Ahead of its World Premiere at the Screamfest Film Festival on Tuesday, October 10, Shannon had the chance to speak with director Ron Carlson about his upcoming creature feature, DEAD ANT, what it was like to work with Tom Arnold, and his inspiration behind a feature film about a hair metal band and killer ants.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Ron, thank you so much for speaking with me today! To start things off, can you tell those of us who aren't familiar a bit about your upcoming film DEAD ANT?
Ron Carlson: Sure! I love the artwork and all the looks of B-movies, especially all the old classics. I literally could just sit and flip through poster catalogs of those films, it's something I get really excited about. I wanted to make a movie that kind of had all the B-horror elements, so I started by writing this script about a band that goes to the desert. In the first half it wasn't really about glam metal or hair metal, but then I kind of structured it out and decided to make it about the hair metal guys, which really brought the movie around. I realized I didn't want to follow a stereotypical horror movie premise, I really wanted to do a movie about a band and that's what DEAD ANT is. As I mentioned, DEAD ANT has all the elements of a B-horror movie but it never loses sight of the fact that this movie is about a band. It's a creature feature film, but it's really about four guys, down on their luck, who need a hit and that to me is what's really fun about the movie.
NC: You have quite an eclectic cast that includes Tom Arnold, Jake Busey, Rhys Coiro, Leisha Hailey, and they all seem to work together perfectly. Can you tell us a little bit about working with this cast and how it all came together?
RC: I went out to find the band manager first and I saw a lot of interest from people and Tom [Arnold] ended up reading the script and wanting to do it. I only knew Tom Arnold from TRUE LIES and some of his other roles and when I met with him he sat there and told me this story about being friends with this guy Shep Gordon, who's a big music manager, and I think one of the reasons that drew Tom to want to do this. I firmly believe that this is Tom's best work since TRUE LIES and I actually like him better in DEAD ANT. The rest of the cast kind of came together after that. None of these guys, except Tom, are really known for being comedians. Rhys, who plays the lead guitarist in the band, brought a truthfulness that you don't see in a lot of comedies and he really gelled with Tom. Jake Busey, who plays the lead singer, has done a ton of movies and has said that DEAD ANT is in his top 3 favorite movies he's ever done, he loves this.
NC: DEAD ANT reminds me a lot of the best parts of B-movies combined with the humor from films like SPINAL TAP. How did you and co-writer Hank Braxton come up with the story initially? Was there anything in particular that inspired you?
RC: Hank and I had talked about just doing a giant creature movie and I really wanted to do a movie in the desert as I have this fascination and love of the South California desert. Ants are from the desert and no one has done a giant ant movie in a long time, those films kind of fell out of the mainstream. We really just came up with a premise of a band and that was going to be it. But then, at the end of the film, I knew I wanted to make ants explode and have there be pyrotechnics while the band is going to sing this big song - these characters are bringing back the core of what they are and what they have lost and what they have never really done. They are famous for their power ballads and this is the type of band that makes for the perfect underdog and in any story that you read you root for the underdog, people just inherently do.
DEAD ANT will have it's World Premiere at Screamfest on October 10, 2017. Tickets can be purchased at https://screamfestla.com/tickets/dead-ant.