Death Metal Zombies Review (1995), Zombiefied (2012) and an Interview with Todd Jason Falcon Cook.

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For anyone that knows me they will tell you not only do I have an absolute passion for horror movies, but there is something else which I am just as avid about, HEAVY METAL, and in keeping with how I like my horror, I like my metal extreme. So how could I not resist this little corker of a title? Death Metal Zombies, it just instantly appealed when I stumbled across it in a cult movie ebayer’s collection I knew I just had to have it!

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This little gem of a 90’s indie flick  had me grinning from ear to ear for the entire duration. Cheesy, hammy, and perfectly gory, one thing that stood out about this film, (apart from the epic concept), was the music. For all lovers of extreme metal this had one of the most kickass soundtracks I have ever encountered , Amorphis, Pungent Stench, Hypocrisy, Winter, Exit 13 (a band who incidentally my co-blogger used to tape trade with one of the members, which had him totally in awe at the mention!), to name but a few in this epic soundscape. Fitting music for a zombie apocalypse, ok maybe nothing on that grand scale is featured here, but it worked all the same. For all its limitations this shot on video film really had me entertained, so after watching I just had to know more so I contacted the director Todd Jason Falcon Cook. What a nice guy is all I can say, and he has agreed to talk to our humble little Gore Splattered Corner, about the film he made back in 1995, his experiences as an independent filmmaker and his latest project Zombiefied.

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Now for anyone not in the know Death Metal was in its blossoming years during the 90’s, as a kick back from the Reganesque overindulgence of hair metal bands in the 80s, underground extreme metal bands were fighting back bringing us some of the loudest, evilest metal known to man. I have always been of the persuasion that metal should be evil it is dubbed as The Devil’s Music afterall, and while I am a big fan of 80’s cheese as a whole, there was always something that made me a bit uncomfortable about the L.A hairmetal movement which dominated the 1980’s. For a start it was not very evil, Motley Crue Girls, Girls, Girls is a perfect example of what they stood for, and it was all a bit wishy-washy and not very dangerous at all. It became far too mainstream, and just a bit dull. Just when I thought all was lost someone saved my life and gave me a copy of Slayer’s South of Heaven. Now that really was The Devil’s Music, or so I thought so at the time, sat alone in my bedroom full of teenage angst, lighting joss sticks, and feeling as if what I was listening to was giving me a direct channel to the Unholy One (14 years old what can I say, I was a pretty strange kid!). Funnily enough this was around the same time I uncovered some of the first ever Video Nasties I was going to see. Two experiences which shaped my love for the horror genre as it is today, and the music which I am so passionate about, and for me forever more the two will always be intrinsically linked.

So fast forward to the 90’s, I was slightly older, a tiny little bit more wiser, and my musical tastes had started to evolve into what they have become today. The 90’s was an exciting time for underground extreme metal bands, which brings me back to my subject Death Metal Zombies, and what I instantly liked about it was it was a perfect time capsule back to this era which was such an influential time in my life. In watching this group of metal heads on-screen playing out their zombie fantasies through the medium of video I felt a certain kinship with them which had me immediately hooked. Always a rebel I just love DIY which fights back at the cold heartless cashmachine of the mainstream with all its censorship laws, and manipulation. While death metal music did this on a musical level, shot on video movie making did that in horror. Sticking these two hand in hand what a combination!

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Unless you are a lover of cheap, cheesy DIY features like this and prefer the slick look of some of the horror films done in the vein of Vanity Fair Magazine, (like we see so much in the current climate of filmmaking), this film is not going to appeal, and even less so if you are not a fan of this type of music. But as I suspect many of you are, (who visit our Gore Splattered Corner), a lover of the dark, and extreme in music or film then I urge you to check it out. Even if you are not a fan of metal per se but love a bit of trashy gore there will be enough here to satisfy you and believe me the musical background is perfectly fitting. For all its obvious foibles there was a distinct fun element contained within. Made by metalheads for metalheads is all I can say, and keeping it ‘True’ all the way! Manowar would be proud. One thing I have always loved about the community of metal heads is their ability to not take themselves too seriously, and there is plenty of that in this movie which provides a perfect parody of the genre I love so much. We have people bursting into impromptu headbanging, spot the cool band poster/shirt, windmilling long hair galore, and one of the opening scenes features shots of a gig which reminded me so much of days gone by in sweaty clubs getting slammed into by a beer soaked adolescent crowd. One scene where a thief returns home with her spoils and headbangs her way through the house on her way to the toilet is just pure comedy. Likewise the zombie transformation moments amused me no end as this rag-tag bunch of moshers gathered in their garage for a spot of en mass in a circle headbanging, taken in by the music of Living Corpse they start to stumble around, demonstrating the evil power of true metal.

