Written by Brian Linsky
From writer and director Jim Stramel (Degenerate’s Ink, Thrillbillies), comes REVILED, a five-part film series which tells the story of a desperate father and his deceased daughter lost in the underground world of zombie vs zombie pit fighting.
Filmed in the backwoods of Powhatan, Virginia, Frank Sonney (Randall Robinson) finds himself in a post apocalyptic world trying to survive, while also trying to protect his daughter Jessie (Gabbi Herzberg / Sara Carpenter) who’s become zombified.
When Frank sees an opportunity to capitalize on the situation by entering Jessie into a zombie pit fighting ring, he turns to an acquaintance named Moonie (J.R. Foster), who points Frank and Jessie in the direction of the pit leader, Bern.
Following Jessie’s brutal first fight, in which she takes on a one-eyed oddity with a beer can embedded in his head, Frank realizes he didn’t make as much money as he had hoped for, and is approached by Moonie with a proposal to take Jessie on the road where there’s larger crowds and more money to be made.
Each new fight pit along the way introduces us to a new cast of deranged and deviant characters, and a different pit leader for each location. In REVILED, the atmosphere is savage, the fights are violent, and the consequences of cheating are severe, as seen at the end of the second episode.
Not sure who he can fully trust, Frank Sonney only has one thought running through his mind… How do you save your daughter when she’s already dead?
With 3 more episodes of REVILED still to come, I’m excited to see where Frank and Jesse’s journey takes them next, what wacky freaks they’ll encounter along the way, and what new ways the director will think up to rip the zombies apart during their fight scenes.
Wanting to know more, I recently caught up with director Jim Stramel to see if he’d answer some questions for iHorror.
iH: In 2015, REVILED won an award for Best Short Film at Dead Walk Fest, the same year Randall Robinson won for Best Actor. He really did a great job owning that role, how rewarding is it for you as the director to know that you not only made a bad ass film, but also cast the right guy for the role?
JS: It’s incredibly rewarding. You get so close to actors and their characters while making the movie that it’s hard to keep a proper perspective, so it’s great when people with no connection or expectations see the movie and respond to an actor and his or her character. I mean, I know Randall’s a scumbag, but it’s rewarding that others can see it too!
iH: The REVILED series is beautifully shot and avoids the shaky footage usually seen in a lot of zombie films. How long did it take you to film the fight scenes?
JS: Each fight scene was filmed in half a day or less. It’s pretty much all of the time we had because the make-up was a build done that morning and recreating it would be really difficult, plus the budget and schedule didn’t allow for more than that anyway.
We filmed other bits while the zombies were being made up and then shot until we ran out of light. Once the sun went down, that was it. Which is why I feel that I still haven’t been able to get the fight scenes to where I want them yet, but I’ve learned a lot and ironed out some issues so episode 3 is going to make up for it!
iH: Can’t wait to see it. I understand your wife Renee does a lot of the make up and special effects, How long have you worked together on films?
JS: Renee’s been there from the beginning, from the first short film all those years ago, before we were married. She’s the only one who understands what the hell I’m trying to say or do when everything’s going wrong and I’m reduced to pointing, grunting and swearing. She can do and has done about everything, except wise up and kick me out, for which I am eternally grateful.
iH: You’re a lucky man. Congratulations on winning 6 Horror awards to date, and also for getting your films on ibleedindie.com. There’s a lot of great independent horror films out there and its great people now have a place to check ’em out on demand. Do you think the future of films will be through streaming services? Do you like the direction the industry is heading?
JS: Having REVILED streaming on ibleedindie is a huge deal to an independents like myself. Having a platform that’s willing to showcase and support truly independent films is vital for a project like REVILED to reach a broader audience outside of our normal social media, word of mouth sphere. I don’t know if streaming will replace physical media, I’m sure for some viewers it will.
Personally I like having a dvd, blu ray, vhs, etc, but streaming is a great platform to introduce people to movies and projects that they wouldn’t have heard of or had access to otherwise. Like us.
iH: Most of your work involves a profuse amount of blood and guts. In fact you’ve won Best Gore at the Independent Horror Movie Awards, and Best Blood & Gore at Things2Fear Film Fest 2016, but is there ever a time when you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, this may go a little too far.”?
JS: No. You can’t over do blood in a scene that screams for it, if it’s supposed to be raining blood then you got to make it rain blood, or do the best you can. Which is not to say that every scene needs it either.
Sometimes a few drops are going to punch an audience in the face much harder than a bathtub full of the stuff, it depends on the scene, what you’re trying to do. But when the gore calls, answer the phone. The funny thing I was actually pretty disappointed in the amount of blood in ep. 2, I really envisioned those scenes much redder and wetter and was disappointed in how, for whatever reason, dry they turned out, but then it goes out and gets 2 blood awards, ha ha ha ha. I guess I’m a little jaded.
iH: Do you find it difficult thinking of new ways to end each pit fight? There’s only so many ways you can get ripped apart, right?
JS: Yeah, that’s a challenge, but also the fun of it. Trying to figure out what these things are going to do to each other, something that’s going to be really fun for somebody sitting in the audience. But once again, in my mind they’ve all, so far, been compromised to one extent or another, never reaching what we had written on the page – I’m really looking at episode 3 to get it right!
iH: I love that several of your films feature music from Angry Johnny and the Killbillies, what is it about their music that works so perfectly with your films?
JS: I feel really fortunate to have had, and continue to have, Angry and the Killbillies be a cornerstone of our movie making. You can’t underestimate their contribution. They definitely have the ability to tap into a dark, dirty, bloody, and at the same time lonely, musical current, so as long as I keep shooting stories about degenerates, drunks and broken-hearted down and outers we’re going to be set for soundtracks!
iH: Awesome. What else are you working on?
JS: I have a story about a young woman fighting to save her soul from the devil that I really like.
I’m working on that now, writing it as one segment of a three-story horror omnibus movie. Then there’s another bloody crime story that I’m tinkering with. There’s always bits and pieces of movies floating around, in various stages, ready to take flight.
We also just finished shooting a music video for the band BAT and are editing that now, due out at the end of the year, and we’re in the early planning stages for a larger, multi-song video project for another band. But the main thing, the big one, is to tell the rest of the REVILED story. That’s my prime obsession.
iH: Right on Jim, it’s a great story and thanks for talking to iHorror about it. We’ll do our part to tell the world.