Drool and Vomit: The Cast of A Little Bit Zombie Speak Out! (Kirk Haviland)

Hello All, Kirk here, aka Movie Junkie TO, with another interview. This time I got to sit down with the cast of the Canadian horror comedy A Little Bit Zombie. The following is my chat with cast members Kristopher Turner, Shawn Roberts and Crystal Lowe. I was also able to sit down with director Casey Walker which should show up on the site soon enough.

Enjoy!

Movie Junkie (MJ) – Thanks for sitting down with me today guys. I really enjoyed the film when I saw it earlier this year. I wanted to ask a few questions about how you made the film. First off, one of my favorite parts of the film is the use of practical effects over CGI in most situations, I can think of one particular scene involving vomit, Crystal. I wondered if you guys could talk about how it helped your performances and the decision to go with the practical effects to begin with.

Kristopher Turner (KT) – For me, having dealt with a lot of the fluids that come out of my mouth or splash on my face or whatever, it’s a movie that deals a lot with the sensory world.  We’re putting a human through the zombie experience, yet leaving him with the conscious brain to take it all in. So to be able to work in that sensory world of having gross things is way better having something that’s real and an actual effect.  It’s a movie that’s got a lot of heart and to have things that are real just speaks to that so much better.

Shawn Roberts (SR) …and budget constraints had something to do with why we had to go with real effects. I mean it’s a low budget independent film that we shot here in Canada and Casey’s got an eye for effects.  He knows what he can work with and what we need the computer for, and basically he wanted to use as much on the day real sort of props and liquids as we could.

Crystal Lowe (CL) – That vomit scene you mention was the second shot that I ever did for the movie so that really broke it in, once you get puked on in front of everyone they pretty much love you going forward because there’s nothing else I can do that’s worse. Casey thought it would be hilarious to keep the puke coming in the third take, so it did. I was like “c’mon Casey you’ve got the shot “and his response was repeatedly “just wait, hold on one more second” and from that moment I realized what kind of set it was going to be. It was the most fun I’ve had on a movie set ever.

MJ – Sounds like you guys had a lot of fun filming this, could you talk a bit about what appears to be a tight knit cast and crew.

CL – Close is an understatement, that’s the thing when you find a script that you love and when you find a crew that is invested because they read the script and they know what it can be. Nobody was bitching, nobody was complaining, we were there for 14 hours days and it didn’t matter because we were all happy to be there. We knew what the outcome was so it really made us tight as a cast and crew. And as a cast we were all in Sudbury with only each other, so we barbecued together every weekend and that became our life for a month, it was really cool.

MJ – Sounds like what any independent director would die for to have on set. I know for Casey this was long process to get to screen, up to 6 years. What stage of the process did you guys become involved?

SR – I think I was about 5 months out before we went to camera that I originally heard about the script and the countdown happened. I had a conversation with Casey on the phone after which I was like “alright you sound like an awesome dude, I wanna hang out with you let’s shoot a movie”.  So we’ve been now 2 ½ half years into it.

KT– Ahh one and a half.

SR – Whatever, seems like a long time.

CL – I had actually been given the script by my agent almost a year before production I think. My agent gave it to me to read and told me “this production wants to offer this to you, I think you should take a look at it” so I did. After I read it I told him “you gotta get me on this movie, this is such a great script”. I love the script and I loved Tina because she was so crazy. It took a while, about 8 months, then all of the sudden my agent called me back and told me my flight was booked and I was leaving for set, it was so long I had forgotten about the project! That said I was very excited that it came through.

MJ – I wanted to ask about this fantastic vehicle behind us here, the converted ambulance to zombie killing machine: Painkiller. How was it to have this fantastic prop on set?

KT – It’s great when you are making a movie with real props, it feels more like you’re in a movie, you’re not in a studio, you’re actually in it.  I mean we were getting eaten alive by real black flies and mosquitoes. We had a real giant zombie killing machine named Painkiller behind us in the shot, the real effects allow you to feel connected to the process that way.

