Im Mai des Jahres 2023 hatte ich das große Vergnügen, den US-Independent Regisseur Brad Sykes (PLAGUERS, CAMP BLOOD, GOTH) zu interviewen. Er stand Rede und Antwort zu seiner Person, seiner Karriere und zum Film PLAGUERS, welchen ich bereits auf dieser Seite rezensiert hatte. Durch einige gesundheitliche Probleme verzögert, die mich und die Seite quasi zum Stillstand brachten, erscheint das Interview nun endlich. An dieser Stelle noch einmal eine große Entschuldigung an Brad für die zwischenzeitliche Funkstille, und vielen Dank für die Zeit und Geduld, die du in dieses Interview gesteckt hast.
Back in May of 2023 I had the pleasure to interview independent director Brad Sykes (PLAGUERS, CAMP BLOOD, GOTH). He answered questions about himself, his career and about his movie PLAGUERS, which has already been reviewed on my site. Due to health problems which forced me to take a longer break, the publication of the interview had to be delayed. Now it is finally available online. Sorry again, thank you for your patience and taking the time to answer my questions!
WHO AND WHAT
Who is Brad Sykes? Describe yourself in a few words.
I’m an award-winning writer/director working in the movie industry – mainly in the indie horror genre – for over 25 years. During that time, I’ve made over twenty features including CAMP BLOOD, DEATH FACTORY, GOTH, PLAGUERS and the HI-8 trilogy. I’m also the author of TERROR IN THE DESERT: DARK CINEMA OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST.
If I ́m not mistaken your wife is involved in most of your films. What exactly does she do?
My wife, Josephina Sykes, and I have had our own production company, Nightfall Pictures, since 2005, when we made our first film WITHIN THE WOODS. She produces all our films, which includes budgeting, casting, hiring crew, locations, contracts, schedules, supervising post and release/promotion. We also sometimes collaborate on the scripts together as well. After years of working with some producers who 1) didn’t care about or understand the film I was making and/or 2) took most of the budget for themselves, it’s nice to have a partner who has the same goals as you, which is to make the best movie possible for the budget, and is also on the same page creatively. Josephina and I have made six movies together through Nightfall, the most recent of which is HI-FEAR.
You ́ve been a part of the horror movie community for many years now. How did your interest for horror movies start? Are there any movies that had a big impact on you?
CLASH OF THE TITANS is the first film I remember seeing in the theater that made a strong impression on me. After that, I always gravitated toward horror, fantasy and sci-fi films. I think as far as my serious interest in horror goes, DAWN OF THE DEAD was a major film for me – and still is, in terms of taking the genre to new and exciting places. Movies like THE EVIL DEAD and BAD TASTE were also very inspiring and made me feel like it was possible for me to make my own horror film, too. I’ve always had a preference for indie, low budget American horror and Italian horror of any budget level.
If a fairy appeared and gave you an endless budget to do any kind of movie. What would that movie look like?
I have a few bigger projects I’d love to do with the proper financing – but like a lot of artists, I’m also superstitious and afraid that if I talk about it here, it’ll never happen!
Looking back at your career and the movies you made, is there one of your movies that is your personal favorite? And is there a movie that you don ́t like anymore?
My personal favorite is probably still MAD JACK, a road thriller I directed in the Mojave Desert on 16mm film. I love that genre and would like to make more movies like it. I’m also proud of GOTH and PLAGUERS, for different reasons. There are a few I wish had turned out better…but I’ll keep that to myself as those might be someone else’s favorite film of mine (it’s happened before!)
How and when did you develop the idea to make a sci-fi horror movie?
First, I’ve always loved that genre, having grown up on movies like ALIENS, LIFEFORCE and LEVIATHAN. In 2003 or 2004, a producer friend of mine took me on a tour of some stages in the San Fernando Valley which had a full spaceship set, greenscreen, grip and electrical equipment…in other words, everything you needed to make your own sci-fi space movie. Afterward I started writing PLAGUERS with an eye toward shooting it there. I kept pitching it till I found some investors who were interested in making it.
While watching Plaguers one can spot many influences form genre classics. Which movies inspired you the most while making Plaguers?
ALIENS, which I mentioned earlier, was a big influence, but equally influential was Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS. I love the relentless drive of those movies, and in the case of DEMONS, the idea of each victim transforming/mutating into something truly monstrous. John Carpenter’s work was also a big influence, especially PRINCE OF DARKNESS and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT13, in terms of the script, pace and also the way I composed the shots. I wanted the sets to look as big as possible so I shot the movie very wide, with only a few close ups, more like a theatrical feature than a “straight to video” movie.
If you want to talk about it – how much was the budget for Plaguers?
