Horror Bob: Tell everyone what Zombiegeddon is about and where did writer Chris Watson come up with the idea?
Andy Rausch: Well, Zombiegeddon is the strangest hybrid of genres I have ever seen, and trust me I’ve seen some weird shit. Zombiegeddon is basically “Bad Lieutenant meets Dawn of the Dead.” That’s a generic comparison, but it’s the best I’ve seen yet. It’s the story of two very bad cops who find themselves in the strange and unenviable position of having to save the world from being overtaken by zombies. The cops are played by two actors who are still kind of newcomers. They are Paul Darrigo, whom your readers may remember from Witchouse 3, and Ari Bavel, who has appeared previously in Catacombs and Todd Sheet’s Zombie Bloodbath IV.
As for where the story came from, who knows? Chris had already come up with the story when we met early last year. I found it to be so completely daring and unusual that I couldn’t resist begging to help out on the project. Chris is one of those guys you have to watch. He’s like Frank Nitti or somebody; he doesn’t talk much, he’s just taking it all in. When it comes to b-movies Chris is definitely a knowledgeable aficionado and he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. I look forward to making many more films with the guy. I truly love him to death.
Horror Bob: What was the budget for the film and how long did it take to shoot?
Andy Rausch: You know, the budget was slightly less than you’d pay for a box of Twinkies! (Laughs.) Not really that low, but pretty damned low. The idea was kind of to see how cheaply a good quality b-film could be made for. With twenty-odd b-movie legends appearing in the film, tons of great expensive-looking locations, and pretty damned good makeup, you’d never guess the film’s budget. When all is said and done the film will have cost somewhere around $20,000 to make, which anyone who knows about filmmaking will tell you is unbelievably cheap. Most of these actors worked for next to nothing. Not even peanuts; to have received peanuts would have been a raise for many of them. But do you know why they made the film so cheaply? Do you know why a legend of William Smith’s stature signed on to do Zombiegeddon? Because of Chris’s script. It’s very, very ballsy and it’s unlike anything the genre has seen or is likely to see again anytime soon. As for that budget, it was financed entirely out of Chris’s and my pockets; mostly Chris’s. I financed about ten percent of the film and he financed the rest on the salary of an elementary school teacher. Not bad, huh?
The film’s primary shooting took place over a ten day span last summer in a small town called Parsons, Kansas. We then did tons of pickup stuff over the past year and shot a number of scenes in other cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Kansas City, Missouri. In fact, we’re still kind of shooting some pickup stuff, so I guess the shoot is still ongoing! I imagine we’ll be tweaking the film right up to its July 12th screening in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Who knows? Maybe even after that.
Horror Bob: I saw some of the pictures on your website of the film, very impressive stuff, who did the makeup effects for the film, and did Tom Savini have any say in them at all?
Andy Rausch :Some local Kansas guys did the makeup. Their names are Josh Barnett, Max Kreuter, and Josh Christofferson. Yeah, we had two Josh’s in there. Can’t really go wrong with two Josh’s, can you? As for Savini having any input, no, he didn’t in any other way than those three guys idolize him and the work he’s done in films like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. His work very much influenced the makeup in this film, but he had no hands-on involvement, which is kind of sad, huh? I rememeber watching Children of the Living Dead and thinking, Damn, why didn’t they have Savini do the makeup rather than play the sheriff? Well, people are gonna think that here, too, until they see the makeup, which was done very well.
Horror Bob: You a lot of the inspiration for the film came from movies like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc., basically ideas derived from the mind of George Romero. Would you say that “Zombiegeddon” is a tribute film to George and does he know about the film?
Andy Rausch: I don’t know if George knows about us and the film, but we definitely know about him. The film is a very much a tribute to his work, while still trying to carve out its own niche in the genre. There’s also a nice little nod in the film to J.R. Bookwalter’s The Dead Next Door. Do you remember the scene in which the zombie goes into the video store? The zombie tries to rent Dawn of the Dead, too, right? Well, we gave a nod to J.R. in that we, too, have a zombie in a video store (although the joke’s a bit different) and he’s trying to rent J.R.’s Ozone, which was recently re-released as Street Zombies. Interestingly, the scene was shot in the video store I manage during the day and I appear in the scene as the video clerk. We managed to cut a lot of corners that way, having so many locations and props practically given to us. We also managed to land a top-notch pyrotechnics and special effects guy named Tim McGill, who worked on the film for an outrageously low fee because he believed in Chris’s vision. In many ways, Tim is the star of the film, I might add. The guy is a genius.
Horror Bob: How was it working with Tom Savini and how is he at playing the role of Jesus Christ?
