Don’t get blocked up, get Stalled! Out 24 Feb 2014
It may not be Christmas but February 24th is certainly a time to be jolly as it see’s the release of the festival hit UK zombie movie Stalled which owes just as much to films such as Die Hard, Gremlins and Phone Booth than zombie flicks such as Shaun of the Dead and Last of the Living.
For those of you not aware of this film, it is set on Christmas Eve, where WC, a tired janitor on his final shift, wearily enters a ladies restroom to complete his work whilst an office party, to which he is not invited takes place.
Two drunken office girls enter, so WC lays down his tool-box and hides in the centre stall but moments later he is horrified to witness one of the girls is savaged by her rabid pal! If there’s one place you don’t want to be stuck in during a zombie outbreak, it’s a cubicle in the ladies toilets. WC is quite literally STALLED!
You can kind of guess the hilarity and gore that will ensue from this bizarre concept, and the film provides a tough challenge for the writer and director, in keeping an audience interested in a one location film and thankfully for us, they succeed.
Zombipedia recently caught up with director Christian James (CJ), producer Richard Kerrigan (RK) and writer / actor Dan Palmer (DP), who we have previously interviewed, to find out more about the film, the challenges of getting it made in the UK industry and why you should check it out.
● In a relatively confined space such as a ladies restroom, how difficult was it to get the angles for the required shots?
CJ: Yeah it sure was cozy. But that’s a huge part of the fun. A good composition generally wants something in the foreground and background, with Stalled we very rarely had either. So it was fun trying to find new ways to make the shot register. You take it for granted when watching the movie, but we worked hard with our shot choice. Not to break out and get visual too early, try and hold something back for the finale. It was a tricky balance as we had very few cards to play so needed to pace ourselves
The set was supposed to come apart at ease. Of course, when you bolt all that timber/weight together, you can’t pull out a panel as quick as you’d like, well, not without putting cast & crew in danger. It was a consideration but If I gave Dan a serious head injury, I had NOTHING else to shoot.
● What were the conditions you were working in, in order to bring this film home on time and in budget?
RK: The actual Development, Pre Production and Shooting of the film was in fact relatively quick. The rights were optioned in August 2011 and the wrap of main shoot was in December 2011, a period of only 4 months. The story itself lent to an easy production, and with having the talented crew and cast that we did, meant that we could cram so much more into our days and not lose any quality in the production.
Our Post Production took a bit longer, but with good reason. There are over 135 VFX shots in STALLED. Some of the VFX are obvious, like a few blood splatters, the others are so well done that unless we told you, you wouldn’t be able to pick them out. The Post and VFX were done by a company called Annix based in Pinewood studios. We used a Canon G5, which shoots HD1080p. The images look great but it is not advisable to use this camera for any VFX shoots. Annix Studios had a tough time but came back with some amazing results. We also had a VFX whizz help out from his garage when the workload became insane.
Selling the movie has been an interesting challenge. We are lucky that we got picked up by an Australian Sales Agency (Odins Eye Entertainment) when all the UK ones turned us down. They have great contacts with all the major genre/fantasy film festivals and got us into some well established and huge festivals. The success of Stalled has come down I believe to how well it has done on the festival circuit. There have been a few bumps along the way with selling territories, like Blockbuster going under, HMV going into administration, piracy and distributors going bankrupt that have affected deals, but we are happy that the film is getting out there, and people are enjoying it.
● The movie seems to have taken off, from festival appearances across the globe including additional screenings at FrightFest 2013, how have your found the reception of the film?
CJ: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. Yeah it’s an odd one. Our first feature film; Freak Out, didn’t get anywhere near as much festival love as Stalled. We got some great support from Fantazia in Montreal – as a result of which it gained a DVD deal with Anchor Bay, so that put an end to the festival run. Stalled however had a different path and the festival route was carefully plotted/timed by our excellent sales agent.
