Spooky Movie Festival 2011 Interviews: Howard Ford, director of “The Dead” and Alex Cutler, co-producer of “Pig”

Posted by Michael Parsons on February 13, 2012 in / No Comments


(This interview was originally published on February 13, 2012 at The Rogers Revue)

If you’ve read my reviews of “The Dead” and “Pig”, you’ll appreciate the breadth of horror sub-genres that were represented at the 2011 Spooky Movie Festival in Washington, DC last October.

dead_51“The Dead”, written and directed by brothers Howard and Jon Ford, has an unprecedented combination of attributes: a zombie film set in West Africa with a heavy sociopolitical undercurrent (read my synopsis and review here). The film stars Rob Freeman and Ghana native Prince David Osei.

“[We] feel very privileged to be able to showcase such a beautiful country and talent,” Howard told me over a Heineken. “I don’t know how many other movies are like that. We filmed in Ghana and Burkina Faso, [mostly] Burkina Faso, which is French-speaking West Africa. 99% of the cast are African. The people you see in the villages, those are the people who live in those villages.”

The British siblings became fascinated with the region while shooting a television commercial there a few years ago. It was then they decided to pursue the project.

Howard Ford at the 2011 Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival - Photo by C.W. Prather, all rights reserved
Howard Ford at the 2011 Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival – Photo by C.W. Prather, all rights reserved

“Jon and I had wanted to make a zombie movie ever since we saw Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” as teenagers. We wanted to go back to the films of the ‘70s when they took their time, not the MTV, pop-promo style of shooting. [We wanted to] allow our shots to breathe. First and foremost, we wanted it to be a beautiful film.”

Shooting on location would prove grueling and often dangerous for the cast and crew, some of whom experienced confrontation at knifepoint.


“Everyone was very scared for their lives at one point,” Ford said. “I’m amazed that no one got killed, to be honest. At times we were as vulnerable as the characters in the film. And we found that death was all around us.”

He added, “The film is very much about some of the problems specifically in Africa. Like the Rwandan slaughters, the spread of disease. We wanted everything to feel realistic. Like, from A to B, this could actually happen. Not necessarily zombies, but I unknown2think at a time like this people can relate to a breakdown in society. I think as a result, there’s been a zombie [film] resurgence.

The Dead” is available on Blu-Ray and DVD February 14th in the U.S.

pig-rudolf-martin1On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Pig”, a film that leans much closer to science fiction than horror (read my synopsis and review here). Subtle and intentionally confusing in its presentation, “Pig” has the cryptic tones of an old “Twilight Zone” episode. The film is written and directed by Henry Barrial and stars Rudolf Martin as a man suffering from amnesia.

“We were constantly having vigorous conversations about what we should and shouldn’t put in the film,” said co-producer Alex Cutler. “[We had] this dual challenge about how much information and direction we should impose on the audience. Especially with a ‘puzzle movie’, the line you straddle is how cryptic you’re going to be so your audience is sufficiently confused but still remains engaged. Sometimes people get carried away with conceit and device at the expense of credibility.”

Alex Cutler at the 2011 Spooky Movie International Film Festival - photo by C.W. Prather, all rights reserved
Alex Cutler at the 2011 Spooky Movie International Film Festival – photo by C.W. Prather, all rights reserved

“Pig” has drawn more than its share of critical acclaim, but its impact shows in the range of responses elicited from international audiences. Since its festival debut in Nashville last April, “Pig” has been screened from Sci-Fi London (where it won Best Feature Film)and B-Movie Celebration in Franklin, Indiana to Shriekfest in Los Angeles (Best Sci-Fi Feature). It most recently appeared at the Boston Sci-Fi Festival, which was last weekend.

“The film sometimes gets you thinking so far out of the box,” Cutler said. “Unfortunately for the readers, we can’t say whole lot. But people’s ideas range all over the place. The vast majority that see “Pig” find that in its world, it has its own internal logic.”

As far as the twists, my lips are sealed. “Pig” will be screening at the RadCon Sci-Fi Film Festival in Pasco, Washington this Saturday, February 18th. For East Coasters, “Pig” will be coming to the Charlotte Film Festival in North Carolina on Monday, March 26th.

My thanks to Howard Ford, Alex Cutler and Spooky Movie Festival founder Curtis Prather.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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