Muahahahaha! We’re back with the second installment of our Halloween scary movie questionnaire—(click for part one)—this time with writer/producer Ramon Isao, co-writer of ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction. Isao is currently in post-production on his latest project, Dead Body, the trailer of which can be found here and the Kickstarter funding its completion here.
What was the first horror film that scared the pants off you?
Psycho, no question. I was eight, with no idea I was watching a horror flick. You’ve seen it, yes? It’s a morality play that takes a sudden, violent turn: Janet Leigh steals money, flees to a motel, decides to return the money, but first she’ll take a soul-cleansing shower…where she is BRUTALLY STABBED TO DEATH. From that point on, I thought every movie I saw could suddenly turn murderous. I watched everything through cracks in my fingers, fearful that Mickey Mouse or the Karate Kid would suddenly just get WASTED by some side character dressed up like his mom.
Scariest cinema moment of all time?
I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that in Martyrs, there’s a moment where the torture porn movie transcends itself to become an existential rumination on suffering, pain, immortality and enlightenment. It was terrifying to actually understand the point of view of the torturers. Or when the kid gets his head blown off in Funny Games, speaking of spoilers.
Who’s more terrifying: Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers—and why?
If we’re talking part one, I’d vote for Freddy. The guy seeps into your DREAMS, for Christ’s sake! There’s that great part in Nightmare on Elm Street where the girl’s running away, she runs in one direction, FREDDY. She runs in another, FREDDY. When Jason and Michael pull this off (as RAD as those cats are, no disrespect), I have to admit it can yank me out of the movie by raising such questions as “damn, how’d he lumber his way over there so fast?” But Freddy’s got a built-in excuse.
Favorite zombie flick?
Ohhhhhhhhhh, what a painful query. Uhhhh… I mean, look, there are SO many candidates, Dawn of the Dead for its amazing setting, Shaun of the Dead for its originality, Zombie for the SHARK FIGHT… All of these were huge inspirations when I was working on my first feature, Zombies of Mass Destruction. But I really think the first few seasons of The Walking Dead form a new high-water mark. It touches on all of the standard zombie-movie g-spots, with the added bonus of some seriously rich, fleshed-out characters, inventive moments and genuine moral conundrums. I’m going to get eaten alive by some for saying this (see what I did there?) but that’s my two cents.
Favorite moment in a Stephen King film?
A tough question, but I suppose it’s either the genuinely loving, sympathetic expression on Kathy Bates’ face when she says “I love you…” and then SMASHES JAMES CAAN’S FOOT WITH A HAMMER [in Misery] or—to go another direction with it—when Tom Hanks pisses in the grass in The Green Mile. A real shocker, that one.
What’s the secret to writing for/directing actors in a horror film?
Giving a shit about the characters helps. Horror flicks with a blank, anonymous cast of soon-to-be-bodies can only terrify you so much. If you’ve got rich, rounded-out characters who are complex and interesting to watch, it’s just a scarier trip. In my own work, I try to make the characters flawed and knowable, especially in my latest project, Dead Body (currently in post-production), where the characters’ shared pasts, conflicts and buried animosities form a canvas for the blood and guts. It was a blast, watching actors sink their teeth into those roles, and having a director who took those characters seriously.
Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger and Pamela Miller / Website & Grants Manager