A good magician never reveals his tricks…
How did Steve Railsback get involved in the project? Did you want him to take part in Plaguers from the beginning or was he cast through a „normal“ casting process? And what do you think about Steve as an actor?
I wrote the part of Tarver with Steve Railsback in mind, which is something I almost never do (the only other time was on my first professional film SCREAM QUEEN – I wrote the lead for Linnea Quigley, and got her, too!). Josephina tracked down Steve through his manager, we had a great meeting, and he agreed to play the role. He was the first actor we cast, in fact. I didn’t make him audition, obviously. I loved what Steve brought to his role and to the film, but even more so I just enjoyed spending time with him apart from the film, during prep and after we wrapped (he even offered his house for a wrap party). He really gave a hundred percent and it was a real joy to work with an actor whose work I had admired for many years. Steve later told me that the only other time anyone had written a role especially for him was on the X-FILES, when Chris Carter wrote the ‘Duane Barry’ character for him.
Plaguers seems to have somewhat of a fanbase (myself included) and received some quite good reviews. What do you think people like about it and will there ever be a sequel / prequel to Plaguers?
Well, that wasn’t the case when it first came out in 2009! Even though PLAGUERS played at some nice fests and even won a few awards, the movie wasn’t that well-reviewed when it first came to DVD. Back then, fans either wanted contemporary Syfy channel-type stuff or big SF films like AVATAR – PLAGUERS was neither. And the original distributor, Image Entertainment, never understood the movie and did a poor job releasing it. I think PLAGUERS’ retro tone was better appreciated ten years later, when we released the movie on a special edition Blu ray through Wild Eye. But obviously it’s had some staying power over the years: the movie has been released all over the world (under many different titles!) and here we are talking about it in 2023, so I guess we must have done something right. I actually drafted storylines for two more PLAGUERS films after we finished the first one. The first is more of a ROAD WARRIOR type desert action film and the second closer to DAY OF THE DEAD. Maybe we’ll have a chance to make them someday, who knows?
In Germany the film released under the title „SPACE OF THE LIVING DEAD“. Personally I don ́t think it fits the movie, because Plaguers is so much more than an ordinary zombie flick. What do you think about renaming movies for foreign markets? Do you have any control or is that something the distributor comes up with?
I always wanted to PLAGUERS to be more than “zombies in space” – that’s why I had the victims transform and mutate throughout the film and have a more demonic appearance and behavior. And I’m glad you picked up on that! I have no say in the retitling of my films for overseas releases – the foreign distributor does that – and PLAGUERS has had more retitles than any other film I’ve made. In Germany, it’s SPACE OF THE LIVING DEAD (or ZOMBIE HATEBREED). In Russia, it’s MUTANTS OF THE 23RD CENTURY. In Japan, it’s simply SPACEHAZARD. I’m actually amused by the retitles, because as a fan, I always enjoyed discovering all the different retitles/versions of Eurohorror movies, and obviously, it means the movie is selling.I also enjoy the different artwork that gets created by each country.
CURRENT / FUTURE PROJECTS
What are you currently working on?
My latest movie, HI-FEAR, is coming to streaming June 13 and DVD July 11. HI-FEAR is the third and final part of the horror anthology series Josephina and I started with HI-8: HORROR INDEPENDENT EIGHT in 2013. We’re very excited about this coming to DVD as we’ve been working on it for a while and we’re very pleased with how it turned out. The segment I directed is an alien invasion tale with an erotic spin – the first SF film I’ve made since PLAGUERS but very different, closer to an A24 type film. I like to try different things with each film if possible.
Which of your movies were / will be distributed or accessible in Germany?
The two films of mine that seem to get released (and re-released) the most in Germany are PLAGUERS and CAMP BLOOD. CAMP BLOOD and CAMP BLOOD 2 are still getting Blu ray re-releases in Germany over 20 years after we made them! My movies GOTH and DEATH FACTORY also got multiple releases in Germany – watch out though as some of those versions are heavily edited (there is one release of GOTH that is cut but 20 minutes!). There may be more I don’t know about, but nobody ever tells me these things! We’d still like to release HI-8 and HI-DEATH in Germany, so let me know if you hear anything!
Any big plans for the future your fans should know about?
After HI-FEAR, my first Hollywood movie SCREAM QUEEN will be coming out on Blu-ray later this year. I also have second book that will be hitting the shelves in the fall. Apart from that, I’m planning my next solo directorial outing for later this year or early 2024.
Anything you want to tell people / movie freaks / your fans?
For those who have supported my work over the years, whether in Germany, the US, or anywhere else in the world, I really appreciate it! Independent filmmaking is hard work and it means a lot when fans get in touch to let you know how much they enjoyed your movie. So, again, thank you and I’ll see you all at the movies!
Thanks for taking the time and all the best wishes for your future projects!