Andy Rausch: Well, how much time do you have? Tom is a god. Roger Avary once told me that, “Tom Savini is a god,” and I’m willing to go along with that assessment. Guess it’s sort of interesting that he’s playing the son of God here, huh? Sadly, I didn’t get to go to the two day shoot in Pittsburgh, which is where Tom’s stuff was shot. I had prior obligations due to my other film-related job, which is that of film journalist. I have, however, spoken with Tom a few times over the past few years and even interviewed him for a book of interviews I’m working on. Simply put, Tom is the best thing since Cheese Whiz. The guy has earned a reputation as a terrific stuntman, makeup guy, director, actor, bullwhip expert, photographer… You name it, Tom does it. Let’s see… He also wrote a couple of books, both of which Stephen King wrote the forewords for. You know, the guy is one of my heroes because he does so many things and he does them well. Being a filmmaker, a film journalist/author, and hip-hop musician myself, I hold Tom on a very high pedestal. If I manage to do just one thing as well as he does all of those things he does, I’ll be a very happy man indeed.
It’s funny, and I don’t know if you know this, but we actually talked to Gary Coleman at one point about playing Jesus. Our first choice was always Tom, but he’s very busy and we had a long period where we couldn’t get a hold of him, so we started to fear that we might not get him. At that point it was like, “Damn, Savini’s so fucking perfect. If we can’t get him, we might as well just go for camp there…” Luckily everything worked out as so much has for this little film and Savini wound up appearing in a role that I think he will be remembered for. The whole film has been like that… During the shoot, it seemed as though nothing went right. But now, in hindsight, we have been so blessed in landing the cast we landed, and having a few very dedicated crew members.
Horror Bob: Do you think religious organizations are going to protest this film because of the way Christ is portrayed?
Andy Rausch:We’ve received a lot of hate mail and even some threats, so yes, I think the religious community is going to be none too pleased to see us coming. We’ve also received some mail indicating that there will be some sort of protest in Tulsa in July. We’ll have to see. I’ve joked about joining the group incognito for photographs with me holding a sign that reads “God says fuck Zombiegeddon,” but you know, we’ll have to see. As a semi-religious man myself, I can understand why these people are mad. However, none of them have seen the film yet, so what do they really know about it? If they do see it, it will piss them off without a doubt, but still… I remember being told repeatedly when I was a young man that Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ was a horrible film. My parents wouldn’t let me go. You know what? That film is now one of my favorite five or ten films out there. Not because it’s controversial, but because it’s an incredible film. It’s also one of the most spiritual films ever made, which tells me that these bozos who protested it didn’t even know what the hell they were protesting! Look, the Jesus thing in Zombiegeddon is a joke. A distasteful joke? Yeah, but a joke nonetheless. People are taking it way too seriously. It’s a fucking zombie film, for God’s sake! I mean, what the hell? Who cares? People are very closed-minded when it comes to all things relating to God, Jesus, and the Bible. Most of them don’t realize that the European picture of Jesus that we all see everywhere we go is actually a painting of Cesare Borgia, whom Machiaveli’s The Prince was based upon. He was a very despicable man. But people don’t want to know that, either. People live enshrouded in ignorance and they choose to do so. There’s a great documentary on television this coming Sunday about scientists who now believe they can prove that Jesus had a brother. This is a great historical discovery, right? But so many people are going to choose to ignore that simply because they can’t stand to see Jesus in any other light than they already do. People are sheep, you know?
Horror Bob: J.R. Bookwalter, what a great guy he is, how did you get him to come aboard?
Andy Rausch: J.R. is absolutely a terrific guy and sort of a role model for me in regards to Indie filmmaking. I love that guy to death and I can’t say enough good things about him. In fact, I’m not sure there are enough good words in existence for me to say, you know? I first met J.R. in 1999 when I was fortunate enough to interview him for a book I’m working on in which I interviewed fifty diverse filmmakers. I also interviewed guys like Robert Wise, Kevin Smith, Wes Craven… Anyway, J.R. immediately hit it off and I began championing The Dead Next Door. I wrote an article about it for Cashiers du Cinemart. The Dead Next Door is great, right? Well, when I hooked up with Chris Watson and got involved with Zombiegeddon, we kicked around ideas for people we wanted to work with and thought would make really cool cameos. Well, being a huge fan of The Dead Next Door, I immediately thought of J.R. I emailed him that night and he said, and I’ll never forget this, “I can’t turn down a friend, now can I?” J.R. then helped me get Ariauna Albright for the picture as I had been a big fan of Bloodletting, in which she played a woman who studies a serial killer…
J.R. came through with flying colors. He was so convinced that his performance in the film was going to be terrible and he kept saying, you know, “I’m not an actor” and “I’m gonna be terrible.” The funny thing is, his performance was better than those of many of the “professional actors” involved with the project. He has this really crazy little cameo where he gets his face blown open with a shotgun, and it’s a really great, really fun scene. My only regret is that his part in the film is so small. But he did a great job. We got really lucky with a lot of the casting in that all of the roles pretty much fit the actors playing them like a glove. An example of that would be Savini as Jesus, right? I mean, that’s absolutely perfect casting. The only thing that I think sucks about J.R. is his skepticism toward his own work. He’s absolutely his worst critic. He seems to pretty much hate all of his work, which is ludicrous to me because I love it. If I hadn’t, I would not have pursued him for the project.