SR –  And now being out  in the public I think having a giant zombie mobile brings over everybody cause they want the check out the truck “oh there’s a movie here too cool we’ll check that out”.  You know it’s good marketing.

CL – Exactly, it changes things, makes it real. You know it’s funny because I have been quoting this movie a lot lately, but Labyrinth is one of my favorite all time films and I went to see it again just recently. As I watched the puppeteering in that I thought if we had made that now it would have been all CGI, and I don’t know if it would have had the same magic as it held then. That’s why I love the mosquito in our film, because it’s a puppet. I prefer to work with that cause Jim Henson and those puppets look real, I mean they don’t look like CGI creations, they look like real little beings and I kinda wish that we would go back to that a little bit.

MJ – Now we must talk a bit about the man himself, Stephen McHattie. It must be a little intimidating to know this man is going to walk on and attempt to steal every scene right out from under you?

CL – Here’s the thing with Stephen McHattie, he doesn’t try to steal every scene, he just walks on set and steals it. It’s not an effort on his part, he just walks on and does what he does. That man is an old school cowboy, I’d never met an old school cowboy until I met him, he’s like the Marlboro Man. And he was really amazing and very generous with me, so I’d ask him questions about his process as an actor and about how he’s feeling in the movie. He was very open and very willing to answer any question I had, all while he had a smoke with his boots on. I mean this is as old school cowboy as it gets as on his spare time he digs dirt and plants, I mean this is what he does, and it’s cool.

KT – Well this was my first time working with him, I know Shawn had worked with him before. He’s a legend, you do these indie movies and you hope that you can learn something from people like that. You try to watch their acting process and see what they bring to the table and how they do it. You see the behind the scenes prep so it was great. And it’s almost like having a living prop because you have a real zombie hunter, essentially he embodies that, and he stares at you and looks like he wants to kill me literally all the time. So it makes it much easier as an actor to work off something like that

SR – And yeah working with someone of that calibre certainly brings everybody’s game up a little bit. And intimidating, nah I know the old bastard so I’m not that intimidated.

MJ – And I must add, everything you guys have said has backed up all of the fine things I have heard about the class act that is Stephen McHattie. Thanks again for sitting down with me today guys, but let me leave you with one last question. What’s with director Casey Walker’s obsession with Bacon?

KT – Bacon?

Kristopher and Shawn in unison – not just regular bacon, Tactical Bacon!

KT – A REAL product you couldn’t write that you couldn’t make that up, that has to exist somehow, I don’t know.

SR  – Yeah I don’t know, I think he found it online or something and was like wow this is real, we need this in the movie, then they sent up a box or something so he was like “alright Tactical Bacon it is”. What else do zombie hunters eat.

CL – I also don’t know where it comes from but I really appreciate his love of bacon in general because I like bacon in everything! Who doesn’t like bacon? I’m a Canadian so it kinda just makes sense.

MJ – LOL! I guess I’ll have to follow up with Casey on that one. Thanks again guys.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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A Little Bit Zombie Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

Starring Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager, Emilie Ullerup and Stephen McHattie

Written by Christopher Bond and Trevor Martin

Directed by Casey Walker

Hitting store shelves this week from Anchor Bay entertainment, A Little Bit Zombie has taken a different approach to releasing the film to the masses. After a completely self-financed and self-distributed theatrical run, the creators of the film have teamed with Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada to bring the film to home screens. And in the process, deliver the film to a wider audience than the limited engagements at individual theaters across the country would allow. But is the Blu-Ray worth your hard earned dollars?

