If you’re a horror fan, you know The Asylum. If you think you don’t, just look at these stellar titles: The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, Titanic II, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and Paranormal Entity.
Basically, they do schlock. They’re a factory of schlock, churning out chum for the masses day after day.
Or, maybe not! When I chatted with producer David Latt in regard to The Asylum’s new TV series “Z Nation,” he set me straight.
“We do a lot of different genres at The Asylum. Horror films, sci-fi… yes. But also Christmas movies, family films. And now a zombie TV series. So a whole variety of schlock. [laughs] We normally produce 25 movies a year so 13 episodes of a TV series is a piece of cake to us!”
The new Syfy show is no slouch in the casting department either, that’s for sure. Harold Perrineau is one of the stars. You know him as Michael Dawson in the network series “Lost,” Link in The Matrix films and games, and Augustus Hill in the HBO series “Oz.” DJ Qualls is in it (as a remote computer geek – what else, right?), and so is Tom Everett Scott.
So how’d such a top-notch cast get convinced to do a zombie horror series for the Syfy channel? “Here’s the trick to the whole thing,” Latt said. “There’s a lot of blood and guts, but you still can’t do 13 episodes without getting to know these characters. It’s a growing process. The first couple of episodes they are just surviving. And then you’ll find out why they are survivors.”
Here’s the skinny: Three years after the zombie virus has gutted the country, a team of everyday heroes must transport the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood.
The pilot alone boasts 300 or 400 effects. “That’s unheard of!” marveled Latt. So, where do they find these wizards of gore, willing to work days and night to get just the right amount of glistening goo? “The Asylum has an in-house team of visual effects artists, but we’re not using any of them. We have another team of locals in Washington State, where we shoot the show. There’s an amazing talent pool there. The pilot is nothing compared to what’s coming!” Hint: There will be (more) blood.
And speaking of blood, wow… is this show ever gory! I watched the pilot to prep for this interview, and even I was a bit shocked. I asked Latt if the outrageous kills were The Asylum’s answer to “The Walking Dead” or if they were just, er, organic. “It’s organic,” Latt confirmed, “and it’s an extension of who we are as a company. We love horror; we love the blood and guts. We know we’re not making dramatic art; we’re going with the genre. So if the genre is gory, we are not going to shy away from that. And the Syfy channel has always embraced the gore, and they pushed us to go even more because they know their fan base. Smartly written, visually exciting, and really gory! There’s no surprises because we are not trying to reinvent the wheel; we’re just trying for a fun, fun ride.”
Which isn’t to say they aren’t taking the series and its audience very seriously. “Our showrunner, Karl Schaefer, knows television in a Yoda-like way. I learn something from him every day. We have a phenomenal group of writers. Everyone is really excited about this journey. We are nearly finished shooting all 13 episodes, and I just can’t wait for the audience to catch up!”
“Z Nation” airs Fridays on Syfy. Check out a sneak peek of this week’s episode below.
“Z Nation” starts three years after a zombie virus has gutted the country, when a team of everyday heroes must transport the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood. Although the antibodies he carries are the world’s last, best hope for a vaccine, he hides a dark secret that threatens them all.
With humankind’s survival at stake, the ragtag band embarks on a journey of survival across three thousand miles of rusted-out post-apocalyptic America.