley
  • Special Features
3.5

Summary

One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.

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