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

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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

Disclaimer: Epic Pictures Group and Dread Central are affiliated.

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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John Carpenter … NOT DEAD!

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We currently live in a world of false alarms. Within the last several days we’ve suffered everything from warnings of doomsday to Rotten Tomatoes accidentally celebrating the passing(!) and career of the very much still alive John Carpenter.

That’s right, kids; earlier today RT tweeted, “John Carpenter would have been 70 years old today! We celebrate his birthday by looking back at his five favorite films.” The tweet… has since been deleted.

We are here to tell you… John is very much alive! Alive and well, even. Carpenter himself responded on Twitter by alerting the site that “despite how it appears, I’m actually not dead.

This is great news indeed. One of horror’s best and brightest is still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now then, let’s take this time to celebrate the man’s birthday PROPERLY by talking about our favorite films of his. Speaking personally for myself…

Prince of Darkness is a movie that both unnerves and scares the hell out of me. One of Carpenter’s most thought-provoking works is just as frightening now as it was when we first received that grainy transmission as a dream from the year…

Tell us your favorite Carpenter movie in our comments section below.

…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

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