This month to celebrate the UK Region 2 release of the new zombie gem 'The Dead Hate the Living' we talk to the films director...
SGM : So, now we know Dave Parker as the director of the cool new zombie film, what about your murky past - tell us a bit about yourself?
DP : Well I came to Los Angeles in 1990 to go to USC film school. It was fun - I partied a lot (haha) and made some good friends, like Paul Salamoff, and so contacts. After the year was finished one of my professors basically sat me down and told me that I should really think about not coming back to school the next year. I was like…WHAT? He explained that he saw my drive and my passion for horror movies and that USC wasn't really the supportive type of atmosphere for that type of thing. He believed that I would benefit more from actually working on films and getting some real experience. So I actually took his advice and the next year I officially moved to Los Angeles and soon began working on some independent movies for directors like Jeff Burr (THE OFFSPRING, LEATHERFACE) and Dave Decoteau (PUPPETMASTER 3) doing all sorts of things from special effects to props to art directing - basically anything and everything I could.
During that period I met a guy by the name of Daniel Schweiger. He was working at Full Moon Entertainment as their head of promotions - which meant he edited all the trailers and the behind the scene programs for the company. Full Moon was at the time making movies with Paramount Pictures and I thought that it would really be a great place to learn and work my way up to hopefully direct a movie for them. Dan asked me to become his assistant and so I worked with him in the promotions department for a couple of years until he left - then I became the head of promotions. I learned a lot then - and it gave me access to all the movies that were being shot and to the directors - like Stuart Gordon. During that time I started writing a few things, trying to get them made and not getting them made (hehe) and bugging the head of the company, Charlie Band, about letting me direct a movie.
Well he held the carrot out for a while longer, but finally he knew that if he refused me the opportunity he was gonna lose me - so Dead Hate the Living came about.
SGM : So how exactly did 'The Dead Hate the Living' come about?
Dead Hate the Living was basically one of 12 titles that Charlie had come up with for the year (1999) as one of the movies to make. I had access to all the titles and there were several zombie movies listed, but that was the title that really jumped out. So I pursued it. I talked with Dave Decoteau - who was originally scheduled to direct the movie - and he really, went to bat for me and told Charlie that I was the one to direct this movie - I was the horror/zombie guy. Charlie agreed.
SGM : The short film made with the band Penis Flytrap was a great little tribute to 80's Italian horror (right down to the voice overdubs), how did the short come about?
DP : Well before Dead Hate came about - I was still working at Full Moon, but I was getting really burnt out editing trailers and making - and lets be honest here - bad movies look good. I really needed to do something of my own if Charlie wasn't going to give me a shot. So one night I was invited to a re-release party for the remastered THE BEYOND. It was a cool party with several bands. One of the bands was Penis Flytrap. When they played, their image and music just kind of hit me and I said to myself - I want to direct a video for them - so I went backstage after their show, gave them my phone number and from their we designed the video. They picked the song and because it was a Fulci tribute song it just made sense to fill it with Fulci type images and really capture the feel of his movies.
We shot the video in 2 days and that's really were things started to happen. The two leads of Dead Hate (Eric Clawson and Jamie Donahue) were in the video and right around that time was when Decoteau, Charlie Band and I started to talk about doing Dead Hate. As far as the video goes - I'm pretty pleased with it. I mean we had NO MONEY to do it, and yeah maybe it's not the slickest thing out there, but it's got a sort of budget charm to it. For those who are interested the music video - which is called TEARS OF BLOOD, it's on the Dead Hate the Living dvd.
SGM : You can tell that the lead characters are based on real people (yourself included eh?) and the film works on two levels, both for the horror & non-horror fan. Did you (and Paul Salamoff) find the writing process difficult?
DP : Well writing the movie was actually much easier because I was writing so much about myself and my friends. A lot of the conversations and parts of situations are things that really happened to me. Paul came in to help flesh out the structure with me, but then he had to do other work during the actual script writing process.
