Fantasia Film Festival Interview: Director Peter Ricq for DEAD SHACK

Peter Ricq is a man of many talents - he co-created the animated television series "League of Super Evil", he's one half of the band Humans, and wrote the graphic novel "Once Our Land". With all that under his belt, it's no surprise that he's now made the jump to making feature films! We had the chance to quiz Peter about his directorial debut, DEAD SHACK, a fun comedy/horror/zombie flick which is part of the Fantasia Festival 2017 schedule. 

Nightmarish Conjurings: Could you tell us a bit about DEAD SHACK - where did the idea come from and what drove you to make the film? What were your main inspirations? 

Peter Ricq: I was trying to develop these 80 million dollar movies for many years and knew that it was never going to happen. After watching the Fright Night remake in theaters, it reminded me how much fun those types of movies were and how they affected me as a child. I remembered how many small horror films were some of my favourite films of all time and that I've watched them over and over again growing up. I went home and wrote the outline to DEAD SHACK in three days, did nothing else and wrote it knowing that I wanted very little locations and few characters like Evil Dead 2

Inspirations for DEAD SHACK are Evil Dead 2, Fright Night and An American Werewolf in London. I love the blend of horror/comedy in all those films. 

NC: DEAD SHACK's charm relies on the interactions between the teenage protagonists. How'd you go about putting together the cast and making sure they had the right chemistry? 

PR: Thank you. When we decided on our top pics, we put each actor in a scene with the other options and saw their chemistry all together. Because Gab and Lizzie knew each other growing up (we had no idea) they were comfortable calling each other names and pushing each other around so that worked to everyone's favour. I think we got lucky too. 

NC: From the behind-the-scenes material of DEAD SHACK, the set looked like a fun place to be, albeit very cold! Can you tell us about your experience on the set as a first time feature director? 

PR: It was sooooooo cooooold. It wasn't very pleasant but no one was really complaining about it too much and we just tried to make the best of it. Also, I think a lot of us were kinda freaking out because of time and budget on the film. Everyday was a battle and we knew that once the day was over and that we accomplished the impossible, it didn't mean that tomorrow would be any easier. We still had fun and I think everyone wanted to help everyone else out but I think that next film will actually be a truly fun place. 

NC: Some people claim zombies have reached a saturation point in media these days - how did you approach the zombies in DEAD SHACK to give them a fresh spin? 

PR: I disagree, a good story is a good story no matter what. There's a lot of bad zombie films out there just like there's a lot of bad vampire movies or comedies. The good ones always remind you that "Oh, yeah, I like zombies." 

Our approach to zombies is very different from other stories and isn't another zombie movie. It's not the end of the world, it's not your protagonist versus a thousand zombies and we got kids killing friggen zombies. 

NC: Aside from writing and directing, you're a hardworking musician. Which passion came first in your life? Music or visual storytelling? 

PR: I started drawing comic books when I was about 6 years old so that must've come first. My parents also forced me to take piano lessons as a kid so I hated it until I wasn't obliged to do it anymore. 

NC: Your band, Humans, provided the score for DEAD SHACK - can you speak about the process of writing the music for the movie? 

PR: Yeah, I wrote it all on Ableton in 13 days. I did about 36 tracks and I had a good idea of what would go where and what I was aiming for. I was listening to a lot of Daft Punk's Tron score, Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter scores as ideas and influences. After I had all the tracks, I spent about 3 weeks at Jacknife Sound studio with Jason Corbett and tracked every keyboard track using mostly the Prophet 6. I added percussion noises with my mouth because I liked the breathing sounds in Friday the 13th. And then I sent every track to Dougal Bain McLean who added violin to every track. What took the longest was doing the songs in the movie because we replaced every instrument with real life instruments and players to give it a feel that it was recorded in the 70s or 80s. 

NC: You've also worked extensively in animation and written a graphic novel - any plans to create a cross-media experience that brings together all of your expertise across different mediums? 

PR: Yeah, Phil Ivanusic and myself along with Amber Ripley, the producer of DEAD SHACK, are working on bringing my graphic novel "Once Our Land" to the big screen as an animated feature film. 

NC: And one last question that may have been answered by the movie... walking or running zombies? 

PR: Wifi Zombies!!!

And there you have it folks! For more information on DEAD SHACK and Peter's other projects, head over to http://peterricq.com - make sure to check out his illustrations while you're there, they're great!