Rob Savage’s DAWN OF THE DEAF hits a commonly explored sub genre of horror film (zombies), and a very familiar approach to launching one’s filmmaking career (shoot a short as a proof of concept for a feature) head on like a freight train. The film (and by extension, the filmmaker) have more than audacity on their side – they have a sure hand, a clear vision, and what is more than apparent – a true love for the genre. A mysterious pulse proves lethal to anyone with hearing, leaving the deaf as the only survivors. However, the question is for how long, as the hearing soon rise forth as flesh-eating undead. As if lacking the ability to hear was enough of a challenge to survive in this world.
- DAWN OF THE DEAF plays out literally like the first ten minutes of a feature. Is there a feature planned or was that simply a stylistic approach to your spin on the zombie subgenre?
The end goal has always been to make DAWN OF THE DEAF as a feature film. While the short is reasonably self contained, we made it as a means of convincing investors and audiences alike that the concept had potential as a mainstream horror film that would engage with both hearing and Deaf audiences. A lot of people were skeptical that a film featuring Deaf characters would be interesting or engaging for a hearing audience, and so the short was our way of demonstrating the potential of the idea.
- People that can hear. Are they the “deplorables” that Hilary Clinton spoke about?
Not touching that one…
- There is a clever use of subtitles at one point in the film. Can you explain the idea behind that? How did the idea to do that strike you?
This came as part of a discussion with our British Sign Language consultant Samuel Dore about how to shoot BSL — there is one school of thought which believes that BSL should be shot to always include the hands and face of the person signing, forgoing close-ups and cutaways. I chose a more conventional shooting style, but included that moment as a reference to filmmakers who shoot in a “sign-safe” style — when the audience cannot see hands and face, we deny them the subtitles.
- What is your favorite George Romero film? And why?
It’s got to be DAWN OF THE DEAD – it’s the ultimate zombie movie, and I’d argue one of the greatest films of all time. However, I also love MARTIN, MONKEY SHINES, and CREEPSHOW, as well as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD, and almost everything else he’s made!
- Why do you think the zombie subgenre is utilized so often to comment on social ills?
Zombies are the great all-purpose metaphor, because they are us. They can be retooled to represent any social, political or existential issue because they are essentially human beings running on their most base instincts. That’s the genius of Romero – he used each of his Dead trilogy to take aim at the social and political climate of the time, and those films are timeless because of his wit and intelligence in using the zombie metaphor.
- Slow zombies or fast zombies? And why should we listen to you about this while we’re trying to get away from them?
I’ve seen every zombie movie under the sun, and I can safely say: it doesn’t matter. They both work. Depends entirely on the kind of horror you want to draw from the scenario. Running zombies keep you on the edge of your seat, always alert. Slow zombies can be comedic, until suddenly they aren’t. That’s what I love most about DAWN OF THE DEAD – Romero invited you to laugh, and then twists the knife.
- Popcorn or Candy?
In a cinema? Popcorn. Anywhere else? Candy.
DAWN OF THE DEAF just screened at the Sundance Film Festival nearing the end of an extensive film festival tour. More information can be found at http://www.rob-savage.co.uk/dawn-of-the-deaf/.