I think also because it was sort of a love letter to horror fans and some of the filmmakers that I loved that it came easier than other scripts that I've written. It could also be the downfall of it too - maybe too much tribute and not enough attention to detail. There is some pretty big logic holes in the damn thing that I wish I could have fixed.
SGM : Obviously, being your debut movie did budget restraints restrict your grand dream of what the finished film would be like? And if so, in what Way ?
DP : Yeah the budget was a real bite in the ass sometimes. We only had $150,000 American dollars to make and finish the movie. We had a full crew that had to be paid and even with the favors that were pulled it was tight. The shooting schedule too was only 10 days. I know there are people out there who are probably going - OH MAN 10 DAYS AND 150 GRAND! I COULD HAVE KICKED SOME SERIOUS ASS - but the reality is much different on the set. This wasn't a bunch of buddies doing a movie, this was doing a movie for a company so there were rules that had to be followed and that did limit us at times.
I mean I would have loved for the BIG FIGHT in the fake graveyard to have been much more elaborate with more carnage and more coverage. I would have loved to not have any CGI in the movie at all and set the people on fire. All in all I wish I had more time - doesn't everyone? - just to get more coverage and tighten things up a bit. But given everything I'm really proud of the movie and what we did in the time and money. I think it stands out from the current crop of things coming from Full Moon. I think it has a little more personality and feel to it, because I brought my love of horror films and Italian movies to it. Though some people accuse me of ripping off the movies I love, but that was never my intention.
SGM : Horror fans will enjoy noting the countless references to genre classics (especially the work of the late great Lucio Fulci), what are your favourite films that have influenced you ?
DP : Well if you watch the movie I guess it's pretty easy to see what some of my favorite movies are. The Beyond of course is one of them as is Return of the Living Dead, John Carpenter films, Romero films. There are so many films and filmmakers that influence me, but I'm actually trying - though some might find it hard to believe - to not copy what they have done. Directors like Romero, Carpenter, William Castle, Fulci, Stuart Gordon have all influenced me. Creepshow was the movie that made me want to make movies. I like good stories, not just a lot of quick cutting and flash, but I do also like when a movie looks cool - so Argento's lighting and Bava's films really stand out as well.
Recently it's been Spanish Filmmakers like Alejandro Amenbar and Del Toro that have made an impression. Great artists.
SGM : Were there any problems when the finished film was submitted to the Ratings Board?
DP : I was really convinced that the movie was going to get an NC-17 from the ratings board. I mean with the gut drag and the corpse sex in the beginning I was just convinced that we were going to go through hell - BUT we got away with everything. I think maybe because we really established that the things happening would or could never happen and the tone of the movie was fun that they got that and let it go. I was really glad, but also in a way I felt like I let the fans down and horror down because I hadn't delivered an NC-17 or unrated movie. Haha.
SGM : So, what does the future hold for Dave Parker? Will we be seeing more Horrific entertainment on the way?
DP : What does the future hold? Man it's been a year since the movie came out this month (February) and people are still talking about it and finding it. It's done really well and I'm glad. The reaction to it has been mixed - it's a love it or pretty much hate it type of thing it seems. The next thing is really hard to say. I co-wrote the script for THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, based on the videogame, but I won't be directing it. I'm writing another movie called FROM PARTS UNKNOWN - which is part Hill Have Eyes/Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets WWF SMACKDOWN - that I will direct but I'm not sure if it will be with Full Moon or someplace else, and I've got a couple of other things that I'm working on - and adaptation of Chas. Balun's DIRECTOR'S CUT novella and a Bigfoot script called THE WILDS. The only consistent thing with each of them is that the tone for all of them is more serious. I would really like to try to create scares along with the blood this next time and raise the bar on what I've done before. I learned an amazing amount doing DEAD HATE THE LIVING, but I've got a lot more to learn.