A Little Bit Zombie starts off with Max (McHattie) and Penelope (Ullerup), a pair of zombie hunters that use a mystical orb to help track their targets, in the middle of a zombie swarm. After the carnage we follow, through first person camera, a mosquito full of zombie blood fly around in search of a target. We meet Steve (Turner), Tina (Lowe) his fiancé, Craig (Roberts) his best friend and upcoming Best Man, and Sarah (Hager) Steve’s sister who is also Tina’s unwitting Matron of Honor and Craig’s wife. The foursome is on their way to Steve and Sarah’s family cottage for a weekend of bonding and relaxation before the wedding. Our mosquito friend attacks Steve, repeatedly, which sets off the events of the film, with Steve slowly turning into a zombie and developing a lust for brains. In fact, Steve develops a certain hilariously grotesque response to even the word ‘brains’. The “family” must decide what to do and how to handle what is happening to Steve, all while Max and Penelope start tracking the strange readings that will lead them straight to him. Tina proves she is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect her man and her upcoming nuptials, dragging Sarah along with her, while Craig has the hardest time dealing with the situation. Everything leads to crazy confrontation with a deadly outcome.

ALBZ shares a lot of similar themes with last year’s Zom-Com Deadheads, with the biggest difference being that ALBZ is not a road movie like Deadheads is. Both films incorporate a love story, but the female subjects of the love story could not be any further apart in personality. The script tries to walk the very fine line of letting us know exactly why Craig and Sarah do not like Tina, while still trying to make her endearing enough that the audience can see why Steve loves her so. As such, the script becomes very much hit and miss but it does pack some genuine laughs. The Cast of ALBZ is mostly up-and-coming Canadian talent, with McHattie, the grizzled veteran, chewing massive amounts of scenery. And while McHattie does steal the film, the foursome all put in fine performances, particularly Turner and Lowe as the engaged couple. The film is very light in tone and played for laughs throughout, and when it works it’s a lot of fun. The film attempts to go the practical effects route in the first half to greater effect than the CGI conclusion. Fans of the aforementioned Deadheads should check this one out as well.

As for the Blu-Ray, it’s loaded with extra features; a pleasant surprise for a film that was self-produced on a very tight budget. Anchor Bay has really gone all out with this set. The disc comes with a Feature Commentary featuring director Casey Walker and cast members Kristopher Turner and Shawn Roberts, a well made 30-minute ‘making of’ documentary titled “To Dream of Brains”, multiple behind the scenes featurettes, outtakes, bloopers, and full presentations of background segments shot for the film. It also includes a series of on-set video diaries from Director Walker and a fictional diary from Ullerup’s Penny. Overall a very satisfying set of special features.

Overall I feel that ALBZ works a lot more than it doesn’t. The exuberance and earnestness of the cast shines through, and the film benefits from this greatly. The disc is loaded with fun stuff and as such becomes a very attractive package that’s well worth purchasing. I can safely give A Little Bit Zombie a solid recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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NXNE 2012 – Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy Review (Kirk Haviland)

NXNE 2012

Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy (2011)

Starring Adam Sinclair, Kristin Kreuk, Billy Boyd, Carlo Rota, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Stephen McHattie and Dean McDermott

Written by Rob Heydon, Matt Maclennan, Paul McCafferty, Ben Tucker and Irvine Welsh (Based on Irvine Welsh`s novel)

Directed by Rob Heydon

Irvine Welsh became counter-culture hero when the movie based on his seminal novel Trainspotting was released back in 1996. With its no-nonsense, gritty, dirty and frighteningly realistic portrayal of a group of hooligan drug addicts in Scotland, Trainspotting became a critical and financial smash and launched the careers of Ewan Mcgregor and Robert Carlyle. Back with a new movie based on another of his best-selling novels and set in the underground rave scene of Scotland, the question is does director Heydon manage to craft a film near the brilliance of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting? Or do we get a film that manages to miss the mark of the book completely?

