Please allow me to rewind time, and offer you Bidites an introduction to Wes Young, one cool chap with a fine knack for filmmaking, and a deep understanding of grizzly shock value!
You know it’s going to be a fun ride when your film of choice launches with a small child being obliterated by a speeding car. Apparently writer/director Wes Young is as morbid as myself, and harbors some similar thoughts, because that’s exactly how DEAD EXIT gets started - with a grizzly splash that intentionally fails to subside throughout the course of the picture. I think the simple tag “Here We Go” would have fit this picture snug.
After a wonderfully senseless child murder, we are introduced to our three protagonists, two men, and a young girl - on the road, seeking shelter from a steadily increasing band of flesh eating ghouls. After running into some car problems (watch out for children - they’ll do more damage to your ride than you might expect!) the trio abandon their vehicle and head for a nearby building, which may or may not provide an adequate hideaway. The three reach lodging, but discover that this is no sanctuary, as there’s a zombie parade quickly nipping at the heels of these few survivors.
Attempts to keep these abominations at bay prove volatile. The undead force their way inside, and it’s up to the trio to escape a corner they’ve inevitably backed themselves into. There’s plenty of blasting, bashing and blood spray as the group fight desperately to evacuate, extremities intact. Unfortunately, the men don’t fare so well, and one by one become hearty meals for a clan of decaying flesh chompers. Our youngest survivor, now alone amongst a sea of cannibalistic corpses manages to get herself to the safest possible place: the roof. But sometimes, liberation is a lonely summit… helping only to prolong the inevitable.
With the help of Ryan Goff, Bob Herron and Randy Foos, Wes Young has crafted an enjoyable piece of film which begins on a memorably bleak note, and ends just the same. What transpires in between alpha and omega is a fast paced, humorous and often bloody joyride. Some clever dialogue is exchanged early in the film, but as the situation becomes dire, humor gives way to a frantic anxiety that Bob Herron, Randy Foos and Mackenzie Goff portray convincingly. They’re all likeable characters, but I’ve got to admit, the youngest of the bunch, Mackenzie Goff really steals the show. Young is sound behind the camera, and does a grand job of editing the film (especially when considering such low production values). Meanwhile, the unheralded hero Jeff Duran compiles a beautiful score that seems to tie the picture together perfectly; not a seam to be scene. My only complaint: at a meager 20 minutes running time I myself was left wanting much, much more!
I’ll tell you, getting the chance to catch the first screening of DEAD EXIT was a lot of fun. The cast and crew were warm, approachable guys (and gals) who shared an evident, but clearly strong, sincere excitement about their film. Director Wes Young was particularly out-going, and open to answering any questions tossed his way.
“Ryan Goff came to me and said he was tired of seeing so many bad short zombie films and he wanted to really put together something that was more of a traditional and well-made zombie flick. We set off on a goal to follow some strict rules and make a film. We call it “The DEAD EXIT Difference” in which we state all the rules we promise to follow to bring everyone a better zombie movie. Ryan had a great concept and characters and it got me interested in making it. I have shot several short films and one feature film, THE SHADOW ASSET, so he was confident that I could pull off what he ultimately wanted and the idea of doing a zombie movie got me excited.” Wes informed me when asked what compelled him to make a zombie feature.
As for those “DEAD EXIT Differences“ - well, Wes was quick to break that down, informing me that they would not…
•Let a main character commit suicide at the end of the film to avoid writing a proper conclusion.
•Use our backyard or home as “the location” for the film.
•Place zombie makeup only on the actors face, leaving the neck, arms, etc. exposed
•Cast all the principal actors and extras with high school and/or junior high school students
•Subject you to any form of written or spoken narration.
•Have our actors use the word zombie.
•Turn characters into walking arsenals just because airsoft guns are reasonably priced.
•Show “smart” zombies that use tools, open door, etc.
•Provide a hackneyed explanation of the zombie outbreak and infestation.
•Make a “soundtrack” consisting of poorly selected, copyrighted speed metal tracks
Such strict, yet enticing guidelines!
Everyone involved was ecstatic, and truly anxious to voice their opinions, and tell their tales… but there was an aura about the room that seemed almost tangible. An aura I just couldn’t shake, and I’ll admit I had difficulty putting my finger on it initially, and then I saw it, and knew: it was the combination of the tall-can of Pabst Blue Ribbon actor Bob Herron entered the building sipping from, and my bout with an unquenchable thirst… either way, it was a great night - this Misfire Productions crew clearly show a load of promise!
Matt Molgaard: Wes, your new film DEAD EXIT was produced by your own company Misfire Productions. Tell me a little bit about the companies past and future releases.
Wes Young: In 2005 I started making my first mini-feature movie THE SHADOW ASSET which was officially released in 2008 on DVD. It is an action thriller about an assassin for the CIA. I call it a mini-feature because its 50 minutes long which technically makes it a feature film, but it’s not long enough to sell to a distributor. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I also produced a short film called PRICE OF VENGEANCE which stars Ilea Matthews. Last year Misfire Productions was an associated producer on Desperate Visions Productions’ movie THE LAST ROAD TO HELL which screened at the Sacramento Horror Festival in October.
I am developing several ideas right now for my next possible projects. After DEAD EXIT, I think my next project will be another zombie flick. It was a hell of a lot of fun to make. I have a new script in the works right now.
MM[:/b] Bob Herron and Randy Foos are both gentlemen that you’ve previously worked with. Are the guys also a part of Misfire Productions, and are the three of you slated to work on any other future projects together?
