Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Evil Dead News Exclusive: Interview with Brett Pierce, writer/director of "Deadheads"

Back in January, Evil Dead News posted a trailer for a zombie horror comedy called "Deadheads". "Deadheads" is both written and directed by the Pierce Brothers, Brett Pierce and Drew Pierce. Their father is Bart Pierce, who did the Special Effects Photography on "The Evil Dead". We recently caught up with Brett Pierce for an exclusive interview. Here is what he had to say.

What is DEADHEADS about?

It's a buddy zombie comedy about two recently risen undead who embark on a road trip in search of a lost love. It's a mixed bag of comedy/action-adventure/horror. My favorite description from a friend was "It's the Ferris Bueller of zombie movies".

Where did the idea for DEADHEADS come from?

Drew and I have always been a fan of mixed genre films, especially horror/comedy. Drew was really set on a buddy zombie movie where the zombies were the main characters and I was really set on the idea of making a road trip movie because Drew and I love films like "Stand By Me" and "The Goonies". I loved Drew's idea so we jammed them together and ended up with a Zom Rom Com.

Zombie films seem to be really popular these days; what sets DEADHEADS apart from similar films?

We really put an emphasis on character in DEADHEADS. We wanted people to root for our zombie trio of Mike, Brent, and Cheese so we made a conscious effort to really make you care about these zombies. Drew and I see so many genre flicks that we should love just because it's our type of flick, like a zombie movie or superhero film, but most of the time they fall flat for us because we're not emotionally invested in the characters. That's what we love so that's where we put our efforts in the script.

Is this film solely for horror fans, or will it appeal to a larger audience?

It's for everybody. It's got some really fun silly horror bits that is inspired from our days of growing up amid the production of EVIL DEAD but it's as much a horror comedy as it is an adventure film. Audiences who have seen the film have noticed a lot of influences in the flick ranging from STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES all the way to a love for 80's cartoons like TRANSFORMERS. It's a crazy road trip movie with zombies looking for a girl so it's flavored for everybody.

What are some of your favorite zombie films?

I love both Dawn of the Dead's. Not sure if it gets any better than those two. Shaun of the Dead of course. Shaun was one of the most enjoyable times in a movie theater I've had in the last 10 years. That movie is gold.

How did you originally get interested in horror films and filmmaking?

Drew and I's father was the photographic FX artist on the original EVIL DEAD. When we were itty bitty our father invited the Evil Dead crew to take over our house for the summer to complete the FX work on the film. It was a mad house of severed limbs, cockroaches, and Karo syrup but we loved it. We saw Sam and all these young guys making movie magic and after that we never wanted to be anything other than filmmakers.

Who handled the special effects for the film?

Patrick Halpin of Dead Pretzel FX and Jason "Chappy" Chapman. These guys dealt with the daily nightmare of having to do three zombie leads every day as well as all the practical gore FX that we dropped on them. Sometimes we had 30 zombie extras as well as an impalement to do in the same day and they'd do it. I love Michigan-based crews because they always get it done. Those guys are wizards and they did an amazing job on the film.

Are there any memorable scenes that you hope will end up in the Director's cut, that you wish could have stayed in the current edit?

We really worked hard to get the movie to a cut that we loved so we're really happy with the way it stands. But that being said, we had so many amazing one-liners from Ben Webster, who plays our Michael Bay infused zombie hunter McDinkle, that it kills me that some of those gut bombs will probably never be seen. Some of them made it into the blooper reel over the end credits though.

You're using your Dad's sequence from Evil Dead in DEADHEADS during a drive-in movie scene. How did that come about?

We got really lucky. A family that owned this beautiful drive-in, the Capri, on the west side of Michigan was nice enough to let us shoot there. The original scene was not meant to take place at a drive-in, but I saw it while scouting for locations and knew we had to rewrite to make it work. Only problem now was, what's on the screen? It was a Hail Mary, but I called Sam Raimi's office from set and somehow got transferred to him. He answered the phone "Hey Bart!" thinking I was my father. I pleaded our case. I let him know much he and the EVIL DEAD crew were an inspiration for my brother and I and how important it was to have a part of our dad's work in the movie for us. Luckily, Sam is the coolest guy in the world and he made it happen. The nerd in us still can't believe we get to have it in there.

DEADHEADS recently won the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking Award at The Newport Beach Film Festival. How does it feel to start winning awards for your hard efforts?

Amazing! We've been working on this film for years and we've taken our hits. We ran out of money, we were denied by fests, and we couldn't get a soul to watch it because it didn't star one of the TWILIGHT kids. We've screened now at some fests and the response is huge and that's so gratifying. We had three showings at the Newport Beach Film Fest because we kept selling out. As a filmmaker all you see is what you can do better next time but when audience members come and give you a hug and tell us how much they love the movie that all goes away.

You guys are currently doing the film festival circuit. At which
upcoming festivals will DEADHEADS be screened?

We're going to Fright Fest and screening at the Empire Cinema in London which is amazing! It seats over 1300 and it's our type of crowd. We're also in Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival at the end of the month for a nice home state of Michigan premiere. We're also in the Albuquerque Film Festival in August. More in the pipeline too. We're going to all of them!

When: Thursday, July 28th@11:59pm (MIDNIGHT)

When: TBA

FRIGHT FEST (Aug. 25th-29th)
When: Monday, Aug. 29th@1:10pm

DEADHEADS has secured distribution in parts of Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. Can we expect U.S. distribution soon?

Things are looking good in that department and we're hoping to have an announcement here in the near future.

Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?

We've got a fun Halloween movie we'd love to do about a guy who becomes the new Samhain, who, in our tale, is the spirit and protector of all Hallow's Eve (Halloween). It's Evil Dead 2 style fun with a lot of traditional Halloween myths worked in such as Samhain, Jack O'Lantern, the Headless Horseman and all the Halloween creepiness we can muster. We want to make the movie that everyone wants to watch leading up to the single best holiday ever.

Where can one find out more about DEADHEADS?

Facebook, Twitter, and the website. The cast and I are on Twitter so come say "Hi". We all like talking movies and pop culture. Bunch a nerds.

Official Site:



"In a world of putrid zombie movies, DEADHEADS is a breath of fresh air!"
- Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead Trilogy

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