CALEB EMERSON: The Man Behind DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS: The World's First Serial Killer Superhero Zombie Rock n' Roll Road Movie Romance by Owen Keehnen

As writer/director/producer Caleb Emerson is the driving force behind the gruesome flesh feast DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS. The flick has been garnering some solid reviews and a slew of festival awards and mentions. The film will be released this January (2007) in the U.S. by Image Entertainment and stars Tim Gerstmar, Tippi Zornoza, Geoff Mosher, and porn legend Jaimie Gillis.

The Glouchester Massachusetts born Emerson learned the movie business from both sides of the camera working as an actor as well as on the production side of things for Troma - in 'Citizen Toxie' and the new flick 'Poultrygeist' as well as roles in several horror productions by fellow entrepeneur David Callahan: 'Raving Maniacs', Splatter Disco', and Pretty Dead Things'.

Best of all Caleb Emerson was on hand to answer a few questions for us in this exclusive Racks and Razors Interview.



So Caleb, to the people who knew you as a kid and teenager do you think it comes as a shock to them that you are releasing a movie called 'Die You Zombie Bastards!' or do you thnk they pretty much expected it from you?

I think everyone I've know since I was probably 12 pretty much expected it from me. I directed a "movie" in 1988 or '89 called "The Story of Mr. NiceGuy and Dr. Death" and another one shortly after called "Biff Honeyflower and His Death Vaccuum From Hell" so...not much has changed.

'Die You Zombie Bastards!' had a lengthy bridge from the start of shooting to the end of production. Two years plus...Was it hard to sustain your momentum (and that of your cast and crew) for that period of time or did it allow the movie to develop in interesting ways from your original idea?

The only people we brought back from shoot to shoot were people I knew I could trust. I tried not to rely on strangers to commit to something that was going to take a year or 2. We spent a lot of money that we probably could have avoided spending had we shot the film all at once, but we definitely all grew throughout the production and stumbled upon some "happy accidents". The film wouldn't have been nearly so unique, and we started attacting aa lot of interest while we were still shooting, so that by the time the film premiered there were already quite a few people waiting to see it...and now by the time the DVD was released there were evern more! I wish it didn't take so long to make...but I'm kind of glad it did if that makes any sense...

'Die You Zombie Bastards!' has been receiving great reviews & picking up some film prizes as well: Best Feature at the Lausanne Underground Festival, Best Feature, Screenplay, and Actor (Tim Gerstmar) at Tromandale, etc. Has the critical success of the film surprised you?

Yes and no. I totally believed in what we were did (my producing and writing partner) Haig...but you always expect a lot of people not to "get" something like this. . I was expecting to really get torn apart by some of the online critics who seem to be brutal just for fun sometimes. But every screening we've had has gone really well. A few reviews have been a little mediocre, but thye seem to be from people who aren't really into this kind of movie. The only BAD review we have received so far was on some guy's blog who was in the audience at Fantasia and he hated it. But all of the big guys like Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting etc. have really liked it.

And now it is coming to home DVD in the US in January 2007 from Image Entertainment. How does negotiating a home DVD release deal come about...or how did it come about in your case anyway?

Haig and I tried for over a year to get good US distribution...but the business is really bad right now...there's SO much product out there, and alot of it is being produced SO cheaply on video that distributors are happier giving a few thousand bucks advance to a cheapie than trying to find something that was made with a little more care and effort. So, we finally went with a sales agent (Jeff Cooper of CUT Entertainment) and he had a deal for us in a matter of weeks. The deal wasn't all we had been fantasizing about...but it was WAY better than anything we came up with on our own. Jeff got us the UK deal as well.

I also want to hear about how you got one of my very favorite porn dudes of the 70s Jaimie Gillis to star as Stavros in the movie. Were you a bit starstruck?

I just tracked him down online, which isn't hard to do, and asked him. I made him (what for this movie was) a pretty generous offer and he agreed. He seemed to like the script, and I think he was a little flattered, or at least appreciative that someone thought enough of his acting skills to use him in this way. Maybe that's presumptuous but it was the vibe I got. I didn't want him in the movie in a Ron Jeremy cameo kind of way, ie: "Hey... look... it's that old porn star... ha ha." I paid him because he was a name actor... but I cast him because he is a really good actor, he is funny as hell, and in my opinion he was perfect for the part. Jamie was a joy to work with. I am a big fan of his adult stuff... and I was a little starstruck, but I didn't want to be too much of a fanboy annoying him with a lot of questions about his past. I did get a couple of On the Prowl questions in (the film Jamie directed that was recreated in Boogie Nights). And at the time we were filming (November 2003) the movie Wonderland (about John Holmes) was about to come out... or maybe it was just announced or something... and we talked about John Holmes and the recent interest in older porn films. But I don't have any revelatory pearls of info that were passed down to me in secret... just friendly small talk. I can't wait to work with Jamie again though... the two days he was on set were among the most enjoyable.