We had our Worldwide premiere in South Korea at the Puchon International Film Festival. That was a real blast, slightly more prestigious than I’d imagined, though. I got off my flight and went straight to opening ceremony, having to walk the red carpet in jeans and T-shirt, oops. Luckily, a few fellow filmmakers made the same mistake. So it all looked like a ‘we’re creative, screw suits’ kinda statement. Our European premiere was at the AWESOME Frightfest in Leicester Square. Alan Jones and Kim Newman weren’t the fondest supporters of our first movie, this time out they were our biggest backers. They were waxing lyrical about the movie around the festival. Dan and I felt like abused wives, having been beaten so badly in the past, we were forever waiting for the fist in the face. It never came. Alan hand-picked us as one of his Q&A’s, so good that we did an encore for the 2nd screening – working out a little routine and everything (Although Alan and Dan’s dirty dancing routine did leave something of a bad taste in the mouth…and Dan’s)
From there we played at Grimfest, Toronto After Dark, Razor Reel, Sitges (where we were in competition) and Lund International (Sweden) where we won the Melies D’Argent. We were up against A Field in England, so sure was I that we wouldn’t win that I was checking emails whilst they announced my name. A tad embarrassing when you look up and 500 people are all staring at you.
RK: We were hoping that it would find a fanbase with Zombiphiles (is that even a word?) and Old School Horror lovers. But the response has been beyond our expectations. It went from Strength to strength and each new Festival and response was beyond our imagination. It was very surreal to see the queue to buy tickets at Frightfest 2013 and to have sold out screenings in nearly all the festivals we have screened at. Having such a positive response from audiences has made it a very rewarding experience.
● Horror comedies are notoriously difficult to pull off and being British, you will get the unfair but inevitable ‘Shaun of the Dead’ comparisons, which Kim Newman actually referenced when praising Stalled. As a film maker did you expect this comparison going into filming and how did approach this?
CJ: Yes. We knew that if we were any good, then we would be ‘the next Shaun..’ and I understand that, but it’s also frustrating as that awesome movie is nearly 10 years old and audiences are fatigued with the ‘The next Shaun..’ tease. Too many bad movies have made that declaration, diluting it somewhat. Dan and I campaigned with our sales agent and producer not to name check Shaun at all and it worked for a while. Then Kim Newman said we were ‘A worthy successor to Shaun..’ and that’s like catnip to a distributor.
But it’s a nice complement, like Shaun, Stalled has a lot of heart, is very character based and zombies are on the periphery which is why we’re an easy comparison. But we’re very different movies, steering our ship away as much as possible, making our lead character pretty unlikable.
Stalled is a film that appeared to be every bit as fun to make as to watch and that enjoyment comes across on the screen with off the wall and original humour to boot. However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the Stalled team, with some critics trying to trap them into the stall with claims of sexism and deriding the female characters in the film going as far as to call them brainless eye candy, we asked a surprised Dan Palmer, as the writer how do you defend your character choices and what would you say to these people?
DP: I am surprised, as a healthy majority of the film’s fans appear to be female. Well, it’s difficult for me to go into great detail without venturing into spoiler territory, but my key argument would be that the entire core of the film is about personality winning out over aesthetics. So, if people have said that I would argue that they haven’t seen the film through to the end! The two ‘party girls’ at the beginning who meet a grisly end are intended to be something of a red herring; your typical Friday 13th fodder fooling the audience that Stalled is going to be a certain type of film.
Then a few beats later, once our female lead is introduced, we realise that it is going in another direction in both tone, pacing and sentiment. The character is a funny, independent, opinionated woman who is most definitely not eye-candy – primarily because we never see her!
WC (our male lead) is a thief, a liar, a would-be Peeping Tom and a terrible son. She is the one who has a handle on the situation, whilst shining a light on WC’s flaws and also helping him make important progress in regards to his personal problems and psychological issues.
We have had a great response from the female horror community. Rue Morgue’s Charlotte Stears reviewed the film stating; ‘…there is a tender heart beating at the centre of this film…’and respected TwitchFilm critic Shelagh Rowan-Legg (whose feminist stance makes Germaine Greer look like Andrew Dice-Clay) handpicked the film for Toronto After Dark and has been a vocal champion of our lil’ film.
I’m not saying Stalled is ‘9 to 5’ but when compared to the majority of low-budget horror movies out there we don’t do too badly.
A fantastic answer and one that shows there’s more going on beyond the U Bend.
So if you haven’t checked out Stalled yet take the advice of director Christian James who has this to say “it’s a great little movie that I’m insanely proud of. It’s unique and not only that but you’re supporting independent filmmaking. When these kinda movies do well, believe me sales agents and distributors take note. I hope Stalled ignites that spark in 1000 other would-be filmmakers out there and it’s success makes their path a little easier.”
So check out the film Sight & Sound magazine called ‘Fresh and funny with a sparkle of humanity.’ and support the UK and genre scene and at least check out Stalled, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and remember the film comes out in the UK on 24th February.
You can also read our review of the film here.