Interviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Society
Jesse Baget is a writer/producer/director and head of the production company Ruthless Pictures. His company is responsible for films such as All Hallows’ Eve (2013), Mischief Night (2013), The Black Water Vampire (2014), Werewolf Rising (2014), Day of the Mummy (2014), Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (2015) and more. His latest film is the zombie anthology, Zombieworld in which he serves as the writer, producer, and director of the wrap-around segment in the film.
Steve Barton is head of online horror site, Dread Central and also serves as co-producer for Zombieworld.
I had the chance to chat with Jesse and Steve to talk about the film, the state of zombies, actor Bill Oberst Jr., and more.
Horror Society: Your latest film is the anthology film Zombieworld. What made you decide to bring zombie shorts to a mass audience instead of say…vampires or werewolves, what made you choose zombies?
Steve Barton: There is a reason that zombies are so popular. Zombies are so popular right now because they bring a different kind of terror than your average creature. There are no fangs, there is no hair, they’re not werewolves, they’re not supernatural beings, they’re not guided by demons – not saying they can’t be but usually your garden variety zombie is just exactly what it is…a zombie. I think people react to that better because it’s very familiar to them. These creatures are your neighbors, your friends, your teachers, your family and people respond well to the familiarity of the zombie.
It asks the question…could you do what needs to be done if one of your loved ones became a zombie? Could you put them down? I think the psychosis of all that has really helped the zombie phenomenon keep growing and lurching onward, so when it came time for Zombieworld it almost seemed like a no braiiinnzzzer. Let’s go and do zombies man, why not. We saw countless really cool shorts and what we wanted to do was give these filmmakers who have so much talent to do what they do on such a level that it will blow your mind and we wanted to get each short seen and we wanted to get them seen on a worldwide level. If just one person has a success story and goes on to do something else, then this was all worth it for us.
Horror Society: I completely agree with you as far as the popularity of zombies. With the success of The Walking Dead and Z Nation on SyFy, zombies have never been bigger. A lot of people think that zombies have jumped the shark now because they’ve been so popular for so long but as long as there are good stories to tell they’re still relevant.
Jesse Baget: Exactly.
Horror Society: Zombieworld is a collection of shorts culled from around the world. How many short films did you have to go through before you decided on the ones that you put in the movie?
Jesse Baget: Definitely hundreds probably close to four or five hundred. Once we narrowed it down we easily figured out which ones we really dug and which ones were going to jell together the best.
Steve Barton: We know the project is totally uneven; we have no disillusions about that. We wanted to give people different types of zombie stuff to choose from. You know the market is oversaturated with zombie products and we wanted to give people different takes on the zombie sub-genre and hopefully they have a really good time with it.
Jesse Baget: I never wanted this to be taken too seriously, which was always my goal. I just wanted it to be absolutely balls out fun and fast paced and hopefully we accomplished that.
Horror Society: Most of the films in Zombieworld are more on the humorous side. Was that intentional on your part?
Jesse Baget: I think from the beginning we wanted it to be all over the place but it turned out more of a dark comedy as a whole then we thought it was going to be in the beginning. I’m really thrilled that it took a turn in that direction.
Steve Barton: Some horror classics are so influential like Dead Alive. These younger filmmakers, they see movies like that and they want to make their own. Their projects end up kind of mirroring the horror comedies or whatever that actually works. They have things like Dead Alive and want to make something that kind of feels like that if only to revere this project or revere that project. I think that’s why it took the tone that it did because you watch some of these shorts and the talent behind it cannot be denied and the talent is also one that is highly influenced from what has come before it. It was never designed per say to be more of a comedy but I think it was skewed that way organically. Holy shit, did I just sound intelligent.
Horror Society: Jesse, you directed the wrap-around story and again you cast the always incredible Bill Oberst Jr. who you’ve worked with several times before. What is it about Bill that keeps you going back to him for roles in your films?
Jesse Baget: The dude is just nuts and I love that. We’ve been everywhere from the middle of the desert in Arizona filming with talking dogs to at night in about ten degree weather and he’s basically naked with a sock on his balls, covered in blood screaming at the top of his lungs. So, he’s kind of done everything and he’s always so freaking cool and so willing to do anything or try anything. You kind of point him in a direction and he goes full force.
Steve Barton: He’s a rock star. Horror doesn’t have many rock stars right now. We don’t have many leading men like Vincent Price and Peter Cushing and honestly the amount of talent that Bill has, he leans in that direction and you have to appreciate that and be lucky enough to be able to use it whenever you can. He’s developed a really odd affection for walking around covered in blood with a sock on his junk, he likes that.
Horror Society: Steve, this one is for you. For those that don’t know, you’re the head of online horror site Dread Central. What brought you together with Jesse and Ruthless Pictures?
Steve Barton: Jesse and I have been in touch since Wrestlemaniac. We had always been friendly and it was serendipity. Ruthless Pictures and Dread Central have always been indie oriented at heart and very organic so it ended up as being a natural pairing in regards to where our heads are at.
Jesse Baget: It’s so fun to work with you man.
Horror Society: I know we’re out of time so I wanted to thank both of you for speaking with me. It was a pleasure to talk with both of you.
Watch the trailer for Zombieworld here,