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The plot follows the story of Brad Masters (Brian De Wild) , obsessive metalhead,  who enters a competition to win an exclusive recording of Living Corpse’s latest tape. On finding out he has won his impatience gets the better of him and unable to wait for his girlfriend to arrive he gives it an airing with his best friend Tony (played by director Cook) , and Kathy (C. Jo Vela). Brad soon discovers to his peril that anyone who listens to the track Zombiefied turns into a zombie. This would be a Death Metal Zombie so normal rules don’t apply here. Firstly they like to headbang, and secondly there is no aim at the head here, blast them with a bit of country music or easy listening though and you are home free. It was these little moments which had me so entertained as there was a heavy dose of metalhead in-jokes and references in here. Controlled by Shengar of the Underworld (Thomas Banta), who incidentally is the lead singer of Living Corpse,  this undead army set about causing carnage in the local area. The story is pretty much easy to follow, apart from the strange subplot including a serial killer in a Richard Nixon mask, which did not matter much as it set the foundations to have plenty of splatter and gore, great stuff! The plot follows on this music of mass destruction theme while Brad’s girlfriend Angel (Lisa Cook) and Tommy (Mike Gebbie) struggle to find a cure to this curse which has fallen their fellow warriors of metal. While the acting is in keeping with the DIY status of this movie one thing that is evident is an obvious enthusiasm for the project for those involved, something which I love to see in a film of this type, and the true heart and soul of the horror genre.

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Now to the gore, for a low-budget production it was actually quite impressive, definitely enough to satisfy my gorehound sensibilities, and intertwined with the generous amount of humour, and an unrelenting soundtrack of blastbeats and grind I really enjoyed it. It was very reminiscent of watching one of those old Black Metal music videos the likes of which can be seen here ( and believe me when I say this it is out of the greatest love and respect for these purveyors of dark campness extreme). Oh they certainly do not make them like this anymore, and that is one thing that is for sure.

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Heavy-fucking-metal indeed!! This film had me tapping my foot, banging my head, and gave me one of the most entertaining experiences I have had in a long time. Pure fucking metal as Arch Enemy would say, horns up! \m/

Nowadays Todd is on to bigger and better things, and has recently expanded the original concept of Death Metal Zombies, with a much larger budget and better production values in his 2012 flick Zombiefied. Fangoria commented “Zombiefied is fun and Cook shows promise.”, on Todd’s latest venture, and if the goresome trailer is anything to go by it looks set to become a cult splatter fan favourite.

Check the trailer here:

More info can be found at: http://www.zombiefiedmovie.com/

We are very grateful to Todd for taking the time to give us an interview about his experiences as a filmmaker.

Tell me a little more about the background of Death Metal Zombies, how? what? why? and Richard Nixon??

Todd: The year was 1994, and I simply decided now is the time for me to do my first zombie film. I had already directed several films including EVIL NIGHT, DEMON DOLLS,  HORRORSCOPE, etc. And they were all smaller films with a small cast and crew.

I did not have a story or any inspiration at the time when I picked up a CD by a band called DEAD WORLD, which had a song title of the same name that blew my mind and made me see the movie playing in my head.
There was something about this song, it made me visualize the big zombie fight sequence in the film.  I decided to immediately start writing the script which took only four days to complete.
After writing the script, we placed a casting call ad, saw over 1000 people and I made my selections for the film and off into production we went!
So this song “DEAD WORLD” is what really inspired me to begin writing the film.  I knew that this song had to be in the film so I contacted Relapse Records.
The only reason for Richard Nixon is because I saw a film that I love that used the mask and I wanted to use it for the unexplained killer.

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That is quite an impressive soundtrack the movie features, how did you go about securing the rights?

Todd: Right after I wrote the script, I called Relapse Records and told them I was making the movie and told them I would like to use DEAD WORLD’S title track because it inspired me to write the film.

Since I had directed several other films and they seemed impressed, they gave me royalty-free usage of as many bands as I wanted from their label.  I think they sent me about 40 CDs to choose from.  Relapse was amazing for supporting the film so much.

How did you manage to market the film without the use of the social media we have today?

Todd: Marketing was much tougher back then.  We took the film and did appearances at horror conventions around the States including Fangoria weekend of horrors, etc.

Relapse also distributed the film to various places as well.  I distributed the film under Cemetery Cinema until it became known as Screamtime Films in 2005 and am still distributing the film under the newer label to this day.

Could you explain a bit about the importance of the pioneering work SOV and guerilla filmmakers had in developing the Indie film movement (within the horror genre) and the role you played in this?

Todd: It was very interesting being part of the SOV era in its infancy.  It was a time when the only way you could make an independent film was to shoot on video unless you had a large enough budget for film, which none of us had.