[b]WY: Bob Herron and Randy Foos are really great friends of mine. They have been working on my films all the way back to when I did my first ever short movie, which was a Star Wars fan film called A DECEPTION OF THE FORCE. They are not officially part of Misfire Productions, but when you find someone who gives you all they've got because of the love of the project you find a way to keep them involved. I have no specific plans for them at the moment but I can almost guarantee they will be involved in some way, shape or form in my future projects.
MM: Ryan Goff clearly played an integral role in the creation of this film. Is this the first time the two of you have collaborated on a project?
WY: This is the first time Ryan and I have ever worked together. When he first mentioned the idea of this movie and showed his dedication to sticking to a strict set of rules for the movie the idea really drew me in. I was leery about doing a zombie movie on a really low budget because I have seen so many cheap movies that might have started out as a good concept, but when you don’t put effort into the most important elements it just comes out lame. When I saw that Ryan had great plans for the bloody special FX and the zombie makeup I knew it could be done.
MM: Being one of the first to catch the films initial screening, I got a chance to see the embrace and approval of DEAD EXIT’s audience. Did the warm reception surprise you at all, or were you confident heading into screening that viewers would enjoy this picture?
WY: I had a pretty strong confidence in what we accomplished and I had a good notion of how the audience would react but you never know for sure till it plays. There is always that last minute feeling that you’re wrong and no one will like it. So let’s just say I was relieved instead of surprised. It was awesome to see people reacting to the movie the way we had hoped.
MM: In my opinion, tenable dialogue and a consistent pace to the action really made this film shine. However, one of the elements I think people often overlook is the power of a films score. Jeff Duran handled DEAD EXIT’s music, and I must say - the man did a wonderful job. How important is the score, and how pleased were you with Jeff‘s contribution?
WY: I think the score is one of the most important elements of the movie. If you ever try to watch any movie without the score I think you will find out that most movies really suck. The music can create a tension that isn’t there. It can give a scene more energy and make it much more emotional. Jeff Duran is brilliant. He can just nail the moments in each scene and really pump up the excitement. While he was working on the score I gave him very little direction as far as what I wanted or needed. I have every intension on using him on all of my projects as long as Hollywood doesn’t take him away from me first.
MM: Now, we’ve established that one of the goals of this film was to break the mold and stray from a lot of ‘zombie cliché’s’ (if you will). With that said, give me your take on the zombie sub-genre; what makes a good zombie flick, what makes a bad one, and what are some of your personal favorites?
WY: The main thing that is important is to look at what’s frightening about zombies. As themselves they are not that scary. It’s the large groups and the tension of not knowing where they are, that’s what I think is thrilling about it. To be able to take a slow moving easily subdued enemy and make it into a threat is a very tough thing to do. I think a good zombie flick needs to concentrate more on the fears of its living characters. A bad zombie flick will try to transform the zombie’s into super zombies that can run fast or to become smart and out-think the living. That is a cop-out to the zombie genre. It means they failed to find a way to make a regular zombie scary. My personal favorite zombie movie is UNDEAD by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig. And I can’t leave out SHAUN OF THE DEAD. That is an all time classic.
MM: Tell me about your distribution arrangements for DEAD EXIT. Any plans to push this on the festival circuit?
WY: We currently plan to release a DVD and distribute the movie through Misfire Productions. We are also entering it into film festivals. It would be great to be able to get out into the festival circuit and get some exposure with this project.
MM: Based upon the viewing of only one of your films, it seems you’re well suited in the directorial seat. Tell me about your background - any specific schooling, or experiences which catapulted you into the cinematic field?
WY: I worked as a professional grip for about a year. It helped me get familiar with all the filmmaking equipment used on set. I learn a hell of a lot by watching every behind the scenes documentary I can find. They show you so much on the process of filmmaking. If you really pay attention you can pick it up. I have had no real formal education in film production. Most of my experience comes just by doing it. I got a camera and just started making movies. If you have a talent for it you will pick up on the things that work and the ones that don’t. The key is to realize you can do better. If you think you did a perfect job then you’re not learning. It can always be better. Ultimately all it takes is a real undying passion and dedication and the willingness to be really poor for a long, long time.
MM: Who are some of the figures you look up to in the film industry?
WY: Any indie filmmaker has to look up to Robert Rodriguez. He started the revolution of “make your own damn film” for no money. James Cameron is a huge idol of mine. ALIENS, TERMINATOR, ABYSS; I love those movies and hope to one day be able to do movies on that scale.
MM: Anyone in particular that you’d really like to work with in the future?
WY: There are a bunch of people I would love to work with. It’s hard to single someone out. I like working with fresh new people. As far as undiscovered talent I really would like to work with the actress Ilea Matthews again. We did a really short film together. She is extremely talented and I did not get to use her skills to the extent I could have.
MM: What are some of your long-term goals, and what’s it going to take to achieve them?
WY: I have very lofty goals. I want my own production studio one day. I hope to continue to be a producer, director, writer, editor and cinematographer through a Hollywood filmmaking career. It’s really tough to know exactly how to achieve these goals. If I knew a sure path, I would probably already be there. All I can do is keep making my own movies and improving my skills and get exposure wherever possible. Hopefully the rest will come on its own.
MM: Anything you’d like to say to the loyal Misfire followers, and your growing fan base?
WY: Thanks to everyone who supports us, and to the people who helped us make the movie and endured some serious torture to get this project finished. Your dedication is really appreciated. I think you can expect to see bigger and better things from us in the near future.
MM: Thanks for your time Wes.
WY: Thanks again.
Learn how to get your hands on a copy of Dead Exit by visiting http://www.deadexitmovie.com!