Exclusive: Carlos Gallardo, Kevin Eastman, and Chee Keong Cheung on the Zombie Action Martial Arts Film REDCON-1

When you’ve got a film that’s produced by Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and Kevin Eastman (co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, editor/publisher of “Heavy Metal” magazine), it’s a film that you pay attention to. That kind of caliber and creativity doesn’t team up on an independent feature all too often, so when it does, there’s a certain obligation to at least keep it on your radar. That film, my friends, is REDCON-1.

Directed by Chee Keong Cheung (Underground, Bodyguard: A New Beginning), the film follows, “A squad of eight Special Forces soldiers [who] are assigned a suicide mission to rescue a scientist from a city ruled by the undead.” Shot in the UK, the film promises to bring a mix of action, horror, and martial arts to the table.

I got the chance to speak with Cheung, Gallardo, and Eastman about the film while also getting several exclusive images. You can see everything below.

REDCON-1 stars Oris Erhuero, Carlos Gallardo, Akira Koieyama, Joshua Dickinson, Martyn Ford, Katarina Waters, Mark Strange, Michael Sheehan, Euan Macnaughton, and Marc Baylis. There is no confirmed release date as of yet.

Photo by Zak Chowdhury

It was really an awesome meeting of the minds that was incidental,” Kevin Eastman, who acts as an executive producer on REDCON-1, tells me, regarding how the project launched. “We all have a mutual friend, Digger Mesch, who, whenever possible, would try to get a bunch of people together for dinner that he thought would hit it off. Digger invited Chee, Carlos, and I and we all just started talking about things that we love. We all just sort of hit it off.” Laughing, he adds, “It was like, ‘You’re awesome and you’re awesome and you’re awesome! Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could all be awesome together?’

Clearly both Eastman and Carlos Gallardo, who not only executive produces but also stars as SGT Frederick Reeves, see something in writer/director Chee Keong Cheung. Gallardo offers a rather impressive comparison, saying, “We got along right away because he reminds me of Robert [Rodriguez] a lot.” That vision saw Gallardo take an interest in giving Cheung a chance at something really special.

It was Chee that, first of all, I saw a director that, if nourished enough and supported enough, he could become a great Hollywood studio director. A lot of people need that break. That was one of the the first things that attracted me to working with him. Then he reminded me of Robert in the way we used to work and we used to create. He loves action and we came to the conclusion that when you do action low budget, what you need is time. If you get enough time, you get those shots that compete with the studio movies,” Gallardo explains.

Eastman connected with the director and his independent mentality, adding, “Chee felt very strongly that the way to maintain his vision with REDCON-1 was to do it independently. Having started out as a self-published independent comic, we linked up mentally.” No stranger to how films are made, Eastman comments, “I’ve been around enough directors to know that when you’re amidst the chaos and Chee is standing in the middle of it saying ‘I’ve got it, it’s under control’, that’s infectious.

Cheung doesn’t take this kind of praise lightly. During our interview, I lost track of how many times he used the word “humbling”, which he meant every time he said it. He knows that making a film like this is no easy task and that having people behind you means everything. “The support of Carlos, Kevin, Shaked [Berenson] and Patrick [Ewald] over at Epic, the overall feeling was ‘Let’s try and make this as big as possible’. That, of course, does pose challenges but the support of everyone made it all possible,” he related.

Photo by Adam Crowther

But what does the movie bring new to the table? After all, we’ve all seen horror that blends various genres. Resident Evil added in sci-fi and martial arts. Deathwatch brought in the war element. What makes REDCON-1 stand out to these three?

Cheung knows that horror fans have seen it before, which is why he purposefully aimed to bring something different to the table, saying, “I wanted to take the story of a viral outbreak and take this premise, which is quite familiar with audiences, and add a little bit of a spin to it.” He continues, “I was always fascinated by war films and I directed a few small, indie action/martial arts films. I thought a fusion of the genres, action, war, martial arts, we could do something quite cool and interesting that could be really unique on screen. I wanted to make something for genre fans, that was the aim.

Gallardo, whose work in the action genre cannot be denied, sees something special about REDCON-1. “It’s a zombie movie with martial arts and a different type of action, a different type of genre that I’ve seen. I saw a little bit of Saving Private Ryan with Black Hawk Down in a zombie world,” he put forward.

For Eastman, he acknowledges the delicate balance that can go awry if not handled carefully. “To me, it was a difficult nut to crack the use of the martial arts as a concept within the horror stuff, which I think he’s done wonderfully. It’s grounding it and making it an important part of the story rather than including it because we think it’d look cool,” he states.

He then adds, “I remember going to the drive-in theater when I was a kid and seeing movies like Night of the Living Dead and I’ve been passionate about zombies and mutated characters since. You always look for something that takes the concept deeper. It’s been done often enough that, how many different things can you do with a zombie? I just felt that what Chee wanted to, with mixing genres…I like the detail, the depth. Chee really thought it through. The multiple genres, the fearlessness of Chee to try take this on and make it what it is and what it’s going to be is fantastic.

Cheung knows that blending multiple genres into one film can be a challenge, but it’s one he’s thrilled to have undertaken. “The film does take inspiration from a lot of films within the genre. We ground the film in a sense of reality. At the heart, at the core, it’s a human story. It’s about the obstacles that these characters encounter and face. I think the aim is to try for audiences to go on a roller coaster ride and go on an adventure.

Photo by Zak Chowdhury

Photo by Zak Chowdhury

Photo by Zak Chowdhury

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Jonathan Barkan

Lifelong horror fan with a love of music on the side.

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