STEVEN TSAPELAS AND JOHN TORRANI: BLASPHEMY!

There are some things that are just universally funny. I’m not sure if the idea of Christ as a zombie is one of them, but hell, it’s funny to me. And that’s not just eight years of Catholic school funny.

Independent filmmaking is a dangerous business. You shoot without money, without time, often without co-operation or any sort of legality whatsoever. But at least no one is telling you what to do or what you can or can’t shoot. That’s the theory anyway.

Steven Tsapelas wrote “Alpha Dead” and “Beaster”. The former of which was directed by John Torrani, the latter, Vin Morrone. It’s “Beaster” where our Lord and Savior is portrayed as a flesh-eating zombie (which was a common joke among us heathens right before confession). In “Alpha Dead”, the positively beautiful idea of stuck-up sorority girls becoming the aforementioned living dead is explored, with all the carnal possibilities.

Just before “Alpha Dead” was to receive its world premiere screening in Bellmore, Long Island, the filmmakers found themselves in a war with a very concerned citizen. Seems Dolores Schoolhouse (and wouldn’t someone this easily offended have to have a name like this?) took offense to the idea of zombie girls giving blowjobs to those who wish to kill them. Something about “defiling a corpse”, despite the fact that said corpse is running around defiling the living. (She was just as offended by “Beaster”, by the way, calling it “EVEN MORE blasphemous!”.) Steve took this protest to heart and fired back with a hilariously immature flame war with the poor, befuddled woman. He wrote all about it in a laugh-riot Live Journal, which every filmmaker out there is encouraged to read, mostly because, disappointingly enough, Dolores Schoolhouse turned out to be none other than Steven himself (the name should have tipped it off, I suppose). Still and all, the little schizophrenic rant did what Steve hoped it would do, though, and the “Alpha Dead” screening turned out to be a success.

So this intrepid reporter sat down with Tsapelas and his “Alpha Dead” director, Torrani, to discuss what makes sorority spankings, cannibal Christs and zombie blow-jobs so damned amusing.

A bit of history about “Alpha Dead”- what was the inspiration for this story? Did the final film match the one you had playing in your head as you wrote it?

JOHN:I first thought of “Alpha Dead” when I slept over at a sorority house in the Summer of 2003. Our friend Brian was renting out the attic. When I got to work the next morning, I was telling my co-workers how funny it would be if the girls at the sorority house started eating each other. And I don’t mean like going down on each other. But actually taking bites out of each other.

STEVEN: John first pitched the idea to me as a starring vehicle for two of our favorite actresses, Charlene Miller and Ginger Kearns. I believe he even said, “It’s Charlene Versus Ginger.” He then showed me the opening paddling scene he’d written, which I immediately fell in love with. I weaseled my way on board as co-writer, and we were off. But seriously, I stayed a night in that sorority house as well, and it was like some kind of 7th grade fantasy. There was even a dildo lying on the floor in the living room, and I thought, “We have to use this.”

JOHN: As far as the final film matching up, we of course wanted to have more of everything, but with the budgetary constraints of our low-budget, we kind of had to shrink everything.

STEVEN: I think we got pretty close to what was on the page though.

Your movies are currently in the throes of protest from a very alarmed religious group (or so it appeared to me at the time, before Steve shamelessly admitted that it was he behind it all along and that no religious group could possibly care less at the moment). Did you expect this (or did you even write the scripts with the dream of a protest in mind – be honest!)?

JOHN: Not with this film in particular. I made this film as a way of enhancing my filmmaking skills, at the same time just putting out things I thought I’d want to see. I really don’t want to entertain any of this woman’s accusations. It doesn’t really bother me. I don’t even really care. My next film, a feature length, which sort of deals with the abortion controversy, I expect people to be more up in arms about that one, but I can’t see why anyone would really pay too much attention to a silly zombie blowjob movie.

STEVEN: Seriously, we thought this was kind of tame compared to the feature length script we’ve been working on. The “oral” scene started out innocently enough, with my half-kidding suggestion to John that we include such a scene so the European title could be “Zombie Blowjob.” We do sort of write scripts that tend to offend, but we’re just kind of reacting to the horror films we’ve seen lately. When a PG-13 HORROR movie like “The Grudge” tops the box-office, we tend to get a little bit worried for the genre. We’re living in a country obsessed with family and moral value. And when you’re living in such inoffensive times, it is important to be as offensive as possible.

JOHN: I don’t understand why my writing partner is mocking “The Grudge” right now, because in my opinion Sam Raimi can do no wrong. I think “The Grudge” was wonderful. When I saw it, I smiled and clapped, and I would just like the record to show that it was Stevie who said a bad thing about “The Grudge.”

STEVEN: Yeah, John never even saw “The Grudge.” He’s just trying to appease one of his heroes. And he’s one of my heroes too. But, when you read news about an “Evil Dead” remake, you start to wonder.

Do you feel it is the responsibility of the indie filmmaker to – for lack of a better term – “push the envelope” in terms of violence, sex or taboo imagery/idealology?

JOHN: Hell, I feel that is everyone’s responsibility.

STEVEN: I feel it is the responsibility of the indie filmmaker to do something different. If they want to push the sex, violence, taboo envelope, then more power to them. If they want to make character driven pieces, more power to them. It all depends on the kind of movie they want to make, and it is important to stick to your individual voice.

What’s next on the horizon for you guys?

STEVEN: Here comes the plugging!

JOHN: Well, I have a semi-autobiographical film, in terms of me, but which I co-wrote with Stevie, called “Just a Ball of Cells With a Vengeance.” It’s a heartwarming tale of a stupid girl named Stephanie, a former co-worker of mine, who gets herself impregnated, by several possible fathers, and then tries to murder the baby through drinking, smoking, drug abuse, and punching. That much is factual. Then, all of this abuse causes the baby to become stronger. When she finally goes to have an abortion, after carrying it for six months, the baby goes on a murderous rampage. I myself am a character in the film.

STEVEN: It’s really his opus. I fear he might die after making it. We’re trying to find some cash to make it on our own. We also have some shorts in the works, including the Nazi sex comedy “Charlene She Wolf Of My Heart OR Why is it Every Nice Girl I Meets is Really into Weird Nazi Things?,” which was inspired by the “Ilsa” movies. I’m sure it will offend just as many people as “Alpha Dead” and “Beaster.”

JOHN: And I’m making another film called “Cannibal Mongloid Invader,” an attempt to not use comedy to push the horror. The title says it all.

STEVEN: And I’m putting the finishing touches on a short I wrote and directed titled, “It’s Fun to Help Poor People, Franny Canada,” which concerns a pair of grown-up 1980′s child stars teaming up with some breakdancers to stop a recreational center from being closed down by evil white land developers. I don’t think that one is as offensve.

JOHN: Only to breakdancers.

STEVEN: Right. Only to breakdancers. So, we’ve got a lot going on.




Posted on January 4, 2006 in Interviews by

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