Our coverage of the 2010 After Dark Horrorfest continues with our exclusive interview with ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction writer/director Kevin Hamedani. ZMD marks the first horror/comedy for After Dark and judging by the way Hamedani describes his flick ('a hybrid of that realistic dry humor of Election with the occasional broad political jab of Dr. Strangelove with zombies') I'd be willing to wager that horror fans could be in for a serious treat here.
In theaters January 29nd–February 5th ZMD:Zombies of Mass Destruction will be joined by The Final, The Graves, Hidden, Dread, Lake Mungo, Kill Theory and The Reeds. Hit the jump for our exclusive interview with ZMD Writer/Director Kevin Hamedani below.
FEARnet: Can you tell us what Zombies of Mass Destruction is about?
Kevin Hamedani: The story takes place in a small town, an island town. A young Middle Eastern girl just dropped out of college and when the zombie epidemic hits, she is blamed for it because the news affiliates it with an Iranian terrorist attack and she's the only Iranian in this small All-American town. It's a satirical film about paranoia and stuff like that. There are actually two story lines, there's also a gay couple who find refuge in an evangelical church, but they have to conceal their sexuality or they will be thrown out of the church.
Sounds like you have at least one of the ingredients for a great zombie flick: a social or political message.
We definitely have one of those.
How long were you tossing around the story? Did you go through a process thinking this might or might not be the right time?
Yeah, absolutely. I wrote the first draft in 2003 and I think Shaun of the Dead came out in 2004 and it was so good that I was kinda depressed, so I put the script away. I only had about 45 pages and then in 2006 I heard about Rev Ted Haggard who was outed by his meth dealing/gay male prostitute, and I thought that was so funny/disturbing, how many kids lives he may have ruined, and so it just fit perfectly in the puzzle and once I got that idea from that article and I finished the script.
I can only assume that the events of 9-11 had an impact on the script as well.
Yeah, my feelings of post 9-11 since I'm Middle Eastern American and it's what I represented now to my neighborhood and how that changed and shifted without me doing anything.
There's the media and these speeches by the president that were filled with fear and I found myself getting scared and scared of flying and I took all these fears and once I was able to laugh at them I felt like we were being toyed with. I tried to make a cathartic 90-minute experience with all that.
This is the first feature length film you've directed?
Yes, I would say so. I've done like, I guess they were features but they were low budget features, MiniDV films but I don't really count those to be honest.
How was the experience?
It was educational. I feel like I went to film school. It was completely different than what I was used to which was just me and a cameraman and a boom guy. I come on the set and there are all these big toys and I have all these setups prepared and the DP is like, 'Ummm, maybe we can get to half of those'. The real lesson was how different it is when you are running a professional set.
As a director, are there any films you drew inspiration from when thinking about the look or tone of the film?
I drew from The Evil Dead and Dr. Strangelove. And as far as its humor, style and tone I drew from Election. So it's a hybrid of that realistic dry humor of Election with the occasional broad political jab of Dr. Strangelove with zombies. I'm a child of these films so I just made a movie I'd enjoy, there's a lot of me out there, the horror nerds.
Did you run into any trouble with the MPAA?
No, I was surprised because there was some pretty graphic stuff in there but we got our R.
Were there any specific scenes you thought might be trouble?
A guy’s face gets ripped off and we don't cut away from it. I think it's funny, over the top humor, like Evil Dead style. I saw people in the theater turn away. But I didn't hold back on the gore. If you're gonna make a gory film, you have to go all out.
Will you attend a public screening?
Yeah, I'm gonna try and hit a screening in L.A.
Do you do well sitting in a theater while people are watching your work?
Yeah, now I do, I mean I don't want to sound like a cocky bastard but I've done like 12 film festivals save for a few cities that maybe didn't quite get the humor. Now I can sit back and watch the audience and enjoy it from that perspective. I hope everyone digs it because it's one of their (After Dark's) first comedies. On video and TV I have a feeling this might wind up being a bit of a cult film. It has enough jokes and relevant political/social things going on people might look back on it and laugh at how absurd those 8 years with the Bush administration were.
What's next for you?
Shooting a documentary in April in Mexico about an experimental controversial stem cell treatment that's showing some breakthrough results in the science community. I'm in the finishing stages on a sci-fi script and if all goes well, it'll go into production next year.
What are you drawing from for the sci-fi film?
Sunshine, 2001 and There Will Be Blood. I listened to the There Will be Blood soundtrack on repeat as I wrote the script. That should give you an idea on the tone.