You may not have heard of the film, The Book of Zombie. Let me try and encapsulate it for you: Shaun of the Dead meets Toxic Avenger meets Labor of Love.
The trailer for the film launched today, and it looks impressive indeed. Here’s a link for the trailer. NOTE: IT IS AN EXTREMELY GORY ZOMBIE MOVIE. No Clean Flicks available for this one! You have been warned.
I had the chance to ask a few questions to Erik Van Sant, one of the producers of TBOZ. The interview follows. UPDATE — I also received interview answers from Scott Kragelund, the other producer of TBOZ.
BCC: Thinking about it, ‘mormon zombies’ sounds like a natural fit; how did you guys come up with the concept?
Erik: From what I’ve heard it was a bunch of grumbling television employees sitting around a break room making bad jokes.
Scott: We were all sitting around the lunch room one day trying to figure out what type of project we could do. We were kicking around ideas, and when zombies came up, someone said “mormon zombies” as a joke. I told them that if we made a Mormon zombie movie, that it would be successful. The name alone sounded like a hook, in fact the early version of the film was titled “Mormon Zombies”. 2 days later I had written a 7 page short film on the subject and then they knew I was serious. After many re-writes, I handed it over to Van Sant who is a professional screenplay writer and he turned it into a full blown script.
BCC: Is there some sort of profound message here about the nature of immersive religions, or are you more just focusing on the cultural cliches surrounding mormons?
Erik: For me I never had an agenda in writing the script with this subject matter. I took on the task of writing a screenplay based on as simple of a concept as: they’re Mormons… and they’re zombies. Personally, I chummed around with a guy in high school who was Mormon. Of course, he didn’t follow much of what was preached to him. I remember being fascinated by his parents though. I was unaware of the rules concerning caffeine/alcohol/sex/underwear. My buddy would always tell me about the restrictions placed upon him, and I was obviously floored by the fact that the dude couldn’t have a Coke. What I also learned from this union was that his parents were very loving, supportive people… and that’s kind of my whole experience with Mormons throughout my life is that they are warm people. Kind of stuffy… but warm.
So, instead of making a statement, I just took stereotypes and used them as plot devices in a horror story. Mormons can’t have caffeine/alcohol… In our story, that’s the achilles heel of our antagonists. I don’t want to give the movie away, but Mormons aren’t the only folks who get hung out to dry. In fact, I would say by the end of our little horror story they could be considered the victims.
Scott: No “cultural cliches” it just simply sounded like a movie that the YouTube generation would at least click on. It also sounded like a cool setting for a movie, a small Utah town. It could just as easily been Scientologist Zombies, Catholic zombies, or any other religion.
BCC: Are there any actual mormons involved with The Book of Zombie? Thinking about it, there are a whole host of mormon catchphrases that would be amazing in a zombie context.
Erik: I don’t believe there were any Mormons involved in the production. But that’s only because no one of Mormon faith showed up on the set to help. I wouldn’t of cared if you worshiped the kitchen sink, if you could operate a fog machine… you were in our crew. We don’t discriminate, unless you like Brett Ratner films.
Scott: No actual Mormons were hurt in the filming of this movie. Although, we have had nothing but a positive reaction from the Mormons that have contacted us about the film. I know up front it may seem like we singled out the Mormons, but when you watch the film, you’ll find out they are more of the victims. I don’t want to give too much away…..
BCC: I take it you’re not campaigning for Mitt Romney?
Erik: Mitt Romney has a fine haircut and I wish him well.
Scott: Actually, if Mitt Romney made it to the White House, that would be the biggest publicity stunt for a film yet! GO MITT ROMNEY!!!!!
BCC: The film seems like it has a huge Romero influence — I hope you are entering it in some Romero homage contests — but it’s also very much a Troma movie. What genre of horror were you going for?
Erik: First and foremost… I’m a huge Romero and Troma fan. Yes, TBOZ has elements of both. You can’t help but be compared to Romero because he’s the Godfather of zombie pictures. I can see the Troma influence coming out in the effects. The truth is I grew up watching Romero, Raimi, Argento, Craven, Carpenter, Hooper, the Universal Monster flicks… and oodles of other wonderful horror films. I’m a cinephile. I usually tell people I like everything from ‘Gone With the Wind’ to ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’. Our film is heavily influenced by ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which I believe to be the quintessential horror-comedy of all time. It’s brilliant in the way it blends hardcore zombie carnage with lovable characters and a hilarious story. I owe a lot to director Edgar Wright for the inspiration. Directors and have been blending genres since the dawn of cinema, but in the case of the ‘zombie’ film, no one comes close to ‘Shaun’. In fact, after we cast the film, I made sure all of the actors watched it before the first day of shooting. I told them: “This is what I’m trying to get across here.” After having seen it, everyone knew exactly the tone of our film.
Scott: HUGE Romero , Sam Raimi influence, but the style of the film is more of an Edgar Wright feel, like a Shaun of the Dead flick. There is a lot of humor in between all the blood and gore.
BCC: I hate to ask, but how much do you guys know about mormons?
Erik: Like I mentioned before, I have had a close friend who was Mormon, my cousin converted, and I watch TV. I did some research online, and watched a South Park episode where they lampooned the origins of the faith. So, yeah… I’m… incredibly… versed… about… Mormons.
Scott: We did a little research about Mormons, but nothing that made us hole up in a library somewhere. My friend lived in Cedar City Utah and I drew a lot of influences from my experience there.
BCC: Any sequels planned? A Scientology or Jehovah’s Witness undead film seems equally ripe for development.
Erik: Well, by my count there are plenty of religions left to exploit. I’m thinking we might have a Buddhist Space-vampire yarn to spin.
Scott: I would love to do a sequel! But I would love it even more if this thing got picked up by a studio and we could re-do some of the things with some real money. We have learned a lot of things on this first film and I think there are a lot of things we would have done better if we had another chance at it.
BCC: Ironically, few mormons are likely to see your movie, both because of distribution and because most of them won’t watch r-rated movies. Have you considered a family-friendly version? You know, like the PG version of 300?
Erik: If we made a PG version of ‘The Book Of Zombie’ it would clock in at about three minutes.
At the end of the day, our film is not meant to be mean-spirited in the slightest. It takes a few shots at religion here and there, but nothing profound enough to get your secret underwear in a bunch. It’s a horror film for fans of horror, film and having a darn good time at the movies. On the outset, you might think you have our film pegged as anti-Mormon, but like I said before, there’s a twist…
Scott: If we released a family friendly version, I think there would be about 5 minutes usable out of a 40 minute movie. We wanted to stay true to the zombie genre and keep the gore at a high level.
There you have it folks, the first deliberately horrifying mormon movie.