Brian: Who were
your first directing influences - Penny Marshall
making it large with Tom Hanks in 'Big' Your
grandfather taking movies of you throwing up
after your first binge during your kindergarten
graduation - The dude who shot your first Oshkosh
By Gosh commercial?
John: Okay, for
the record, I wasn't in Oshkosh By Gosh
commercials, just the catalogues. As for early
directing influences, and these still hold true,
definitely early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, Lloyd
Kaufmann and of course, George Romero. Those four
men are pretty much responsible for my obsession
with the horror genre. Watching their films from
the ages of 8-12 surely fucked me up.
Also, I would
have to throw Spielberg in there. 'Jaws'
is quite possibly the first movie I fell in love
with. I can't even tell you how old I was when I
first saw 'Jaws' , but it is definitely the first
film where I caught on to and appreciated the
idea of filmmaking.
is your favorite "legitimate" horror
film and what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
film, hands down, 'The Evil Dead'.
No other film compares. I saw 'The Evil Dead'
when I was 10 and have been obsessed with it ever
since. My brother was really into 'Army
of Darkness' when it came out, he rented
it a bunch and I ended up watching it many of
times. Then one day my life-long best Sam and I
were in the video store talking films with one of
the workers. We mentioned 'Army of
Darkness' and he brought up 'The
Evil Dead'. We rented both 'Evil
Dead' films, and both of us freaked out
after watching 'The Evil Dead' .
After that day, neither of the sequels do
justice. As far as I'm concerned, there is only
one 'Evil Dead' film.
As for my
favorite guilty pleasure, damn, there are so
many. Overall, my guilty pleasure is really
shitty Sci-Fi Channel-esque films. I fucking love
those. If I had to narrow it down, fuck, this is
tough. I might have to say it, the shit-tastic
Uwe Boll's 'House of the Dead.' Don't get me wrong, it is absolute shit. The film
is made so fucking bad, how can you not enjoy it?
I have no problem saying that I thoroughly enjoy
all of his films. For many years now it has been
tradition with my friends to consume lots of
whiskey and watch his "films."
was the thing that most knocked yer dirty socks
off about making 'Better Off Undead'?
The support and interest of everyone involved. So
many people just wanted to help out in anyway
they could. Some of the zombie extras did not
even like horror films one bit but still wanted
to help. That was absolutely mind blowing. I by
no means expected such a reaction. That goes for
the film being done now, too. We made 'Better Off
Undead' for no other reason than to have fun. The
support the fans have shown is much more than I
could have even imagined.
did you find was the most challenging aspect of
'Better Off Undead' , which was your first film?
from not really know what we were doing, time was
the biggest challenge. We made 'BOU'
for fun, and for very little money, $700 to be
exact. We didn't have the luxury of being paid,
so we had to film around everyone's work
schedules. Drew, who plays Marcus, the films'
lead, moved out of Oshkosh two weeks after we
began filming. Once he moved, we were limited to
only shooting on the weekends. One factor we
benefited from was having pretty much no crew.
The crew consisted of our DP Colin Crowley, First
Unit Bitch Scott Dercks, who did anything that
was needed, and myself. It was a challenge to get
the crew and cast, which was a total of six
people together. I can't even fathom how
difficult it would have been having a full crew.
was your most unusual experience when working
with the special effects and make-up for
'Better Off Undead'?
Again, filming for only $700, we didn't have a
whole lot to play with when it came to special
effects and make-up. The look of the zombies was
as basic as you could get. I would have to say
the most unusual experience with the special
effects is, in my opinion, how successful we were
with no money. Intestines were made out of pairs
of pantyhose stuffed with cotton, body casts were
made from plastic wrap and packing tape, and when
you see zombies chewing and eating, it\rquote s
nothing more than bread socked in the fake blood.
