Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer co-director Richard Taylor on bringing a Troma-esque sensibility to Denver film
Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer, the debut feature film from Bizjack FlemCo, features zombies, bowling and a seriously weird twist, all wrapped up in a gore-splattered, over-the-top sensibility that should be familiar to fans of Troma. The locally made film will get its proper Denver debut at the Denver Indie Fest (tonight at 9 p.m. at Su Teatro), with most of the cast and crew on hand to introduce the film and answer questions. In advance of that, we caught up with Richard Taylor, who co-wrote the film with Zack Beins and Tim Johnson and co-directed with Beins, to talk about the movie's long road to the screen, its screwy sensibilities and what it was like working with Troma legend Lloyd Kaufman.
Westword: You've been billing it as a "zombie movie without zombies." Can you explain what that means?
Richard Taylor: Correct, yeah -- the first zombie movie with no zombies! We don't want to give away the plot of the movie... it does have zombies, so it's kind of funny to say that. We've got bowling, we've got souped-up hearses.... I don't know how to explain it without giving it away. You can get a description at our IMDB page.
This film has been a work in progress since, what, at least 2009? Have you been working on it the whole time? Have there been delays in production?
Yeah, we've been working on it the whole time, and there were delays in production. We lost a few actors, actually. We lost locations. We just could not keep a bowling alley. They kept shutting down on us. The whole movie takes place in a bowling alley, and we just could not keep a bowling alley. We had some financial troubles. One of my friends, Zack, got in a really bad car accident and broke his leg, so that slowed down production. Just things kind of sucked at that time. We were trying to live our lives and make this movie at the same time, and life just kept getting in the way. We were supposed to premiere it in 2010, but it just didn't happen. We should have never made that announcement.
That doesn't seem too unusual among independent filmmakers.
Yeah, a lot of people say that their movie is going to get done this year, then it never happens. On a sad note, their movie just dies and you never hear of it again. With us, I was determined to finish it, and I lost all my hair, just pulled it out, and kept going. I just had to finish this thing, and it's finally done.
This is the Denver premiere, but you've shown it a few times nearby, right?
Yeah. We filmed at an Elvis Cinemas in Arvada -- part of the movie takes place in a movie theater -- so we thought it would be fun to show the film where we filmed the movie. They were nice enough to actually let us screen the movie and film the movie there. We had a little get-together there, and that went really well. We also had the movie screen at TromaDance in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had another screening, the very first, at StarFest, but that was a very early cut. It hadn't been color-corrected, and we were screening it off my computer.
How was it received at TromaDance?
The thing about that was we were in Albuquerque, so we didn't know anybody there. All we knew were that the people there were Troma fans. This movie is very Troma-esque, because me, Zack and Tim, we all love Troma movies. We basically wrote a Troma movie, and Lloyd [Kaufman, Troma president and co-founder] is even in the movie; he makes a little cameo in the film. The film was well received. People were cracking up, and there's one scene in the movie that seems to get everybody shouting out loud, and at TromaDance it was no exception.
With Troma, people are expecting a certain sensibility: over the top, shlocky, with gruesome but cheap effects. When you say your movie is Troma-esque, that's what we're talking about, right?
Absolutely. We establish right in the beginning that the film is very campy. The whole movie was just an excuse to do special effects. Me and Zack worked on Poultrygeist with Troma and did special effects from that movie. After learning everything we learned on Poultrygeist, we wanted to do something else that was really effects-driven. Doing Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer was an excuse to do effects: The guy's going around killing people he thinks are zombies. It's a fun reason to do effects. We've got blood, we've got gore -- we've got blood, boobs and beasts. Plenty of boobs, cars, we've got bowling...we've got radio DJs Uncle Nasty and Matt Need from KBPI. We've got Maris the Great, who's a gay zombie here in town. He makes a small cameo.