You are currently putting the finishing touches on Isle of the Damned.
Can you tell us what the film is about?
Isle of the Damned is sort of a pastiche of the plot from most every other
Italian cannibal film... so it should be familiar territory to fans of the
genre. Basically a group of adventurers ends up stranded on an island
inhabited by cannibals, and hilarity ensues.
The film is obviously a hommage to/parody of the Italian cannibal
films of the 1970's and early 80's. Is that a genre especially dear to your
heart, what fascinates you most about the genre as a whole, and what are
your genre favourites?
Honestly, it's not my favorite genre
of film... the cannibal films aren't exactly fun movies that
you can just pop in the DVD player anytime. They're generally pretty
damned disturbing, and you have to be in the right mood to watch one.
But, from a film history perspective, it's highly fascinating for many
reasons. Mainly, you have the shock factor, coupled with the
fact that these films sprung up more or less out of nowhere
before they all but disappeared.
All the films came from Italy, and most within a short time span. Directors
were borrowing footage from one another to crank these
things out quickly. On an added
note, there's also the stigma of the banned film - the scar
that a lot of these films bared
proudly. You're not supposed to see it, so that only
makes you more curious.
The film's website/mySpace/whatever?
main website is www.direwitfilms.com,
and our myspace page is www.myspace.com/antonellogiallo.
was the movie shot, meaning, where did you find a stretch of wood
resembling the Italian version of a cannibal-infested jungle?
we live in Maryland, and we made this movie for pennies... but I'll
be honest... there's a certain neck of woods in Maryland that looks more
like the Amazon jungle on film then the actual Amazon jungle itself.
Unfortunatly, that wasn't the woods we were shooting in, but we did our
best with what we had.
easy or difficult is it to get actors to star in a film with a
controversial theme like cannibalism?
Surprisingly, it was
pretty easy. Most people that were in this were either in our previous
of the Damned, or had seen it, and knew what they were signing on
One of the key elements of the cannibal genre is gore. How did you
approach that topic, especially since Isle of the Damned is
supposed to be a genre parody?
We went full tilt on the gore. We're actually in the process of
going back and adding more to the film. The cannibal films are among
the sleaziest and most shocking ever made... between castrations,
anal impalement, animal torture, rape, etc, we figured that ramping
up the gore element makes for some pretty good subtle
Did you use stock footage/footage from other genre films like so many
Italian cannibal movies did as well, sometimes to a great extent - most
notably Umberto Lenzi's Mangiati Vivi/Eaten Alive
(1980) [Umberton Lenzi bio
- click here]?
I would have liked to, but the
reality is that stock footage is very expensive... I'm pretty sure that in
Italy in the 70s, copyright laws probably weren't as strict.
Hopefully I'm not spoiling too much here, but we shot some new animal
footage, and inserted it into the film in a similar fashion as those
movies... it deliberately looks like stock footage. I guess this
would also be a good time to mention that no animals were harmed in
the making of Isle of the Damned.
the cannibal genre was temporally extremely limited and had all
but died out in the early 1980's. Only recently, there were a few attempts
to revive the genre - like Welcome to the Jungle or a pair of Bruno
Mattei-films, Nella Terra dei Cannibali/Land of Death and Mondo
Cannibale/Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning. Do you see the
genre ever coming back big time?
haven't seen those films yet, but I think a lot of the renewed intreest is due to the increased availability of the original films.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Deodato is going to do with his new one
[Ruggero Deodato bio -
click here], but I don't think the resurgence will ever really
reach that original level of output. Basically, it's the
shock factor that made those movies so notorious in the first place, and a
lot of what was done then could never be replicated these days for legal reasons
mostly. Also, the unpolished look of those old films
makes them feel sleazier. If you take that subject matter and give it
a slick expensive veneer I don't think it would be as effective
of an experience.
How did you come up with the
backstory about Italian director Antonello Giallo, who supposedly directed
Isle of the Damned in 1980?
The backstory of Cannibal Holocaust
always fascinated me. When we did the first film Pleasures
of the Damned, we decided that it would be funny (and good marketing
gimmick) to give the film a similar fake backstory. It
worked for us in several ways. For one, it was also
a sleazy film, so nobody had to have their name associated
with it. It was also a film with intentionally bad production
values, so it was good to have Antonello Giallo there as a scapegoat
for the bad filmmaking. It was as if we're saying
"He's the asshole responsible for this piece of garbage!"
We also went about promoting it as such, and that bought us a little more
notice too, in a sort of Andy Kaufman way. We've actually had someone
come up to us at a convention, look at a copy of Pleasures, and
say "I remember that when it came out."
The lead characer of Isle
of the Damned, Jack Steele actually originated in another film,
of the Damned. What can you tell us about that film and about the Jack
Steele is pretty much the quintessential badass. He's a private
investigator/vietnam vet/judo instructor that saves the world from bikers
and zombies in Pleasures
of the Damned, and from the cannibals in Isle. The
idea is that with each film, we spoof a different sub-genre in the Italian
horror world... Pleasures
of the Damned was more influenced by films like Burial
Ground, but with a little House
on the Edge of the Park
thrown in the mix. It was sort of a bizarre experiment, trying to
make a deliberately crappy movie with bad production values... I think we
were all surprised by certain elements of it that actually ended up being
funny. So with Isle, we went about taking what was fun
of the Damned, and ramping up the elements that we thought were
lacking, specifically the gore and the pacing.
Isle of the Damned and
of the Damned are both
genre parodies. What do you think does set your genre parodies apart from others, both amateur movies and big budget Hollywood
That's a tough question... we probably have just about as many gags
about things going into or coming out of people's butts as Epic
Movie, but we do it in the guise of a director that makes gut-wrenchingly awful films,
so I'm not sure what that says about the director of Epic Movie.
How did you start making films in the first place?
And what were some of your early films?
I started by making
class projects in high school. Myself and a group of friends would
always convince the English teacher to let us do a film instead of a
paper. So we'd make little parodys of Streetcar Named Desire,
and Othello. Eventually I got back into it in college, and
made a bunch of student shorts. Pretty
much everything I've done is up on www.direwitfilms.com
in the short films section.
Any future projects
you'd like to talk about?
After this is done, I'm looking
forward to a bit of a break! We're
self-distributing Isle, and actually doing an extremely limited
theatrical tour to any theatres that will have us,
so I imagine that's going to keep me pretty busy for the next year at
Directors who have influenced you as
There's probably too many to name, but the big
ones would be Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Lloyd Kaufman, Stanley Kubrick,
Alfred Hitchcock, pretty much any film I watch will influence me, whether it's
good or bad.
Favourite movies, both recent and all-time
naturally, and I really liked Children of Men. My
all time favs are a three-way tie
between Dead Alive, Empire
Strikes Back, and Brazil.
Any movies you really deplore?
hated the last third of No Country For Old Men. I'm
apparently one of maybe five, and it's not that I didn't get it... I got
it... yeah, evil's unstoppable, great. That doesn't mean the last
third of the movie had to be boring as fuck. Without having seen it,
I think that the Miley Cyrus concert film did a much better job
demonstrating that evil's unstoppable.
else I've forgotten to ask but you are just dying to tell us?
really... thanks for letting me do my No Country For Old Men
for the interview.