Folks have been freaking out hard over the new Cannibal Corpse video for their track "Code Of The Slashers", one of their sickest and most horrifying yet. It was a privilege to get to sit down with the director of the video, Zev Deans. A heavy metal icon in his own right having worked with everyone from Behemoth to Chelsea Wolfe he was incredibly gracious in his answers giving us a lot of insight into the process of creating the video and development of the project.
If you haven't seen the video yet, check it below:
What was your relationship like with Cannibal Corpse before you started to work with them? How did it feel to get a chance to do a video with them?
Well, there was no relationship really, I had met them briefly backstage at Webster Hall when Behemoth opened for them years ago, but I doubt they remember that. Considering I saw Ace Ventura as a kid, and got into metal around the time The Bleeding came out, I'd say I was a fan at an early age.
I recall studying The Bleeding's album cover (you had to buy it to even see it, back then, since Tipper Gore made sure that only a censored insert was visible on the outside). In my high school metal band, I played bass and did vocals, but I also did album art, so I was obsessed with that album's beautiful cover, a much more abstract approach to horror and gore than some of the other iconic Cannibal Corpse covers, which have their own obscene appeal.
To get a chance to even pitch to such a classic band, its a bit unreal at first. There is an entire legacy at play, one that I grew up with, an aesthetic that is very well established. So there's a lot of pressure to get it right, but at the same time, there's a lot of material that sets a precedent and makes it almost easier to know how to approach it. Between the album art and lyrics for "Slashers", I'd say I stuck pretty close to the script.
What was your aesthetic direction? Did you make a point of studying other Cannibal Corpse videos in order to properly capture the 'feel' of the band?
Honestly, I've never seen any of their videos. Depending on the band I'm working with, I either absorb everything or avoid everything they have done previously. Usually it has to do with how familiar I already am with the band. If I know them well, like in Cannibal's case, I prefer to go into my own head and see what comes out.
I think the guiding star on this project for me was the recent death of Tobe Hooper. I sat down with some of my cast and watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre again, and one of the biggest things that stood out (on what must be my 20th viewing) was the fact that 1/2 of the movie is one single chase scene. There is nothing supernatural going on, just a vanload of kids who pulled over in the wrong town. Its visceral and raw in a way that is believable, with characters that can horrify you with a single glance. That influenced me a lot for this project, and so I came up with something that is a little outrageous, but certainly possible.
What were some of the craziest things that happened on the set?
There is a lot to choose from on this shoot, as it was a total run-and-gun scenario, with a lot to do in a short period of time, in a location we were fairly unfamiliar with.
Enter the first night of shooting. We get everybody in costume and head to our first location, this abandoned Catholic school. A few shots in, we have to shoot a scene where I'm in the minivan with Beatrice, while Chris shoots out the back hatch. Samantha, Tamara & Travis (our victims) are running toward our minivan/camera, while Brendan and Sam (the Slashers) are following behind in the murder van. Once they reach a field and the victims veer off the road, Sam and Brendan are supposed to pull the van onto the grass, park and jump out with their prop knives, chasing the victims into the field. They are both wearing these night vision goggle props, which obscure their vision somewhat. I wont spoil the clip for you, but that turned out to be the most expensive single shot of this trip. Its a miracle that nobody was hurt, and we were all laughing immediately afterwards.
We just kept shooting our scenes like nothing happened, and the lady whose tree we hit must be deaf or just chill AF, because she came out of her house right afterwards and was like "Y'all hear something? What, y'all shooting a movie? Y'all have fun, now!" and then went back inside. I fucking love Detroit.
The next day, we are back at the abandoned school, and all the sudden a car turns off the main street and we start to hear these blood-curdling screams. We look over, and this dude is legit stabbing and beating his girlfriend in the front seat of their car. We gather as close as we can get, and Samantha gets the license plate and calls the cops. The passenger side door swings open and the screaming woman tries to escape, but she can't, and suddenly, she goes completely silent. Before we can move any closer, the car peels out down the street and is gone. And we're standing there with a bunch of fake blood and fake knives, in shock. It was a surreal moment for everybody, and we were quiet for a while after that.
We continued our shoot that night, at this abandoned Velodrome park, now a popular spot for off-road mudding and graffiti. Steven gets our lights and generator up, while Beatrice and Destanie get everybody covered in blood.
We start running through the chase scenes (literally, Chris is running all over the fucking place with his stabilizer, to keep up with the actors). A few hours in, somebody runs up to me "Zev, the cops are here".
"FUCK, WE'RE FINISHED" I think to myself, since we are completely illegal, shooting in a park after dark (no permit & trespassing). I walk over to the cops with Samantha, and they both have big smiles on their faces. The one cop says "Are you shooting a video for Cannibal Corpse?", and I'm like "What did you just say, officer?".
The guy is a huge fan. I usher him and his partner to come meet everybody, and the next thing I know, Detroit's finest are posing with my blood-drenched knife-wielding team for pictures. Hours later, it starts raining on our very last shot, and the cops return to set, just to point lights at our surroundings so we can quickly pack up everything in the dark. These guys had our backs, and I'm pretty sure police in any other town would have shut us down from the moment they saw us.
Filming in Detroit obviously has the potential to be an 'interesting' venture to say the least, can you tell us what that experience was like? Why did you choose Detroit?
I think one can deduce why Detroit is a filmmaker's paradise from my previous stories. At every turn, in every scenario we faced, the people of Detroit embraced us and were happy we were doing something creative and bizarre in their city. Whether it was the woman whose tree we crashed into, the man whose van we crashed, the police who knew we didn't have permits, or the grocery store manager who didn't let us pay him when we shot scenes in his store, everybody we encountered was happy to oblige us and support our cause.
For a time, not long ago, Detroit was the next big filmmaking frontier, with enticing tax incentives and an endless variety of epic locations.Then a Republican governor took office and removed the tax incentives, and the swell of production ceased overnight. When an area becomes a filmmaking hub, it impacts everybody. You need to pay for crew, extras, artisans, contractors, security, caterers, locations, transportation, all of the things that make a production work. It is an economic boon for a whole city.
I think that when people see it happening in a depressed region, especially in a city undergoing the economic hardship that Detroit has grown so used to, it reminds them that their city has the potential for growth and renewal.
What was the message you tried to share with this video?
Detroit, for me, is the perfect symbol of the full narrative arc of the American dream. Here, you have a city that prospered and led the country in the rise of the automobile industry. The building you see in the opening shots of this video is the Fisher Body Plant, once the largest car manufacturer in the world. Now, it sits in ruin, a symbol of how things changed.
Horror, at its best, communicates very real and universally relatable tensions in heightened / fantastical situations.
Despite the fantasy at play in this video, we present the very real horror of a derelict dystopian landscape and the extremes people are forced into in hopeless times, as the cruel laws of nature are reinstated. Here, we present a potential future where the last exploitable resource is human flesh, as cannibalism is often portrayed as the last resort in the fight for survival.
The artistic license we took with psycho-sexuality, gore and intensity pays tribute to the simple fact that Cannibal Corpse is fucking sweet and deserves nothing less. At its core, the Slasher film, and its Giallo predecessor, are tributes to sexual frustration, pursuit and release, in perhaps the most twisted way possible. It certainly sells alot of popcorn.