Matthew Leutwyler’s blood soaked Dead & Breakfast sees a small southern town turn into hell on Earth as the locals become possessed by an evil spirit, transforming them into flesh munching, toe tapping ghouls. But as violent as these creatures get, they still can’t pass up on an opportunity to break into song and start dancing. Where does this leave you? With a viewing experience that’s not unlike a raging Halloween party. Just remember – BYOB.
We spoke with Matthew a bit about Dead & Breakfast.
Have you always been a horror fan? Will you continue in this line of filmmaking?
Yes, ever since I was a kid and saw Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes on late night cable. I’m not a fan, however, of slasher flicks. That’s a sub-genre that really doesn’t interest me much. And yes, my next film looks like it will be another horror film, though where I go from there is up in the air. I have a script for a scientific thriller and another for a teen comedy that I’m very interested in realizing as features.
What were some of your direct influences for this film?
“Dawn of the Dead,” “Frankenhooker” and obviously Evil Dead II was a huge influence. This movie is comedy and over the top gore first and foremost. Scares take a serious back seat. Other influences on “D&B” range from Lucio Fulci’s zombie movies all the way to the dance choreography of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
What brought about the decision to have a dance number?
It just seemed so necessary, don’t you think? I don’t think anyone knew what to expect from that sequence as it was written because all I wrote was one line that read something like “and the zombies all start dancing.” Once I heard Zach Selwyn’s music for the scene and spoke with my friend and choreographer Brooke Alison, I knew it had to be a line dance in the vein of “Thriller.” The problem was that Brooke only had the actors for a couple of hours before we shot the scene. She cleared out the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott where we all were staying and had them rehearse the moves while the hotel’s regular businessmen checked in. It was quite a scene to see.
Why did you choose to shoot film instead of video?
Video would never have been an option, though HD might have been. The film had to have the look of the film’s that inspired it for it to work.
How was it working with the Carradines?
It was probably more fun for them than me. Both were great to work with, but we only had David for a couple of days. Ever, on the other hand, was there like 15, 16 hours a day, dressed in a tank top, often covered in blood, temperatures in the 30s and just kicking a*s. I’m not sure if she realized how demanding this film was going to be on her, and she probably had regrets at some point, but she was one committed lady.
Your cast is full of familiar faces – Jeremy Sisto, Gina Philips, Diedrich Bader, etc. – how did you assemble everyone?
I had worked with Jeremy before and have always been a huge fan of his work. Erik Palladino and I are friends and have also worked together in the past and I knew he’d be perfect as “D&B”’s answer to “Evil Dead”’s “Ash” character. The same goes for my feelings about Jeff Morgan, who I think is really going to make a name for himself shortly. I always had him in mind when I came up with the character of the town Sheriff. Gina, Ever, Mark Kelly are friends that I’ve always wanted to work with and Diedrich, Bianca Lawson and Oz Perkins came on board in the usual way by our casting director Kari Peyton.
The thing that stood out the most to me in “D&B” was how top notch the special effects are. Who did your effects for you?
Michael Mosher put together a really sound team with Richard Redlefsen and Ralis Khan. What these guys did with the resources given is truly extraordinary. A film like this hinges heavily on what that department can do. They also had the perfect sensibility for the project. Our film walks a very delicate line between several tones and if you don’t nail it just right it can be a disaster.
What were some major stumbling blocks in getting this film made?
You name it. Shooting mostly exterior nights in the middle of winter was probably stupid. Especially with the amount of FX, the size of the cast and the stunts. We also shot in the middle of pilot season so my AD Mike Devaney had to work overtime to accommodate actors who needed to fly back to L.A. for meetings. Fortunately, I had my Production Designer (Don Day) construct our downtown Lovelock on the site where the bed and breakfast resides. That way if we lost an actor last minute we could move 100 yards away and shoot a different scene that took place at another location.
Any tips for other filmmakers out there who intend on making their own bloodbath horror movie?
Keep it confined. Don’t skimp on the effects.
Are you finding it easy to get “D&B” out there to festivals?
Well, we just finished it a few weeks ago so as a completed film it has not been submitted to too many places yet. But overall the response has been terrific. We’ve been invited to virtually every genre fest that’s happening over the next few months. The film will be in Germany, Scotland, Spain, Montreal and we should be hearing from some other U.S. fests shortly.
What are you working on next?
I’m finishing my thriller script. Then I’m putting together a native American themed horror film that’s sort of like Carpenter’s “The Thing.” My company Ambush Entertainment is developing it with DJ Marini and Tyruben Ellingson’s Combustion Studios. Ty’s creating our creature and he’s just brilliant. He’s behind a lot of the FX design on the upcoming “Van Helsing” and “Hellboy” films.