The gentleman known as Lord Zion has been, until now, known chiefly as the frontman of glam/punk/metal troublemakers SPIT LIKE THIS and the founder of notorious t-shirt site SMELL YOUR MUM but due to an unexpected turn of events he is now turning his hand to filmmaking, heading up the brand new British horror comedy MEET THE CADAVERS. This is a film which fuses genres together into something new and potentially hugely entertaining.
The world of filmmaking is a somewhat different beast to your music career – how did Meet the Cadavers come about in the first place?
Z: There are big differences but also similarities between both endeavours. Both are really hard work and require a lot of patience, for a start! The biggest difference though is that the movie world seems so much more collaborative. There are so many people involved in making a film – even a low budget one like mine – that it can feel like a small army. There were moments on set where I would see around 35 people all working hard just because of some dumb idea I had once…
…and as for that idea. Well, long story short, I wrote a screenplay that is a 2hr Sci-Fi Thriller. That is an expensive thing to try and produce. So, after patting myself on my back for actually completing it, I realised that, if I ever stood a chance of getting it made, I needed to rewind a bit and produce some low-fi fare to make a name for myself.
Zombie movies are always good fodder for low budget indie films, so I was thinking along those lines. And I liked the idea of having recurring characters in a series of movies. My mind was heading toward the Carry On films and then it clicked – what would happen if you merged a Zombie film with a Carry On film? Once I had that idea, it all fell into place and I wrote it surprisingly quickly.
Do I remember mention of an adventure in Cannes?
Z: Not yet! We are going to Cannes in May. Way back when though, I determined that 2014 was the year I was going to Cannes for the first time. Almost as if to prove to myself that I was serious about the parallel career. Dive in at the deep end, then learn to swim.
I love the premise. What was it that helped to form the concept?
Z: I touched on that above but, as I got more into it, I realised that I really wanted to veer as far away from the traditional Zombie concept as possible. So my Zombies move just like regular people. They are neither slow, flesh hanging off Zombies or super-fast Zombies. I have taken it upon myself to write my own Zombie rule book. I know this will annoy some people but, y’know, ZOMBIES AREN’T REAL, so I can do what I like. The general idea is that my Zombies have a “just dead” look. When I came up with the tagline – “An ordinary family just like yours or mine. Except they’re Zombies” – it practically wrote itself.
Mixing horror and comedy together well can be tricky. It can either be fantastic (Shaun of the Dead, Vamp, Zombieland) or bloody awful (Scary Movie 1-100). How does Meet The Cadavers mix the two genres?
Z: It is almost a film of two halves. When it is funny, it is really funny but, when it turns, it REALLY turns. A lot of the comedy is down to the interaction between Sidney Cadaver (the 18 year old Zombie son) and his best mate, Barnaby (human). Sidney is one of these guys that thinks he’s really cool but, ultimately, he’s a bit of a loser. He just hasn’t realised it. Barnaby is a bit more of an obvious loser and quite aware of it, so he looks up to Sid. They are a total double act along the lines of Jay & Silent Bob or Laurel & Hardy. Sid is the straight man so the fun is reactive rather than joke lead. There are some broad moments, but they are in-keeping with the characters. I have deliberately avoided any humour that is too cartoony, abstract, unreal or out of character. It really helps that the actor that plays Sid played him completely straight. Basically, they are just a couple of best mates with their banter being just like mine was with my best mates when I was a kid.
But then things take a turn for the worst. I can’t/won’t give away any spoilers but, very much like in “From Dusk Til Dawn” where the film does a 180, expect surprises here. Nothing supernatural, though. Once we are in this part of the film, apart from a couple of natural tension-release moments, the humour stops and the characters develop. I am pretty certain I’ve got the balance right!
What has this venture taught you so far?
Z: That making a film is really, really hard! Seriously though, I think it has really enforced the “anything is possible if you just do it” aspect of life. 18 months ago, notions of film-making were a faraway dream. Yes, I did always think it would be something I mightdo but, where to begin? Then the band was asked to be in a film (“Zombie Women Of Satan 2”) and I loved being on set. Shortly after, Vikki and I were asked to act in a film (“Blaze Of Gory: Snow”) which was shot out in Norway. By then, I was sold on film-making, I just didn’t know where to begin. A director friend encouraged me to write a screenplay so, after doing a treatment, I spent nearly six months writing. Just a small amount a day until, next thing I know, it was finished.
Of course, most people start with a short film. Far less daunting. But I like grand tales and big adventures so I was determined my first would be a feature. Once “Meet The Cadavers” was written, I was so completely sold on it’s merit as a good film, I approached the director who had put me in “Blaze Of Gory” – David VG Davies – and, once he read it, he said, “This HAS to be made”. That was a big moment for me.