Lloyd (Sinclair) is a small time hustler who is in debt to a local gangster named Solo (Rota) and as such has been working as a drug mule transporting ‘E’ from Amsterdam back to Scotland. On his last trip he is given a present in the form of an extra canister of E for him to take back. Lloyd enlists the help of friends Woodsy (Boyd) and Ally (Malicki-Sanchez) to organize and distribute the E at a party in the basement of a local church. Lloyd hopes that he can hopefully make enough money to pay off Solo and stop taking all the risk that is entailed with being a mule. Or course the night goes completely wrong as Woodsy takes way too much E and ends up off the deep end, Solo finds out about the party and ups Lloyd’s debt for not telling him and cutting him in on the profits (which end up being nothing), and Ally is pretty much non-existent. But one thing goes completely right, as Lloyd, in an ecstasy driven haze, meets Heather (Kreuk) who is also under the influence. After helping Heather escape the police raid that ends the party they spend the whole night wandering the streets of Scotland until the sun is firmly up in the sky. Now Lloyd has even more reason to get out of the trade but with his debt mounting, his father (McHattie) at home content to drink himself to the grave after his wife’s passing and the looming secret that Heather tells him, how will he be able to cope?

Ecstasy relies almost solely on its lead performance (a similar structure to Trainspotting), as Sinclair’s Lloyd is also our narrator. Fortunately for us Sinclair delivers a really engaging performance here. His Lloyd is a loveable scoundrel with a twinkle in his eyes that always belies his mischievous side. The rest of the cast are purely for supporting roles, though they do a good job on the whole. The standout in the rest of the cast is Rota, who you may recognize as Chloe O’Brien’s husband Miles from the TV show 24, as Solo. Rota imbues Solo with an ever-present impending sense of doom as he can fly of the handle with a second’s notice. Now the film is not without its issues, some of the sequences start to become redundant and the film drags a bit through the second act, but it works on the whole despite this with strong first and third acts.

In the debate over which film is better Trainspotting is the clear winner. But we aren’t here for that and basing Irvine Walsh’s Ecstasy purely on its own merits I must give it a recommend, if for Sinclair and Rota’s performances alone.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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A Little Bit Zombie Review (Kirk Haviland)

A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

Starring Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager, Emilie Ullerup and Stephen McHattie.

Directed by Casey Walker

Direct off its win at the Canadian Film Fest last month, devoted to Canadian indie film, A Little Bit Zombie has taken a different tact to releasing the film to the masses. By self-distributing, the creators of the film have decided to roll the film out across the country with special screenings and the hope that they will inspire longer runs in the following weeks. I got to attend one of these screenings at the Toronto Underground Cinema and am here to tell you that this film deserves your support.

A Little Bit Zombie starts off with Max (McHattie) and Penelope (Ullerup), a pair of zombie hunters that use a mystical orb to help track their targets, in the middle of a zombie swarm. After the carnage we follow, through first person camera, a mosquito full of zombie blood fly around in search of a target. We meet Steve (Turner), Tina (Lowe) his fiancé, Craig (Roberts) his best friend and upcoming Best Man, and Sarah (Hager) Steve’s sister who is also Tina’s unwitting Matron of Honor and Craig’s wife. The foursome is on their way to Steve and Sarah’s family cottage for a weekend of bonding and relaxation before the wedding. Our mosquito friend attacks Steve, repeatedly, which sets off the events of the film, with Steve slowly turning into a zombie and developing a lust for brains. In fact, Steve develops a certain hilariously grotesque response to even the word ‘brains’. The “family” must decide what to do and how to handle what is happening to Steve, all while Max and Penelope start tracking the strange readings that will lead them straight to him. Tina proves she is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect her man and her upcoming nuptials, dragging Sarah along with her, while Craig has the hardest time dealing with the situation. Everything leads to crazy confrontation with a deadly outcome.

ALBZ shares a lot of similar themes with last year’s Zom-Com Deadheads (review here), with the biggest difference being that ALBZ is not a road movie like Deadheads is. The Cast is mostly up and coming Canadian talent, with McHattie the grizzled veteran chewing massive amounts of scenery. And while McHattie does steal the film, the foursome all put in fine performances, in particular Turner and Lowe as the engaged couple. The film is very light in tone and played for laughs throughout, and while in places it runs hit and miss, when it works it’s a lot of fun. Fans of the aforementioned Deadheads should check this one out as well.