Personally for me, I had been doing SOV since 1984 when I was 12 years old.  I did not discover other filmmakers using this format until later when Blood Cult came to the home-video market.
In 1984, I was only making films for fun, not for release. It was great training ground and helped me to learn the entire production process by myself essentially.  I would grab the video camera and shoot all kinds of horror short films, then edit them and score them myself or use premade soundtracks and bands that I like as a kid.
After all, I was not selling films for release at that point anyway so it really didn’t matter.  
Seeing other movies start coming out using the video format changed everything for me.  I then realized I could actually sell and market the films.
The problem back then was that not too many see the home-video look, so some of us, myself included, processed the final edit to give it a more film like quality.   Personally, I still prefer the muted look of a film over the live look of video.
But again, seeing all these other filmmakers doing what I was doing pretty much solidified a new genre of filmmaking at that time.  
I started Cemetery Cinema in 1992 and started distributing all kinds and types of SOV horror films.  The greatest reward that none of us saw coming landed 20 years later.
Now, SOV is considered a cult form of filmmaking and those films are now highly collectible. I have recently seen my old films selling for $65-$75 a piece, which shows they are more appreciated than ever which is an amazing time!
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I notice you make a nod to Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento in your credits for Death Metal Zombies, and dedicate the film to the memory of Kurt Cobain, how have those influences inspired you as a filmmaker?

Todd: Fulci and Argento are my two favorite Italian horror film directors and have inspired every single film that I make.  The Kurt Cobain thing was requested by one of the actors who was in the film (Wes Dodson) and actually looked like Kurt Cobain.  I was a fan of Nirvana, the dedication I think if I remember correctly was his idea

On your website www.screamtimefilms.com you have quite an impressive repetoire of work, for anyone who enjoyed Death Metal Zombies, which would you recommend to check out next?

Todd: If you’re a fan of SOV, I would recommend The Dummy as that was the movie I did directly after DMZ and one that I am personally fond of. 

If you want to see what DMZ would look like if made today, then check out Zombiefied, my 2012 film.

Your latest project Zombiefied, what was the inspiration behind that? (the trailer looks bloody goretastic by the way!)
Tell us a bit about the production of this new venture? How did it fair in contrast to your earlier efforts?

Todd: The inspiration was to make the best film I could ever make and take an old idea that I felt was very strong and turn it into a brutal, dark and intense non-stop film.  So it is the same concept executed in a very different way with a much more serious tone and 1000 times more gore.

It took longer to do than any film I have ever done in my life and it was a complete departure from SOV in style, look and atmosphere!
The film got signed by Celebrity Entertainment and released in 2012.  It is currently on ATT Uverse in 40 million homes on demand, as well as other major cable/satellite/TV providers.  It is also available on DVD at Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other online stores so that is very exciting to see!  It definitely has the largest distribution of any film I have done so far.

Pro skater, musician in Stage Dive (which has made 19 albums), writer, director, actor, where the hell do you find the time?

Todd: I keep asking myself the same question, as it seems I have to juggle all three of these tasks.  The band actually broke up in 2006, but I am recording a new solo album possibly under the same name Stage Dive, but I am not sure yet.

I skate every other day for the practice, the training, and to continuously invent new tricks that have not been done before.  It has become more of a personal challenge to me than ever before, so I’m trying to see how far I can take it!

Finally do you have any tips for  aspiring new filmmakers who work outside the mainstream?

Todd: I will say the same thing that I say to every aspiring filmmaker.  Watch, imitate, then create.  Every filmmaker should have some kind of film that inspires them to become a filmmaker.  The best practice is to learn by doing.

 
Today, it is much easier for filmmakers to have resources to create movies in our digital world.  We had to work much harder to create than the youth of today.
 
You should study every framing technique, lighting style and camera movement on screen and then learn how to do them.  It is great training to even remake scenes from movies that you like.  Before releasing films to the public, I did that for the first 18 years of my life, and each and every film I have ever made has been inspired and influenced by one single horror film franchise called Friday the 13th!
Check out Todd’s films over at: scream time
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Categories: 90's horror, Comedy Horror, interviews, music, Reviews, Slasher, Splatter and gore, Zombie

1 reply

  1. The time that Todd spent shooting that film with us in Magnolia, Texas back in 1994 still reverberates with me to this very day!

    Call it campy, call it B-rated… whatever! It was an honor and a privilege, but most of all the memories preserved in this film are priceless to me!

    Todd is perhaps one of the most unacknowledged greats at what he does, and I certainly expect bigger and better things to happen for him as a result of his tireless, dedicated efforts!

    Death Metal Zombies… FOREVER!

    Wes Dodson
    Hockley, Texas
    10 OCT 2013

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