Musician Jesse Dayton may be best known to genre fans as “Captain Clegg,” the front man to the psychobilly band seen in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, as he not only performed under the moniker in the film but also was the opening act on Zombie’s music tour that kicked off later that year as well.
Now Dayton is gearing up to show his fans out there another side of himself as the writer/director just wrapped production on his first feature film entitled Zombex, a zombie flick that explores the concept that maybe pharmaceutical companies could actually be dastardly enough to be responsible for creating a zombie apocalypse through the distribution of their medicinal products.
Starring Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys), Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects), Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses), David Christopher (The Sinner), Slayer lead singer Tom Araya, Emily Kaye (The Sinner), and Desiree McKinney (“Friday Night Lights”), Zombex is centered around Charlie Thibideaux (Christopher), a New Orleans Zydeco player who slowly begins uncover the sinister reason why seemingly normal people are starting to turn into the undead, with all signs pointing to a new experimental drug given to post-Katrina survivors.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with the multi-faceted Dayton to discuss what inspired the musician to make the career leap into filmmaking, how listening to the radio one night served as the inspiration behind the Zombex script, and what he’s looking to do differently in his zombie movie.
Music has always been a passion of Dayton’s, but he said he’s always known deep down that he’d somehow get behind the camera at some point in his career. After Dayton enjoyed some success with penning and creating a theatrical play alongside best friend genre favorite Lew Temple, he knew it was time to take it to the next level and was ready to start making movies.
“I’ve always been a closet film geek,” said Dayton. “I actually watch about eight to twelve movies a week, which I know is a lot, but I just love the art of movies. I was born into music so it will always be a huge part of my life- It’s definitely just as important to me as filmmaking. What I can say about making movies is that I believe it is one of the last true vestiges where you can truly show your artistic vision uncut, and I think that’s the biggest appeal for me as a storyteller.”
Dayton went on to discuss how listening to a Libertarian radio show one night about the back-door dealings between health care companies and pharmaceutical companies served as a catalyst in creating the backbone of the Zombex story. “The inspiration behind Zombex came from me listening to a radio program about pharmaceutical companies being in bed with healthcare providers, and they likened the way these companies are putting people on Xanax to turning them into mindless zombies. I actually pulled over my car right then and there and wrote an outline for the movie in five minutes. Listening to that show made me realize we live in dangerous times and how exploring that idea would make for a great horror movie.”
“Zombex feels like a very timely film to be making right now on several different levels. There’s a fascist corporatism trend that’s going on in the world right now that I think is a lot scarier than what’s going on in politics these days. I wanted to address those kinds of issues, but I’m also going to be giving you some mind-blowing kills, too. Zombex is definitely a hardcore, bloody zombie film, but there’s also going to be a message in there, too, for the fans who want more than just zombies because I think horror audiences are a lot smarter than people think they are. There’s a lot of nerd factor to the horror community, but I think that’s kind of badass to have intelligent audiences to create films for,” added Dayton.
Dayton discussed how Temple was an integral part of getting production on Zombex up and running and, from there, how all the casting pieces fell into place. “Lew and I grew up together in Texas, and we’ve always said that we wanted to collaborate together one day on a movie so I knew he had to be in the movie. He was definitely the reason I was introduced to Rob Zombie, who has in turn introduced me to a lot of horror fans from all over the world so I am very thankful for all of that because I know that’s part of why I’m getting to make this movie. So after Lew came on board, we went after Malcolm for the evil doctor role. I actually didn’t get to meet him during Halloween II at all so I had to reach out to him personally, and he was on board within a few days. Then both Sid and Corey came on last minute, but being a huge horror fan, I was definitely excited to have them both be a part of Zombex.”
“Getting Tom Araya from Slayer was like a dream come true for me because I am such a life-long metal fan. He actually found out about our film from a friend of a friend so he called me one day and said he lived down the road and wanted to be a part of Zombex. I don’t think he’s ever done a movie before, and I can promise the Slayer fans out there that we definitely put him to good use in the movie,” added Dayton.
Even though it seems with an impressive line-up of male actors in Zombex that the men may rule supreme in this post-apocalyptic world that’s being overrun by zombies, Dayton said that in his film the ladies definitely hold their own against their male counterparts.
“We also have two female leads played by Emily Kaye and Desiree McKinney in Zombex, and I made sure that neither one of them were going to be the ‘damsel in distress’-type of woman in this movie,” explained Dayton. “I wanted them both to kick some ass- like a Sigourney Weaver-type of character because Ripley in Aliens is by far one of my favorite female characters ever. I think there’s a lot of staleness in the horror genre right now, and I think a lot of it comes from people still playing to these archetypes that women need saving all the time. So I wanted to shake things up a bit and show that women don’t have to be victims in horror- they can be heroes, too.”
Now that Zombex has officially wrapped production, we asked Dayton if he had any inklings of when fans can expect to be able to check out his feature film debut. “We haven’t locked distribution yet, but we did take a teaser of Zombex to Cannes, where we actually had a lot of interest in our project so that’s promising. But I just want to make sure we get the best deal possible because I feel like there’s a real future to the world of Zombex, and I’d like to be able to make more of these films if the fans dig the first one. I think, regardless of what fans may think before they see it, they’re going to want to check out the movie just to see how it turns out. What I can say is that I promise to keep fans on the edge of their seats for the entire movie because no one is safe and we have some pretty amazing kills in this flick. As a fan, I know I’d want to see something fun like this so hopefully other fans out there will too.”
In honor of Zombex’s recent wrap on production, Dayton and his team were kind enough to give us a few exclusive production stills to share with our Dread Central readers, which we’ve got right here for you to feast your eyes upon. For more on the film, you can check out the official Zombex Facebook page, dig on the official Zombex website or get the latest news by following Zombex on Twitter.
Special thanks to Dayton for taking the time during a hectic day on set to chat with Dread Central!