MIDGET ZOMBIE TAKEOVER -- SO BAD IT'S GOOD?
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [May 11, 2013]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] The title Midget Zombie Takeover suggests an intentionally inept horror film. Something for Mystery Science 3000 fans. A film calculated to be "So bad it's good."
That's always risky. Most "so bad it's good" films are so by accident. Plan for it, and you usually get something "so bad its unwatchable." A case of lazy filmmaking, where cast and crew simply "kicked back" and had a good time on set, not even trying to do a good job -- resulting in a work that is turgid, dull, and boooo-riiiiing!
Yet despite its outrageous title and incompetent cast, Midget Zombie Takeover is enjoyable, at least for forgiving fans of grassroots indie horror. It's not scary or slick or atmospheric. Its story is wholly unoriginal -- young people trapped in a house during a zombie plague. But it has some funny jokes and, after a slow start, shambles along at a mostly decent pace.
"I told the cast members that no matter how awful a line or plot twist might be, they needed to play it straight," writer/director Glenn Berggoetz told the Hollywood Investigator. "If I had them ham up dialog that was already inane, it would have been too much. I was thrilled with how seriously the cast delivered their lines.
"The film was shot in Fort Wayne, Indiana (B-roll footage in the Denver area). It was difficult finding cast and crew in Fort Wayne, so I cast a wide net. I ended up with cast members from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Of the 18 cast members, over half had never acted before. Most of the rest only had limited acting résumés. But their inexperience fit perfectly into the film's campiness. I couldn't have been more thrilled with their performances!"
Although the film is called Midget Zombie Takeover, it's scant on midgets. One of them resembled a dwarf. The rest looked normal-sized. It's hard to tell, as the zombies don't share many shots with the living. Mostly, the victims hide indoors. The zombies saunter outside. There's some interaction, but not much.
"I had a nightmare finding little people!" said Berggoetz. "Apparently there are few to no little people in the Midwest who act. I posted ads on Craigslist from Chicago, to Indianapolis, to Toledo, to half a dozen other, smaller cities. I contacted little people support groups all over the Midwest but got zero responses. Finally, I heard from Pinkerton Xyloma of Dead Man's Carnival out of Milwaukee. He got me in touch with one his performers, Travis Greene, who made the seven-hour drive to Fort Wayne to play the main zombie. The rest of the zombies are all technically little people (shorter than 4'10"), but you are correct that they are fairly tall for little people.
"The working title was Little Zombie Takeover. The day the little people were on set (the zombies were only used one day of the four-day shoot) a discussion began among the cast and crew about the title. Some said it was confusing. Is it a small takeover with only a few zombies? Travis said we should call it Midget Zombie Takeover. He said that he's a midget, there's nothing wrong with the word, and he and all other little people he knows call themselves midgets. He said that maybe 5% of little people have an issue with the word, and those 5% are making things a pain in the butt for the rest of the little people who realize that midget is not a condescending term. That's how we ended up with Midget Zombie Takeover. Upon Travis's insistence."
Much of the dialog's humor derives from clichéd or redundant phrases repeated for satirical effect. Melodramatically, characters bemoan phrases like, "But how? But how?" or "But why us? Why us?" or say with great portent, "You may be right. You may be right." Almost every character is patted at some point and comforted with, "There, there, Molly. There, there." or whatever is the comforted's name.
"I worked hard trying to incorporate some good dialog into the film, that would be a departure from what audiences would expect college kids to say in a low-budget zombie film," said Berggoetz. "A critic at a daily newspaper said the film has 'great writing -- Quentin Tarantino would be proud.' "
Midget Zombie Takeover was shot for $2,000 -- in the house Berggoetz was living in (a rental). "It worked out great because I didn't have the money to put the cast and crew up in a hotel. Everyone stayed at the house -- it was like summer camp! When filming was done for the day (usually around 11 pm) I would head to my bedroom, and try to get six hours of sleep before starting again next day. Most of the cast and crew was staying up until three or four in the morning, talking and carrying on. I'd get up at five to get ready for that day's shoot to find that most of the cast and crew had just gone to bed. When we'd start shooting again around eight in the morning, there were a lot of tired people on set."
The film benefits from its melodramatic music, which effectively supports the story's melodrama -- and it only cost $50. "The music is not an original score," said Berggoetz. "The film's editor, Erik Lassi, found some low-cost music online that he thought fit the film." That and a public domain Gregorian chant for the closing credits.
DP Orion Metzger shot the film with a Canon DSLR. To edit, "Lassi used Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Adobe After Effects CS5.5, Adobe Photoshop CS6, Cakewalk Sonar X2 Producer, iZotope RX2, GoldWave 5.67, and SonicFire Pro 5.
Midget Zombie Takeover originated from a distributor's advice on exploitation movies. "About three years ago, the president of a distribution company told me that if I ever made a film with zombies or women in bikinis, he could sell it," said Berggoetz. "It took me a couple years to realize I could put the two together. But I wanted a twist. My niece Christine said, "Why don't you make the zombies little people?" The light went on!
"We didn't set out to make a film that's so bad it's good. We set out to make a fun, campy film. The cheesy quality comes from that we only had $2,000. We had to limit the cast, limit the locations, and could only employ so much gore. While some things about the film are purposely bad (especially some of the script clichés), it's all in an attempt to lend a campy feel."
Berggoetz adds that he has "absolutely no formal education in filmmaking. I had long wanted to be a screenwriter. As of five years ago, I had a dozen completed screenplays to my credit. I was finding, however, that not only would no one in Hollywood put any of my scripts into production, I couldn't even get anyone in Hollywood to read my scripts so they could reject them.
"One day I was chatting with a guy who used to work at Disney. He said that being a nobody like I was, no one in Hollywood would ever read my scripts, no matter how awesome a query letter I might put together. He said if I ever wanted to be a screenwriter, I needed to make my own films and draw some attention.
"I found a book on filmmaking, read half of it, and felt overwhelmed. I decided that maybe I could make my film in a simpler manner. Instead of all kinds of crew members -- why do I need a gaffer, a line producer, an assistant director? -- I'd make a film simply. Small crew, small cast, limited number of locations. I tried this and it worked! I've made all my films this way. I put together the knowledge I've gained in a book, The Independent Filmmaker's Guide: Make Your Feature Film for $2,000.
"Midget Zombie Takeover is screening in theaters all over the U.S. It's also booked into the Roxy in London, UK. We've landed deals with Zom-Bee TV, CrypticTV (online), and Canada's VCTV. I've handled all distribution myself, but I'm looking for a distributor to take on foreign and DVD rights.
"I have six completed features, two of which -- The Worst Movie EVER! and To Die is Hard -- have also received theatrical releases. I need an agent to help with my future projects, which includes the possibility of Midget Zombie Takeover II.
Glenn Berggoetz is on Wordpress, among other online sites.