Now I want you to give me an amazing teaser/synopsis for the movie that is going to make 'Die You Zombie Bastards!' an irresistable must-see to all the wonderful Racks and Razors readers.

Well...the synopsis we've been using is that it's "The world's first ever serial killer super hero zombie rock n' roll road movie romance"...we've been using the line for a while and I don't want to sound too redundant..but that pretty much sums it up.

Back in 2000 had a role as Dex Diaper in 'Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV'. How did that role come about?

I signed on to the film as a Production Assistant and there was an on-set rehearsal a week or so before we started shooting. For some reason the actor who was supposed to play the part couldn't come so I stood in for him. Lloyd and Trent thought I did a good job...and I was kind of weird looking a too which was a when it came about that the orignal actor could no longer do it for scheduling reasons or something they mean told me I was going to do I did and I had a blast.

And this year your returned to the Troma family for a role as Carl Jr. in 'Poultrygeist'. Are their movies as much fun to make as they are to watch?

No. Well...depends on what you mean by fun. They are long and hellish productions, and they invlove MASSIVE ammounts of work and dedication. They hire mostly amateur crew members, so most people are learning as they work...and therefore fucking up a lot...but everyone really wants to be there working which is more than can be said for a lot of producitons. So...if that sounds fun, then...yes..they are a lot of fun. I had an amazing time on both films. If you can handle the work load, and you do well under pressure then they are great. Can you give me a timecapsule moment from your work with that studio that just sort of explains the whole Troma experience? By week 2 production (this is all documented in the "Apocalypse Soon" documentary on the DVD) of Citizen Toxie The Assistant Director, Casting Director, Production Designer, Office Coordinator...and other people too I'm sure had all either quit or been fired. Lloyd: "Fuck...we need a Casting're're the new Casting Director" Caleb: "Lloyd, I don't know how to be a Casting Director" Lloyd: "Go ask the 2nd Assistant Director...she'll show you what to do. Hurry up though, we have a scene where we need 30 extras the day after tomorrow"

In addition to your Lloyd Kaufman (Troma) work you have also worked in the past couple of years on two Richard Griffin horror films -- as David Callahan in 'Raving Maniacs' (2005) and as Big Jake in 'Pretty Dead Things' (2006). How did those roles come about?

Richard and I were pretty much the only people in Rhode Island doing this kind of thing, and we had a mutual friend (Trent Haaga) who got us in touch. We met for coffee, and it turns out the he was doing re-shoots for Raving Maniacs a week or so later. He asked me to pay a one day role so I agreed. It was fun..we got along well and I never heard anything from him for a year or 2. He was gearing up to do "Pretty Dead Things" and asked me to be Director of Photography. At first I turned it down..cuase I am not a Director of Photography..but then I figured I went to film school...I direct, act and edit...I know what it takes to make a scene...I am a good camera operator, so I got back in touch and accepted....and I played the role of "Big Jake" (Richard shot the scenes where I act himself). AND I just shot Richard's latest film "Splatter Disco" just over a month ago. We got along so well the first time that he asked me back, and I was glad to do it.

Do you have any other projects pending or a new movie in the works you would like to let the Racks and Razors readers know about?

I'm in the middle of a script right now called "They Call Her Sugarpussy" which is something of an erotic science fiction action film. No horror this time. I need to get away from zombies for a bit (I think the whole world does actually) . I just moved to Hollywood and once I'm done writing I'm going to try to get this one done on a bigger scale...35mm...better equipment, more money etc. We'l see. Keeping my fingers crossed.

What was the first movie you saw that scared the shit out of you?

Not too many movies scare me. weird things scare me actually. "Dead Ringers" scared the crap out of me...I think "The Sentinal" was pretty scary. Mostly I like to watch fun horror movies, or just plain sleazy horror movies.

Okay, we're pulling into the Caleb Emerson Drive In. What three horror flicks are on the triple bill tonight and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

"Blood For Dracula", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Toxic Avenger" The concession stand will be serving Cheeseburgers, Raisinettes and Diet Coke. And coffee.

What scares you in real life?

Doctors, Sharks and Alligators

What makes you go psycho in real life?

Human stupidity makes me angrier than anything. Things like spending half a day at the DMV and vising 13 different desks, filling out 8 different forms and standing in 11 different lines to get your license renewed. Or trying to call UPS about a get sent from one person to another and so on so you can file a claim that they damaged your package. I just want to fucking scream at these people. I think in my old age I'll enjoy sitting out by a lake with my underwear on my head hanging out with my wife and my dog...enjoying silence.