Screamfest Interview: Cast and Crew of DEAD ANT and Opening Night Celebration

Cast of DEAD ANT

Cast of DEAD ANT

What Did Pink Panther say when he stepped on an ant?

Dead Ant…….Dead Ant…….Dead Ant Dead Ant Dead Ant Dead Ant Dead Antttttt

DEAD ANT had it’s premiere at the TCL Chinese Theater (It will always be Grauman’s to me!) on October 10th, 2017 at Hollywood’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival. The film stars Tom Arnold (True Lies), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Rhys Coiro (Entourage), Jake Busey (Starship Troopers), and Leisha Hailey (The L Word) as the ‘80s hair metal band Sonic Grave (of course Tom Arnold plays Danny, their manager.) and this film delivers as a comedy horror B-movie!

We were at the premiere and the night felt special. This was opening night of Screamfest and in it’s 17th year, this was the first film to ever show in the world’s most famous theater on Hollywood Boulevard. On the red carpet was a giant ant to set the tone. It was a fantastic addition and only helped make things feel more unique and special for this film.

Like with any festival there were other filmmakers and stars coming down the carpet excited for the film. Director and writer Preston DeFrancis was excited to talk about DEAD ANT as well as his film RUIN ME which has it’s Los Angeles premiere on Monday, October 16th. He said “I’ve been to Blackout and the Horror Movie campout, I love those things, but they didn’t scare me.” DeFrancis is at the festival to get scared and to show off his immersive escape experience film. Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions) was also in the house sporting a Guns and Roses top excited to hear some heavy metal and to laugh up a storm. Plus we saw family members and friends of the cast and crew make their way.

I stopped Edwin Wendler, the sound designer and composer of the score, to talk about the film. As a musician myself I was interested in knowing how challenging it was to create a score for a movie that takes place in modern day with a fictional band that had it’s heyday in the 1980s and based on sci-fi giant bug films of the 1950s. He found the challenge to be a fun adventure. Wendler, with a smirk, spoke, “Conceptually I thought it made sense to use some sort of rock and roll music for the band, especially in those heroic moments, and to use more of an orchestral approach for the ants to make it musically clearer that they are antagonistic.” Not only did he use music from ‘80s metal bands, but also had to write and compose new songs for the film, including a great moment in the film where the band is in the midst of writing a song called “Sideboob”.

Michael Horse who many might know from Twin Peaks as Deputy Sheriff Tommy Hill said that this was the most fun he has ever had making a film and is his favorite film he has ever made. When talking about his bucket list of films he wanted to be a part of he said, “Give me the B-movie of all B-movies and I think this is it!” Horse was so enthusiastic about the experience even before seeing the finished film and it shows as his portrayal of Bigfoot (a Native American, not the giant ape man) is one of the best in the film. His serious demeanor as the man that knows the desert juxtaposes his happy go lucky attitude on the carpet. Michael Horse is someone you’d love to sit back and share stories with over a drink and was a delight to talk to.

Joi Liaye made her way onto the carpet and stood out. Throughout the filming she and Sydney Sweeney were in bikinis and the cast recalled the two of them freezing in the middle of the desert in December so we talked about her dedication and her excitement to be in the film. She said this was a dream and that Ron Carlson showed her mockups of what the ants were going to look like in the film and that got her very excited. “Wait, they are going to look like this? Most people would be like oh my god giant ants but I was fascinated the whole time.” 

Then, of course, there was Tom Arnold who was chatting up a storm on the carpet. I asked him about 1950’s sci-fi films like Them and he told me about growing up in Iowa and going to the drive-in movies. It was his way of ditching the family and hanging out with friends, seeing B-movies until late in the night at the local drive-in. “Seeing B-Movies was our way of rebelling. In Footloose they danced, in Iowa that’s what we did.” He shared his love of these films and his love of the silliness of B-movies as well. He genuinely seemed happy to have a starring roll in this film and I have no doubts that if asked to make another film like this with director/writer Ron Carlson he would say yes to it.

And after the red carpet came the showing inside of the famous Chinese Theater. It kept everyone laughing, hollering, and headbanging along. It was an extraordinary night and a great start to the Screamfest LA festival. Can I already say that I can’t wait for a sequel? Can we get the band back together yet?

Josh Taylor