Add in the sound effects and you have some
descent special effects. During screenings I have
heard people cringe in disgust because of some of
the special effects. To me, that's kind of
unusual considering it's so simple. Well, aside
from all of that, it might be a little unusual
how insanely attracted I get to girls when they
are covered in fake blood.
have recently encountered some obstacles with
filming your first full length, 'Among
the Dead'. What has this whole process
John: Fuck being ambitious. Alright, that's not true. I
knew this before, but this whole fiasco just
reinforced the notion that independent filmmaking
is not easy. It's fucking hard, stressful, time
consuming and no matter how much you want to say,
"Fuck it all", if you really love it,
you can't give in. I spent 8 months working on
'Among The Dead', and that was before
principal photography began. I devoted my life to
the film, and even quit my job so I could put all
my time and attention to it. After 4 months of
being treated like shit, we finally locked in a
house to film in. We were going to rent it for
three months. The day before I got the keys, I
received a phone call saying they "had
someone who wanted to rent the house for a full
year." The house remained empty for over two
There I was,
jobless and completely depressed. I gave
everything I could for 8 months and got the
biggest pile of shit dropped on me. Now what? We
are down, but we are not out. The cast and I put
a lot of time into this film. We want to see it
finished, so we are going to see it finished.
This goes for filmmaking and so much more, but if
you want something, you can make it happen. It's
so damn clich'e to say, but it's true. Sometimes
things don't work out exactly how you hoped or as
you planned, but you have to adjust. All this
taught me that some things are worth getting
drenched in feces for, no matter how shitty it
get sharp and talk some slasher! Can you tell us
a bit about you own slasher script and about the
slasher films that have specifically inspired
The origin of the slasher script starts a long
time ago in Mr. Trader's health class in high
school. Sam, who I got into 'The Evil
Dead' with, and I am a year apart. We
didn't have health class together, but took the
same class at different times. We watched this
video about Phineas Gauge, a railroad worker from
1848 through an accident at work had a railroad
spike go through his head, severing the two
halves of his brain. He survived, but no longer
had any control of his emotions. One minute he
was happy, then sad, then scared, then furious
and so on. It was this shitty, informative,
made-for-school video. Both of us thought it was
hilarious and for whatever reason, it stuck with
us. Skip forward a few years, Sam's in college
and I play Phineas in a short film of his. It was
a minor role, but we talked about how funny it
would be to make a slasher film with Phineas
Gauge as the killer.
Sam and I are
still working on a script called
'Phineas'. It is a ridiculously
over-the-top slasher script about Phineas Gauge
killing a Catholic church group of
20-some-year-olds at some recently purchased
cottages on Lake Michigan to convert the cottages
for retreats and other "holy
adventures". It takes place during present
day, yet Phineas is still alive and killing. Why?
We have no fucking clue. He's fucking nuts, he
can't control his emotions, that's why. Wait,
that still doesn't explain why he is alive. I
really like what we have done so far. The whole
script is outlined, and more than half of it is
actually written. It's kind of funny writing
these holy rollers, I can speak for myself and
say I am not a religious/spiritual person. It's
pretty fun writing shit in the perspective
exactly opposite of what I believe. I can promise
lots of crude and possibly offensive humor and
very gory deaths.
As for slasher
films that have inspired me, I am a huge Joseph
Zito slasher fan. First off, 'The
Prowler', what do I even say? That film
is fucking unbelievable, definitely at the top of
my list. Also, 'Friday the 13th: The
Final Chapter'. This film captures the
fun and campiness one would expect a 80s slasher
film to have, let alone a 'Friday the
13th' film. But at the same time, it
shows a terrifying Jason. This film brings such
much more of a darker, brutal feel than the
others. I mean come on, Jason nailing Crispin
Glover's dead body to the doorframe, fucking
Cool! What other ideas do you have floating down
'Among The Dead' has been put on hold
until the spring of 2009, I have 4 short films
lined up. One of them is a straight up
zombie-esque short, two are more or less very
serious real-life horror stories, and the last
one is a comedy. Well, as much as two guys
talking about drinking 44oz. of either semen or
diarrhea can be comedy.
Lastly, any words of advice (IE: Don't argue with
your best friends over bong hits during the
middle of a zombie invasion) that you'd care to
leave us with? And thanks - it's been a limb
Running zombies suck ass, keep slow zombies
alive. Support your local scene as much as you
can. If you have an idea, see it through. And
lastly, always, always leave castrations to the
Also, if any of
this sounds interesting, or you are curious to
check out 'Better Off Undead', go to www.myspace.com/better_off_undead to see the trailer,
pictures and more. The DVDs are also available
for order there.