Taking the horror of the ‘Walk Of Shame’ to a whole new level, Night Of The Living Deb sees awkward girl Deb stumbling into a zombie outbreak after a drunken fling, forcing her to pair up with the guy she spent the night with.
A genuinely funny ‘rom-zom-com’ with the right balance of warmth, wit and walking dead, Night Of The Living Deb debuts at this year’s Frightfest and we spoke to the film’s writer-director Kyle Rankin about his movie.
Night Of The Living Deb is a great original concept, how did you come with the idea?
A lot of zombie movies focus on the unlikely — and uneasy — band of characters who are forced to work together to survive. I thought, what if the one person you had on your team was someone you drunkenly hooked up with the night before? Only now they regret it and kinda wish you were dead? The awkward “morning after” during the zombie apocalypse intrigued me. Two kinds of horror at once.
Working in a niche genre like ‘zombie comedy’, how challenging was it to make something so fresh?
What’s fun about doing a mash-up like this is that you’re allowed to completely embrace all the cliches and well-worn territory of both genres. It’s a vast film library to exploit, and you get to stand on the shoulders of giants. The downside is, once the blend’s been done a few times, you go, What more is there? Does another zomedy really need to exist? It was changing the lead role from male to female that really opened up new possibilities for us.
Despite it being a very different film, whenever people hear ‘zombie comedy’ Shaun Of The Dead inevitably comes up. Does that bother you at all or do you like the comparison?
There’s no avoiding it, and I certainly wouldn’t want to. ‘Shaun’ is hilarious, and was years ahead of the whole zombie resurgence in pop culture.
The character of Deb (played by Maria Thayer) is very likeable and quirky but very different to the traditional heroine. How did you come up with the character?
The guiding principle on Deb was that she skew positive. Limiting anything too cynical or mean in her perspective felt refreshing in a comedic lead … but she still had to be funny. Screenwriter Andy Selsor found that sweet spot in Deb and ran with it brilliantly.
How difficult a task was it to cast for Night Of The Living Deb?
We didn’t have much time between the end of the Kickstarter campaign and the production dates, so we were really lucky to assemble such a great cast so quickly. Michael Cassidy and Ray Wise were already onboard and appeared in the campaign pitch videos… so the most difficult part was finding the right Deb. She didn’t have to be a particular “type,” and as unique a character as she is, I could picture her played a variety of ways … but after meeting Maria, it was clear she owned that part. She made Deb more lovable and an even bigger weirdo than we’d hoped for.
Night of the Living Deb screens at Frightfest this weekend, what’s your favourite scary movie?
I have several. The Shining. Wicker Man. And more recently: It Follows.
The film plays with some of the tropes of zombie movies to great effect, even referencing certain films by name; are you a big fan of the genre?
I’ve always been most drawn to the post-apocalyptic (The Road Warrior was the film that made me want to make movies), so the best zombie movies appeal to that same part of me. The part that’s ready to defend a farmhouse or the last can of peas with my life.
You’ve obviously got experience of horror comedies (having created Infestation), what is it that you enjoy about working in that genre?
I like that it’s just as tricky to create a good laugh as a good scare, and it’s a little insane to try for both… but when it works, it’s enough of a thrill that I keep going back for more.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for film-making? Are there any specific movies that inspire you?
Good stories, anywhere I can find them. There’s bodies of work that really inspire me, like Kubrick’s, Lynch’s, and David Lean’s — and then the perfect gems, like Night of the Hunter or High Noon.
Night Of The Living Deb is set in your home state of Maine; what made you decide to shoot there?
I’ve been looking for an excuse to set a movie in Maine. I’d shoot everything there if I could. In NOTLD’s case, it was a blast unleashing all this flesh-eating mayhem onto the cobblestones of Portland. Among all the fabulous eateries and coffee shops, it’s just not where one would expect the end times to commence.
We’re seeing lots of successful projects funded through crowdsourcing platforms nowadays, with Night Of The Living Deb financed through Kickstarter; how did you find getting the project off the ground? Did you enjoy using that kind of platform and would you do it again?
I’d definitely do it again. It’s a little harrowing, to risk failing so publicly, but if it works out, it makes you feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, with everyone in town pitching in to save the old Building & Loan on Christmas Eve.
Do you have any more projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Just wrote a sci-fi thriller for London’s Great Point Media — one I also hope to direct. And my DEB writer, Andy Selsor, is writing a romantic-comedy involving time travel — it also has a female lead and should be a really fun follow up to NOTLDeb.
Night of the Living Deb screens at Frightfest on Saturday 29th August at 11:15pm.