King's Tower Productions
The secret to the island must be discovered in The Amateur Monster Movie.
The Amateur Monster Movie, by Milwaukee director Kyle Richards, is about a high school student -- Walter Romero -- who, with friends, sets out to find answers after some boy scouts are killed on an island. They find a hilarious world of zombies and werewolves and must discover the secret to the island before they become snack food to ghoulish monsters.
I talked to Richards, 22, about the inspirations for his low-budget film, the role of the pothead in horror films, and the delicate art of making realistic movie blood.
The Daily Page: Did you decide to make a zombie movie out of love of the genre, or were you hoping to bring something new to it that you hadn't seen before?
Richards: The film primarily came from a love of zombie movies. The desire to add something new to the genre sort of came after. There's a few things in the film, especially in the end, that we haven't seen in zombie movies before. But the film does have a lot of homages to other movies I've enjoyed. Some of them are very obvious, but I'm hoping a few of them are subtle enough for the real zombie fans, especially fans of the George Romero films.
I picked up on perhaps the most obvious: the main character's name is Walter Romero.
Yeah, that's one of the more noticeable ones. Many of the characters' names are references to zombie characters or directors. There's a drug dealer roommate in the film named after Lucio Fulci and another character who was named after Amando de Ossorio, who were two other zombie filmmakers of that era. So there's lots of things like that. My character's name is Johnny, named after Barbra's brother in Night of the Living Dead. So there's even more layers if you're a fan of zombie movies.
Where did you film?
I'm from Milwaukee and went to high school in Menomonee Falls, so I have a lot of connections in that area, and I had the whole cast and crew working for free. So I wanted to have all of the filming take place within an hour of Milwaukee. A lot of our filming was at night in wooded areas, and you can't go into public parks after a certain hour at night. So it was a matter of finding people we knew with private land with enough woods that we could shoot back there and not to use the same landscapes too many times.
In The Cabin in the Woods, there's a joke about how there always seems to be a stoner character in horror films. In your own film, a pothead moves the plot forward in a significant way. Did you purposely try to make him more than just a caricature?
The character that I play in the movie is the pothead character. You see it a lot in horror movies. I feel that whenever there is a stoner character in those films, they are always so goofy and unrealistic and doing things that don't make any real sense. I wanted to make somebody more like the guy who you actually knew in high school, getting stoned in his car at lunch or whatever. I tried to make him a more authentic character who isn't tripping out.
A lot of movies like to throw in the token scene of someone getting killed while they are smoking pot, or a girl who gets killed while taking off her clothes. Filmmakers try to make a message out of it, like, "This character is doing something socially wrong, so they're gonna get killed." So I tried to avoid that route and break a lot of the conventions.
What is your recipe for fake blood?
We tried a lot of different things. I'd say most of them were failures. Most of the stuff that got mixed were things like Karo syrup and dye. I mean, even if you mix in other colors like blue, it still never ends up looking right. So the best stuff that worked was a mixture of that and a sort of concoction of ours where we took this powdered blood and mixed it with water. That just by far worked the best.
Do you have a plan in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
This was definitely a question that a lot of the people on the crew and cast were asking each other. I guess it depends on what rules these zombies have. If they can't swim, which is what a lot of the earlier films had, then the obvious choice is to go to an island. But if they can walk on the bottom of the water, as they can in some movies, I don't know.
The Amateur Monster Movie is screening twice in the Wisconsin Film Festival, first at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 20, and again at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, both at Monona Terrace. A Q&A session with Richards follows each screening.