Horror Favourites – Drew Cullingham

Shed of the Dead is the hilarious and grisly journey of Trevor, a 30-something man-child and war-gaming enthusiast, and his best friend, Graham, as they attempt to survive the zombie apocalypse and to celebrate its World Premiere at the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival on 18th May and Digital Download release on 20th May we spoke to the films director Drew Cullingham about his favourite horror film.

The film features a host of British talent including Spencer Brown, Lauren Socha (Misfits), Emily Booth (Doghouse), and Ewen MacIntosh (The Bromley Boys, The Office). In addition, British actor Brian Blessed will be lending his unmistakable booming vocals as the film’s narrator. The film also features US horror icons Kane Hodder (Friday 13th, Hatchet), Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween), and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest).

Drew’s directorial debut was UMBRAGE:THE FIRST VAMPIRE (A VAMPIRES TALE in the US) an off-beat contemporary horror-western, starring the legendary Doug Bradley (Hellraiser). His second film, Monk3ys, a surreal containment horror thriller, scooped best micro-budget film at the Raindance Film Festival. He made a couple more micro-budget features: Black Smoke Rising, a poignant reflection on grief made in the wake of losing his own brother; and The Devil’s Bargain, a more experimental period horror shot almost entirely with a pinhole attachment on the camera instead of lenses!

Shed of the Dead will be having its World Premiere at the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival on 18th May, with the Digital Download release on 20th May. Below Drew talks about his favourite horror film EVIL DEAD II:

“Choosing a favourite horror film is, for me, both the hardest and the easiest thing to do. If I’m feeling serious I will always go for ‘The Shining’ or ‘Alien’, both perfect tens to me, both exemplary in the genre (yes, I see ‘Alien’ as horror way before sci-fi) and both flawless in terms of film-making. Then if I’m feeling more pretentious I’d maybe go for ‘Les Yeux sans Visage’, or if more modern I’d plump for ‘Let the right one in’. I have a soft spot for anything Hammer, love Vincent Price, am by almost generational necessity a huge fan of all the great 70s and 80s slashers from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ to ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ etc. But let’s be honest – the film I’ve seen more than any of these, the film that probably inspired me to do what I do, the go-to, never dull, utterly quotable, cool as hell and most perfectly crafted 84 minutes of pure genius ever made… is ‘Evil Dead II’.

This is probably a wholly unoriginal choice – I mean it’s such a fan favourite. But filmmakers are the biggest geeks of all (who would believe that it’s a complete co-incidence that even as I write this I’m actually wearing a tee shirt advertising the Hardware and Sporting Goods department of S-Mart!) so I’m sticking to my guns!

So for some actual earnest words of wisdom as to why I think this is such a great piece of horror film history….

Well… most accessible in terms of appreciation is probably the fact that Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams is one of the coolest heroes in the genre. In fact, when you think about it, what really sets Evil Dead (the trilogy, not just the second one) apart from its colleagues is that it has a proper hero: sure, he’s reluctant; sure, he’d rather get some ‘sugar’ from some medieval wench, or down a beer behind the wheel of his (Raimi’s) 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale; sure, he’s got a hell of a chin on him, but for once we’re rooting for a hero on the side of good. It’s him we want to see, doing what he does. In most other films of this nature it’s the villain we want to see, be it Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, or Victor Crowley, and even though we root for Ripley in the Alien films, we still want to see who’s going to get it next, and how. We don’t really care who survives a slasher film – it’s all about the kills. In Evil Dead II it’s about the killer one-liners!

Because if any movie exemplifies comedy-horror, this is the one! I’d put ‘American Werewolf in London’ up there too, but in a very different way. But Evil Dead II is a riot, and if you ever get a chance to see it in a packed cinema, do it! The unadulterated joy of nerdy horror fans drooling over Bruce Campbell’s intensely hilarious physical acting and line delivery, punctuated by the ridiculous coolness of his weaponry (Rose McGowan would never have had a machine gun strapped to her amputated leg stump in a world before Campbell had screwed a chainsaw onto his wrist in place of his lost hand!) is second to none in terms of cinematic experience.

But aside from the hysterical fandom that surrounds Bruce Campbell (I remember being utterly elated for a day when I knew he was reading one of my scripts), what really brings me back again and again to this film is the direction, the film-craft. Sam Raimi is one of my absolute favourite directors. This is the tightest 84 minutes I think I’ve ever seen. There’s not an ounce of fat in this film. For what was a crazily small amount of money at the time (and now as well to be fair!), I can’t think of another film that gets as much mileage out of its limited resources as Evil Dead II, and there are plenty that get considerably less out of a lot more.

From hand-made camera contraptions to incredibly concise editing of action beats, this is low budget film making at its absolute height. When you can’t afford a steadicam but can afford to strap a camera to a plank of wood which two people then carry through a forest, you’d think the shot would suffer, whereas in fact the effect you get is something you would struggle to get any other way. Same for ‘ram-o-cam’ – whoever thought of strapping the camera to a pole to achieve the breaking of glass before allowing the camera to pass through the window deserves a medal. And people say reversing a steadicam to get low level steady shots was clever (first use: ’The Shining’ – yeah, genius too, but still!).

In short, the inventiveness behind the way the camera is used to tell the story is second to none. And that’s the point – it all serves the story. It’s a simple story, yes, but there’s no trickery for the sake of trickery here – just inspired crazy genius chaotically pushing the boundaries of traditional filmmaking. Even now, this film is utterly fresh!

And best of all… it’s a sequel! Kind of. And remarkably, the whole damn trilogy is glorious, and that’s not something you can say of many trilogies!”

Shed of the Dead will be having its World Premiere at the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival on 18th May, with the Digital Download release on 20th May.

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