That was in August 2013. We started shooting in October 2013. The pre-production period was intense. I was learning skills I had never even conceived before. But I’m one of those people that can absorb information like a sponge, if it is something I am interested in. A lot of production is essentially organisation and that is something I’d been doing for years with the band. I like organising stuff.
As I was to be a writer/director, I asked David if I could co-direct with him. He was happy to give me that chance so that expanded my role further. I was now writer, producer, director and star! Nothing like giving yourself a ton of work to do.
I loved it though. Of course, it was daunting. At times it was overwhelming but, being naturally bossy and authoritative, I was able to command the set in the way that I think needed to be done.
I must have done something right as nearly all the crew are back for a short I am filming imminently! I always tried to be the hardest working person there though – I’m not one to sit back and let everyone else do the dirty work. I figured, if I work harder than anyone else, no-one can really complain. I’m sure there is SOME logic there.
When do you think audiences will get to see the movie?
Z: Ideally, late Summer / early Autumn would be good. We are editing now, preparing an extended trailer for when I go to Cannes. We will have a rough cut ready around the same time. It will then be a case of tidying things up and doing all the other bits and pieces that will need doing. The editing process is something I am really enjoying. Just the other day, I was helping edit a clip when it really hit home to me how easy it would be to get it wrong. Or, rather, how hard it is to make something exceptional. There was one particular scene where, by careful selection of shots, reactions and the space between the dialogue, you could really take things to a whole other emotional level. It is an attention to detail that requires such immense concentration and patience, I hope I have it within me to keep that up.
Will we be seeing any of your infamous t-shirts (or indeed a certain legendary greetings card) in the film?
Z: Yes, but not in a blatant way. Sidney wears a Varsity jacket which we printed on (or rather Vikki printed on) and now sell via our t-shirt site (to help contribute toward movie costs!). But, out of our existing range, Barnaby is the only character wearing our stuff. He wears a SPiT LiKE THiS T-shirt and another of our designs is on the back of his hoody. Both are in-keeping with his character, though and, if you didn’t know me / my history, you would never know it was any kind of product placement. It’s more about wardrobe and creating a look.
On a similar note, will the band be proving any music for the soundtrack?
Z: Unlikely. I want the film properly scored. I want leitmotifs. I want to be able to watch the film without dialogue but still know what is going on through the emotional cues in the music. If it can work as a silent film, the composer will have done a good job! The only place there might be a sneaky SLT track is in a party / disco scene.
I see in the press kit there’s a zombie dressed as the Hulk. I can only wonder what the heck is going on there. This certainly looks wonderfully different, which is good as the genre has been saturated of late. What’s your opinion of the genre as it currently stands?
Z: I can neither confirm nor deny as to whether that character is a Zombie or not… Look closely, you will also see Adam Ant, Wilma & Fred Flinstone and a whole other host of weird, wonderful people. I can’t give away what – if anything – that has to do directly with the plot. I want to keep as many spoilers at bay as possible. Get back to film viewing as it used to be – a genuine surprise! As for the genre as a whole – I can’t really criticise. I am jumping on a band wagon but, with my own unique spin on it. I’m pretty certain that, out of all Zombie movies ever made, this will be the one that makes people go WTF?!
What movies would you liken Meet The Cadavers to?
Z: Influences therein are The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Inbetweeners, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Carry On Camping, Mallrats and a whole bunch I probably don’t even realise.
I understand there are more film projects in development. What can you tell us about those?
Z: Certainly! This weekend I am directing a short for the “Blaze Of Gory” anthology. You may recall from an earlier answer, I acted in the segment “Snow”. Well, one of the directors had to pull out so David asked if I would like to direct “Spawn Of The Devil”. I said “Hell, yeah!”. He knew how much I was missing being on the MTC set and I also got to add some new story elements to the screenplay. The anthology comprises 10 short films, with a wraparound story. I believe the premier will be at a well known horror event in August. We have Lauren Harris (daughter of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris) playing a lead role, so that’s exciting.
Earlier this year I finished a screenplay called “Sleep”. It is a psychological horror which explores the psychosis that occurs during bouts of insomnia. I want that to be the next thing I concentrate on after filming this weekend. Lauren is interested in doing that as well so I just need to work out how to fund it. Being a more straight ahead horror, it will be an easier sell than Cadavers (I avoided trying on that as the concept needs someone who totally gets it in charge – ie, me!) so I hope to get the budget in place to shoot it soon.
Beyond that, who knows? I am part way through a Nazi comedy. Cadavers will need a sequel. I have also been asked to play a role in an indie film and to AD on a documentary about Hammer Horror. I am eager to explore any and all parts of filmmaking, but my heart really lies with writing/directing.