Writer-director Joaquin Montalvan, best known for his 2014 indie horror Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher, sat down with me for an interview in which we discussed his new supernatural horror western Cannibal Corpse Killers, out August 18th on DVD and Digital.
Cannibal Corpse Killers follows Pike (Dennis Haggard, Hole) and a group of survivors as they endure a long, treacherous mission to Jawbone, a hotbed for cannibals in post-apocalyptic America. Now that a deadly virus has wiped out the nation, the group must cope with the recurring memories of those who died before them and defend themselves against cannibal demons. As they migrate anxiously through the desert, endless trouble surrounds the group once they learn of The Magistrate (Ron Jason, Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher), a man with a dark agenda to build an army of his own cannibal corpse killers. Now, Pike and the group must fight for survival as they work together to retrieve the answers they need to stop The Magistrate and his growing army of cannibals.
Horror Fuel: “So, tell us about your movie.”
Joaquin Montalvan: “In a nutshell, I had done this movie called The Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher, it’s a grindhouse, exploitation thing and I was inspired by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original film). I did it all by myself. It’s a one-man-band project. I wanted to bring a similar aesthetic to a more epic film with a western landscape with an apocalyptic theme, but full of horror elements.
I go by character, I never get stories, it’s always the characters. Characters come into my head and want me to make them live, so I’ve always gone by characters. What are they going to do? I had the idea of this group of characters, kind of like the Wild Bunch, in fact, Pike is a character in the Wild Bunch he is played by William Holton. Pike is a straight lift from that.
I was influenced by three films, Apocalypse Now, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Dawn of the Dead. In Apocalypse Now you have these five men going up the river on a boat to get to this guy called Kurtz. It’s the same thing with Cannibal Corpse Killers, you’ve got five people in an 88 Ford Branco going through a wasteland to try to get to this guy, the Magistrate. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly element is mainly the character Slim who is the cowboy. It also influenced the visual style of the film and the locations of the film, which is pretty much all desert. With The Dawn of the Dead, again going back to character, the reason for the cannibal corpses, which were a real logistical pain, getting people for no money to come out into the desert in the heat. I personally bought all the clothing and distressed it myself. So I kind of tell stories, like they do in Dawn of the Dead, you get a snapshot of the zombie is by what they are wearing. I was going for the same thing. If there were a group of them I would use it to tell a story about who they were. I tried to tell a story of why they were together by their clothing.”
Horror Fuel: “I get it. Why go the route of demons instead of zombies?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “I find it more interesting to have it be more supernatural. When I did the film, there was some time that went on between when I filmed it and now. I was seeing too many movies about something viral and zombies. I always prefer when you don’t know why things are happening, like with the original Night of the Living Dead. I liked the idea of it being supernatural because if it’s a demon, you can disable the body. I love the idea that you kill one of these cannibals and the demon just goes into someone else. That excited me because it’s not the normal thing. I do like my zombies walking slow, but I did violate that. Everyone thinks that it was influenced by Evil Dead, but believe it or not, I’ve never seen Evil Dead.”
Horror Fuel: “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that you didn’t go the zombie route. We get way too many zombie movies. It was a good choice to go the supernatural way, in my opinion. I was just curious why you made the choice you did.”
Joaquin Montalva: “It was just kind of like that I thought it was more interesting choice, that’s all. Although, I had this idea of this portal being opened up and this demon coming out, so there’s that. That’s where we get that opening of this guy doing an invocation using this book and blood to open up a portal. I thought it was a cool idea and ultimately gave me a cool opening. And there are a lot of other reasons why that should have been the choice. The movie is also all practical effects with no CGI.”
Horror Fuel: “Right. I think it was a good decision. As for not seeing Evil Dead, you really should correct that immediately [laughter].
Joaquin Montalvan: “I know, I know. I’ve seen bits of it. I’m going to catch hell about that. I’m not cool, but I’m me, you know?”
Horror Fuel: “I hear confessions like that all the time. You mentioned finding inspiration in Apocalypse Now, that movie is brilliant.”
Joaquin Montalvan: “I watch Apocalypse Now a lot. I watch Jaws a lot. This film [Cannibal Corpse Killers] was a 28-day shoot and I had a lot of problems thrown at me while trying to get this thing done. So, I encouraged myself all through the making of this watching the behind the scenes making of Apocalypse Now and Jaws, two films that took forever to make and were full of problems. I would watch those to lick my wounds.”
Horror Fuel: “There’s something I’ve noticed about your films, there seems to be a bit of a running theme with cannibalism. Where does that come from?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “That’s an interesting question. The only reason that I can come up with is my favorite film is Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so that’s in that. I think it came off of doing The Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher, which was about cannibalism. And it kind of just spilled into the next film, not intentionally. You think about exploitation, grindhouse, taboo, that’s high on the list. It wasn’t a conscious choice. It just spilled over.”
Horror Fuel: “Where was Cannibal Corpse Killers filmed?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “It was pretty much all shot in California and pretty much all Mojave desert. We also went to the Barstow area. We filmed at the Paramount Ranch which has since burned down. I think they are going to rebuild it, but it won’t be the same. It burned down about a year after we finished filming. There’s also a documentary.”
Horror Fuel: “I remember hearing about it being destroyed. It’s a shame. There have been so many great things filmed there.
So, when and where can our readers see Canniabla Coprse Killers?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “It’s coming out on August 18th on DVD and On Demand from Indican Pictures. It’ll be on Apple TV, Google Play, Prime Video, Fandango, Vudu, Red Box, and at Wal-Mart. A big shout out to Indican for doing this. Magnolia is also involved.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. You mentioned a documentary, will that be included in the DVD?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “Yeah, yeah. It’s called Greeting from the Wasteland. It’s about an hour. There are also deleted scenes, mainly the backstories of some of the characters. There’s also a ten-minute doc called Sounds of the Wasteland which focuses on my sound designer because I wasn’t able to get to him in the documentary because I wanted it to be about the logistical problems. Anything you hear in the film he had to add or create. He’s been working on my films since my first film. I needed to do right by him.”
Horror Fuel: “I look forward to seeing them. There’s something else, speaking of documentaries. With the anniversary of Katrina coming up later this month, it would be a great time for people to watch your short documentary, Baptised at Katrina: A Refugee Story.”
Joaquin Montalvan: “Yes it would. I was in New Orleans for a couple of months and did the documentary about one man’s story. It’s 24 minutes. It’s the story of what he went through. He was in California visiting a friend of mine and they knew I did documentaries and introduced us.”
Horror Fuel: “What Katrina did is just heartbreaking. What are you working on now?”
Joaquin Montalvan: “Right now, I’m working on a biker film and I started a Facebook page for the fictitious bike club called Rebel Drifters MC. The film is called Rebel Drifters Riding In. I’m shooting it in Vegas. It’s about 25% edited.
I’m also working on a documentary about this crazy artist guy who lives a block away from me. He does racial and sexual art. It’s really controversial type of stuff, which is interesting to me. He’s a cool guy. I don’t know how many will like his art, but everyone will love him because he’s the sweetest guy.”
For more on Cannibal Corpse Killers please visit the official Facebook and Twitter pages as well as visit the website. Follow Joaquin Montalvan on Facebook to learn more and to keep up to date on his projects.