The only funny thing regarding J.R. is that I screwed up and ordered his and Ariauna’s tickets priceline.com without checking around on other sites and airlines and I wound up paying an exorbitant amount for their tickets. This is funny when you remember that the whole movie was originally projected to cost about $10,000, but their tickets alone wound up costing $2,000! But they were both well worth that and I felt like a fanboy around both of them. I kept bumming Ariauna’s cigarettes–she was smoking these nasty herbal cigarettes because she was hoping they would make her stop smoking–and asking her questions about Bloodletting. I suppose I was probably like Chris Farley on those old “Saturday Night Live” sketches where he would ask famous people stuff like, “Remember when you played that one character in that one movie…? Yeah, that was cool.” (Laughs.) But she was a good sport and a very lovely woman whom I had had a crush on since I’d first seen Bloodletting. You know, I love those tough chicks, and you don’t get any tougher than serial killer chicks!
Horror Bob: The rest of the cast is just great it’s just a pile of great cult and horror actors and actresses all put together in one movie. Did this take a big hit on your budget, and how did you get them all to be in the film?
Andy Rausch: Unbelievably, the actors weren’t nearly as costly as one might think. Most of them reacted well to the material and saw it as an opportunity to do something that was very different from anything they’d done before. As for how we got them, we just asked. It was that simple. It seems crazy now, but that’s what happened. Chris was really the man behind landing the majority of the veteran actors in the film. As somewhat of a fanboy, as I said before, it was just kind of like, “Wow! William Smith is reading me his poetry!” You know, or “I’m drinking beer with Robert Z’Dar…well, it was more like, ‘I’m drinking beer with Matt Cordell from Maniac Cop!'” Another good one was Joe Estevez telling us a story about urinating in his brother Martin Sheen’s neighbor’s yard and being mistaken for Martin. That was classic. It was just outrageous fun. It was a lot of work and a lot of it seemed tough at the time, but now, in hindsight, it was the time of my life.
Horror Bob: Guys like J.R. Bookwalter (Tempe) and Lloyd Kaufman (Troma) have their own Distribution companies, have any of them expressed interest in helping distribute the film or are you seeking more than just a video release after the limited theatrical run.
Andy Rausch: It has been discussed, but right now we’re just kind of leaving our options open. We didn’t cast either of those guys because we wanted them to distribute Zombiegeddon, and I’d hate for them to think we did. We cast them both because I’m a huge Dead Next Door fan and Chris is a huge Toxic Avenger fan. We’ve actually spoken with a number of distributors now, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens now. In the end, money and specifics about the handling of the distribution will likely be the factors which make us choose which distributor we go with.
Horror Bob: What’s next for the crew of “Zombiegeddon” are there plans for a sequel?
Andy Rausch: Well, I just finished working on an anthology film Chris directed called Minds of Terror, which again features Joe Estevez. Next up for us looks to be another joint production between he and I entitled Slaughter Party. It’s kind of a Slumber Party Massacre-type flick. We’re co producing it and co writing it with a gentleman from New Jersey. I’m very much interested in getting my feet wet in terms of directing, so I’m hoping that we’ll end up co directing it when everything’s said and done. I think we’re gonna be a pretty good team together. It’s funny, but there was a period initially where neither Chris nor I was sure of the other. But now, we see that our strengths perfectly compliment each other’s weaknesses. Just like this script we’re working on now–he’s the story guy and I’m the dialogue guy. Of course I occasionally come up with story elements and he comes up with dialogue, which makes us doubly dangerous. We’re like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris… Watch out! As far as a sequel goes for “Zombiegeddon”. Yes, and no. Yes, there will most definitely be a sequel, but no, we haven’t gotten very far into the planning process for such a film. I would estimate that it’s a couple of years off. Ari Bavel and Paul Darrigo have discussed the possibilities of a spin-off of some sort featuring their characters entitled The Return of Jeff and Cage. Those characters, however, will not be returning in the actual sequel, though. This is going to sound like more blasphemy, but the rough idea for the sequel as it stands now deals with Jesus Christ returning as the main
character and leading a group of, um, retarded people in a battle against the zombies. (Laughs.) How’s that for crazy?
I’d like to thank Andy for his time. And after interviewing him about “Zombiegeddon” I can’t wait to see the film. It’s seems like this one going to be a B-movie classic with such a great cast of people, I’m expecting it to be a great movie.
- Interview with J.R. Bookwalter - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Andrew J. Rausch - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Rick Popko and Dan West - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Director Stevan Mena (Malevolence) - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Screenwriter Jeffery Reddick (Day of the Dead 2007) - January 22, 2015
- Teleconference interview with Mick Garris (Masters of Horror) - January 22, 2015
- A Day at the Morgue with Corri English (Unrest) - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Writer/Director Nacho Cerda (The Abandoned, Aftermath) - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Actress Thora Birch (Dark Corners, The Hole, American Beauty) - January 22, 2015
- Interview with Actor Jason Behr, Plus Skinwalkers Press Coverage - January 22, 2015