Overall I feel that ALBZ works a lot more than it doesn’t. The exuberance and earnestness of the cast shines through, and the film benefits from this greatly. I can safely recommend A Little Bit Zombie for a fun night out at the theater, and I am NOT a zombie collaborator.

Screenings may be mostly finished by the time you get to read this, but do not shy away from asking your local rep theater if they can get a screening in your area. It’s a great chance to support some Canadian filmmakers out there trying to prove they can do it themselves.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Exit Humanity Review – Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

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The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.

Exit Humanity was preceded by the short film Prick, by director Colin Berry, who was also a special effects adviser on Exit Humanity. Prick is about a serial killer who could go completely undetected in our society. A scary thought, but not the main reason why Prick is such a successful short. In addition to directing, Berry also does the special effects work, and it is nothing short of amazing. A particular scene in a hallway had me shaking my head in disbelief as to how Berry had achieved the otherworldly visuals. Prick does not feel like a short, much more like a preview for something bigger. Keep an eye on Berry, big things are in the future for this filmmaker.

Throughout the last few months of viewing a balanced diet of both mainstream and independent film, I have learned that the gap in the quality of these two types of cinema has been rapidly narrowing. Improved technology, less expensive equipment, and younger, better educated and experienced filmmakers has led to independent cinema becoming much more accessible to mainstream audiences. Exit Humanity is one such film that feels too professional and polished to possibly be an independent film, but it is.

The story takes place during the American Civil War and follows a soldier named Edward Young. We join Young in the midst of an intense battle that quickly becomes a different sort of horror for the soldier, as he is attacked by a member of the undead. After this encounter, we quickly learn that the undead have taken over the countryside and few humans remain. Young has been forced to kill his wife after she became infected, and his young boy has gone missing. Edward Young sets out on a journey to find his son, and to find an exit to this grotesque caricature of what humanity has become.

Exit Humanity was made by Foresight Features, the same crew that gave us Monster Brawl. This time, writer\directer John Geddes is at the helm, with a star studded cast. The people at Foresight once again look to be incredibly well connected, as Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie, and Brian Cox all appear in Exit Humanity. Also of note is the debut of Mark Gibson in the role of Edward Young. Gibson delivers a fine performance as a man who is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. Although, there are a few too many times when Gibson freaks out to such a degree that Nicholas Cage will most likely be taking notes, but all things considered, even this part of the performance is probably quite realistic given Young’s circumstances. Gibson has done an excellent job of channeling the weight of loss and helplessness that Young must feel, while at the same time maintaining that shred of hope. Adam Seybold is another actor to keep an eye on. His excellent performance as Isaac gives the oppressive atmosphere of Exit Humanity an injection of humour that is sorely needed.

The filmmaking itself is very professional. The cinematography and setting are beautiful. As Geddes noted during the Q&A, the cast and crew went out of their way to ensure that they filmed certain scenes at the crack of dawn and others at sunset, to get the look of the film just right. Also, beautiful animation is used throughout the film due to budget constraints, however, it proves to be an interesting and effective narrative device.

Unfortunately, Exit Humanity has a few writing issues that hold it back from being as good as it should have been. For starters, it really feels like a drama and not a horror film, which is not a problem in itself, except that it will make the viewer wonder if the zombies are really central to the story. A different sort of infectious disease could easily have taken the place of the undead. Sure, zombies may have been used because it seemed like a cool idea, however, cool ideas have their place, typically in much less serious films. The plot of a drama needs to be more intricately woven to be effective. In addition, Exit Humanity seemed to drag on for a bit too long. At two hours, I am not sure that there is enough content in the story to keep an audience entertained throughout.

In closing, I don’t think that Exit Humanity is as ground breaking as another review has stated, although I do see many positives. This does not feel like the work of a relatively new film maker. Geddes gets many things right, but is held back my some pacing and conceptual issues. I have no doubt that Exit Humanity will find an audience. If you enjoy being immersed in bleak unforgiving worlds, where survival is a daily concern, then check out Exit Humanity. In the meantime, I will wait for Geddes to turn out a winner in the future. I am convinced that he will.

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