One of the highlights of this year's Comikaze expo might just be Ari Kischenbaum's horror-comedy Live-Evil. Described as a cross between Ghostbusters and Dawn of the Dead, it features a horde of familiar faces - including Tony Todd aka Candyman - who help make up the populace of a small town who are experiencing somewhat of a zombie plague.
Ahead of the screening, we caught up with Kirschenbaum.
Ari, why a zombie movie?
Well it’s not really a zombie movie. It’s kind of an anti-zombie movie. Not that I have anything against zombies.
Is it hard to make one that the audience hasn’t seen before? How do you think you accomplished that?
I’m here today to tell you about ABAYA. Not a Kraut Band from Norway, ABAYA’s a movie maxim. Always Be Ahead of Your Audience. Alec Baldwin from Glengary Glen Ross underlines it on a chalkboard every time I feel the itch to be cliché’. There should be no reason that you can’t be ahead of your audience, you have the all head start you need. So, I really hope, I didn’t Shelley Levene it, and the audience will be surprised by Live-Evil. There’s definitely a lot of stuff in there I haven’t seen.
The movie is a mix of frights and funnies. How much of the tone is influenced by the movies of the ‘80s and how much of it is simply the result of a belief that audiences have had enough of the uber-serious zombie film (or series)?
Everything I do is influenced by the 80’s in some way. I can’t take a shower without making an 80’s reference. Films from the 70’s, but more so the 80’s are how I learned to visually communicate. However, artistically, 80‘s and 90’s hip-hop was the Arc of the Covenant for me, not the Holy Grail, because that doesn’t kill enough Nazis, I need a sweeping, face-melting power and Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, labels like Ninja Tune made my head implode. It was an artistic skeleton key. An aesthetic that could be applied to all forms. 50’s B-Movies, Read-Along Books, Ennio Morricone soundtracks, lo-fi Jazz Records, all cut-up and sculpted into something new. The Frankestein’s monster of music. That power in pastiche won me over. Despite an obvious 80’s influence, I do agree there is an element in Live-Evil of playing against the current zombie tone, but that’s kind of an 80’s move as well isn’t it? In general, I don’t think zombie angst is going anywhere. It’s directly related to current world view – bleak with a 70% chance of apocalypse. Zombies are pessimist wish-fulfilment, so they are here to stay, zombies and pessimists, thank god.
Are there certain prerequisites that a zombie movie or series must have?
There are definitely some prerequisites, but I hope I ignored all of them. I prefer short hand, implying things. To me, the more interesting ingredients in horror, are build up and atmosphere.
The cops are the heroes in this, right?
Are they? Absolute heroes are so boring, so I hope the cops aren’t heroes in that sense. The film starts with some borderline behaviour and I think there is a questionable strain throughout.
What was it about Charlene Amoia that made her the right pick for the female lead?
I’m still appreciating her performance, and I really like that. We started production with another actor, she was not working, so we had to replace her. We looked at an audition of Charlene and I could tell she had the chops, and the look, but I was still nervous about the physicality needed. She worked up a video of her throwing punches and that sold me, not just because she clearly had the physical ability, but also because she took it seriously enough to prove it. Although I’m sure every actor dreams of carrying a movie, it’s harder than you think, and I think she pulled it off. Hancock could have been an annoying, scene killing vortex of suckage. Instead, I think Charlene’s performance is one of the highlights.
And Tony Todd – what does he bring to the movie?
Six and a half feet of bad-ass.
What are the plans for Comikaze? The screening is open to the public, correct?
It’s a free screening, first come, first serve. 5:30pm in room 515b. There will be a panel afterwards with the cast and I. I’m hoping it will get everyone in that proper Halloween spirit. If you can’t tell, I love Halloween.