When The Shit Hits The Fan

Before he was interviewing movie stars or producing podcasts, horror fandom stalwart Tom Elliot was sharing his thoughts on the genre with the GeekPlanetOnline community. From grim 1970s slashers to modern CGI murder, if you need the opinion of a gorehound then Tom is your man...

This week in That Horror Thing is the first of what will hopefully be a regular thing for the site, welcoming independent film makers to GeekPlanetOnline, giving them an opportunity to showcase their work and giving readers an opportunity to find out a little of the process behind it. 

To kick things of, That Horror Thing welcomes Mike & Ike, and their star Colleen and their award winning (www.erooster.tv best Halloween video) zombie-less zombie film Grief… or Surprise… or what’s it called again? 


Tom: For anyone who isn’t familiar with you guys and what you usually do, could you give us a quick update?

Mike & Ike: We're still doing it. Kidding! We are "entertainment gurus for the neo-millennium" (Neither of us know what that means but it looks really good on business cards and thongs) as well as the officially acknowledged unofficial spokeswhores for Evil Dead - The Musical. In other words, we smoke a lot of pot and make fun of things and, when we have the time and money, we make horror shorts.

Tom: Could you clear up the confusion about the name of the short?

Mike & Ike: Here's a confusing answer: There's a website called LostZombies.com, which is creating the first totally fan generated zombie documentary. When we found out about this (after cleaning up) we decided to submit something. Most of the submitted videos were either people shooting zombies or somebody talking about the zombie apocalypse. Nobody was going for emotional horror and that scared us more than the videos themselves. Two hours (and two joints) later, we had the script. Six months (And an unmeasurable amount of pot) later, we had the film. We submitted it with no credits and called it Grief. Shortly after that, we realized that nothing had been signed yet, so we could whore the thing ourselves, so we made it an episode of our youtube series (http://www.youtube.com/mikeandike01) and called it Surprise because the fans (and we do have them) were not going to be ready for this (they're used to the funny). And they weren't.

Tom: I imagine the choice to make this a one shot short was at least partly down to budget considerations?  

Mike & Ike: Not at all. Budget considerations imply that we had a budget and we were in fact, in debt when we shot this. Still are. Help.  

Tom: What was the evolution of the short? Were there any other ideas that you rejected before settling on this one?

Mike & Ike: Our initial idea was covering the five stages of grief as a monologue. Then it was just filling in the details.

Tom: Is this the first time you’ve attempted anything like this?  

Mike & Ike: This is the first time we wrote and directed something that A) wasn't funny and B) we weren't in. We learned that we're assholes but we can creep people out. Only difficulty was getting Colleen exactly where we wanted her performance wise, but we did it... because we're assholes.

Tom: Colleen, how did you feel about doing the short, I understand you’ve done some stage work in the past?  

Colleen: I felt honoured, exhilarated, and terrified all at the same time. I majored in drama at the Arts In Motion Performing Arts Academy where I performed in 1984 and the female version of The Odd Couple. After school I picked up small parts here and there, even did a some dinner theatre murder mysteries. But those parts feel like a lifetime ago. When Mike and Ike told me about this role I jumped at the opportunity. Playing a character like Ellen Toombs was a dream come true. 

Tom: You have to keep up a distressed state for the full six minutes running time. What’s your acting process for getting yourself into that state? Did you find it quite exhausting?  

Colleen: I worked very close with Mike and Ike. They had a distinct vision that they wanted portrayed. Working with people as dedicated to the project as myself was a treat. In order to feel the weight of what was happening, the first few times we rehearsed I imagined that one of my own kids was behind the door. Pulling from real life helped out immensely. When we weren't rehearsing I picked out Ellen's theme song to help me while at home. It was 45 by Shinedown. I heard it when I was heading home from rehearsal and knew instantly it fit the character. And yes, it was very, very tiring. But it was that good kind of tired feeling. 

Tom: Were you ever tempted to include anything that might have involved some basic practical effects? Perhaps a zombie lumbering in at the last minute, anything like that?

Mike & Ike: We had a couple of effects we were thinking about doing but, due to that damned lack of budget, we couldn't do them and, the more we thought about it, didn't want to. We had a much less ambiguous ending originally planned but we are firm believers in the "less is more" view. Hey, one guy called the thing "Val Lewton-y" (We reread that every night before bedtime).

Tom: What was your goal in making this, both creatively and professionally?  

Mike & Ike: We wanted to show people that we can do more than just get stoned and make jokes. We can get stoned and creep you out, too.

Tom: Could you talk us through the technical side of shooting the short? Things like camera, sound and post production?

Mike & Ike: We knew more or less where the camera was going to be when we wrote the script. The hardest part was getting the lighting to where we wanted it. Actually, adding the old film look in the editing process helped with that. That's really the only thing we did in post (Thank you Windows Movie Maker).

Tom: Colleen, it’s a one shot short, so there’s no room for cutting around fluffed lines or mistakes; how many times did you have to perform the scene?  

Colleen: When it came time to shoot the short, it took two takes. The second was only because of a technical malfunction. So, in essence, this was a one shot wonder.

Tom: How fully formed in your minds is the “story behind the short”. What I mean is; who these people are, how they got to be in this situation, what exactly happened to them and what happened afterwards?  

Mike & Ike: Oh yeah, we know exactly what happened before the short started and we know exactly what happens immediately after (hint: bad things). We don't want to say anything specific because the film's out there now. It's not ours anymore. We're interested in what other people think happens next. There may be another chapter in Ellen Toombs' story. We had an idea for something earlier in the timeline but we really wanted to tell this story. Now we may go back and tell that one. Or not.

Tom: I think it’s an interesting take on the Zombie genre, because lets face it, most of the stories in a zombie outbreak would be small scale situations like this. This is the kind of story that takes place while Dawn of The Dead is happening down the street. As fans of the genre yourselves, were you thinking of placing it in any particular “movie universe” like the Romeroverse?  

Mike & Ike: The Lost Zombies guys created the universe; we're just making it more interesting.

Tom: Is there any significance to the date Nov 20th 2007?

Mike & Ike: Go to lostzombies.com and check out the timeline. The explanation is there.

Tom: Colleen, now that it’s done, and it’s out there, are you happy with how it turned out?  

Colleen: I am more than happy. I am elated. After it was shot I was as giddy as a school girl and immediately asked what the next project would be.

Tom: Are you planning any more shorts?  

Mike & Ike: We've got an idea for a five part horror series called Confessions that we're getting off the ground, but really we want to shoot our feature length script Family Values at some point before we kill each other.


Many thanks to Mike, Ike and Colleen for taking the time to answer some questions. Catch up with their show here: http://www.youtube.com/user/MikeandIke01 



GeekPlanetOnline regulars will of course be aware that Mike & Ike later became GeekPlaneteers themselves and launched their own podcast, The All-Star Summer Jamboree. If you'd like an extra slice of horror discussion and comedy you can check it out here.