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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [June 21, 2012]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Does the world really need yet another zombie film? Kerry Finlayson thinks so. She's the writer/producer of Blood Rush, a low-budget zombie film ($50,000) shot in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
"Zombie films never get old," Finlayson told the Hollywood Investigator. "Even with the old premise of zombies running around eating people’s faces off, there’s still much room for exploration. Horror as a genre is fantastic because of all its possibilities. It can make you laugh, scream, or think."
Still, with so many flesh-eating copycats being churned out, every zombie film needs a new angle to set it apart from the cannibal crowd. What sets Blood Rush apart from the rest is its curiously retro ambiance.
Yes, there is gore. Yet Blood Rush feels more like a 1950s alien invasion film. Set in a small town with a tiny population, Blood Rush evokes such sparsely peopled post-apocalyptic films as Robot Monster and The Last Man on Earth.
The townsfolk are stereotypical small town caricatures of the sort found in 1950s films. An elderly preacher raising his orphaned "bad girl" niece. The rich bitch who hates sex, and her hen-pecked husband. The eccentric hobo. The respectable psycho who passes under everyone's radar. (Comic relief.) Rednecks who threaten the town's only black family -- whose patriarch practices voodoo.
"Sweet Home Films [the production company] has a deep-rooted fondness for the old horror flicks," says Finlayson. "Both the socially conscious ones from George Romero and the campy ones from Peter Jackson. Horror films aren't just for seeing how grossed-out they can make you feel, but to point out societal issues and have fun doing it. Then see how grossed out we can make you feel.
"Blood Rush is saying that racism can spread as fast as a zombie plague. Each person in the town council at first had a theory about why people were acting strange. But once the racism card got played, that notion spread until a mob mentality was born. But we weren't gonna take sides that easily. You never really find out who was to blame [for the zombie plague]."
The mob itself consists of three men. The film's small cast contributes to its 1950s post-apocalyptic ambiance. As in The Twilight Zone's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," the town has lost contact with the outside world. We don't know what's beyond the town. Have the zombies taken over the entire world -- or is their presence limited to the town.
But the main reason for Blood Rush's retro feel is its melodramatic, orchestral mood music. None of the high-energy, heavy metal music of recent zombie films. Nor the simple, ponderous rhythmic of Zombi 2's nihilistic score. Blood Rush's soundtrack sounds like the traditional music soundtracks of the pre-rock & roll era. (Blood Rush's zombies are modern in one respect: They run rather than shamble).
"The film is a true collaboration amongst its creators," said Finlayson. "The mood was born in the script, but [director] Evan Marlowe knew how to bring it to life. And certainly [composer] Michael Daniel intentionally devised a score to heighten those feelings.
"The sci-fi films of the 1950s spoke to our fears at that moment. It was the birth of the space race and the arms race. Even though both held huge possibilities, there were risks. Sci-fi films of that era played to those uncertainties. Very much like Romero’s commentaries on consumerism or the accessibility of camcorders."
Although the soundtrack sounds like a performance by a small orchestra, Daniel did it all, using off the shelf computer programs. Finlayson says that Daniel used "Finale for his notation software, Digital Performer for sequencing/mixing, and a variety of orchestral sample libraries. He and Evan would discuss a scene briefly, Michael would send Evan his score over the web, and Evan would suggest changes. The movie was scored scene by scene in this manner."
While the film has a mostly melodramatic feel, there are a few humorous touches. "The flying eyeball was a tip of the hat to Evil Dead. But Evan wanted to raise the bar a bit, so we brought in the flying fetus. A little more distasteful, but equally as zany."
Blood Rush was shot using a Canon T3i, with "inexpensive lav mics," and edited on Sony Vegas. Its $50,000 budget was "mainly self-financed." It was shot in and around Calabasas and Los Angeles.
"We borrowed locations from friends and family for most of the interiors, and Linda Vista Hospital for the town council and other interior scenes. Tapia Park was the location for our woodland scenes. Securing permits was easy given the small size of our crew. That said, working on location is a daunting challenge for a two or three-person crew. We decided to shoot our next film, Horror House, almost exclusively in our home."
Finlayson "went to film school in England before moving to the States to pursue a career in the film industry." Surprisingly, director Evan Marlowe is a practicing physician. "He learned [filmmaking] by analyzing the works of other filmmakers. Artists often disregard critical reviews, but many critics, like Roger Ebert, have a profound understanding of cinema. A lot of what Evan knows has come from studying critical reviews.
"Everyone in Hollywood wants to make a film, but almost the same number of people has an excuse as to why they can't. The town is teeming with talent, so finding people to help out for nothing or dirt cheap isn't a problem. You can borrow and rent equipment for cheap. You don’t need a background in cinematography, or be well-connected, or have access to the best equipment. If Evan wanted a dolly shot, he built a dolly out of wood and PVC pipes. If he needed a particular lens, he rented it from the local camera store for 14 bucks. When we needed to cast our film, we held auditions and got a ton of great actors. The tools are readily available to all."
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