While some AFM buyers were sitting on their wallets and spilling blood this year in hopes of scoring Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, others were ponying up for the schlock and genre awe that still sells in Santa Monica. This year a new trend brought heat to the halls of the Loews: Ebola. Not just ebola, but ebola zombies. Is anyone out there ready to see ebola spread to the undead?
Here’s one way to defuse the tacky sensationalism of AFM schlock-hawking: Apologize in advance. “Is it too soon?” genre seller Rob Hauschild asked the buyers and lookyloos who stopped, did double takes, and even took selfies with the poster for Ebola Zombies this year. He’d break the ice with a smile and a sheepish shrug. “I’m sorry!”
The audacity worked; Hauschild sold Ebola Zombies to Germany and is closing a deal with a Japanese distributor for his Wild Eye Releasing, which saw an estimated 30% increase in foot traffic on the traditionally desolate Loews third floor thanks to the eye-catching gimmick. Not bad for a movie that two weeks ago was called SARS Zombies – nothing a little 11th hour design work couldn’t fix.
“I heard people walking by say, ‘Oh no they didn’t!’ but they’re used to the outrageous at AFM. I think we defused a little of the seriousness of the subject matter with the fact that it’s a zombie film,” Hauschild said. Only a few passersby seemed truly displeased. “There were two African gentlemen who stopped at the poster and had a conversation in their language. They didn’t look so happy.” (Watch the exclusive AFM teaser below. Did I mention it’s also a martial arts flick?)
But wait! There’s more z-bola heading our way. British action-horror Plan Z, about an ebola outbreak that mutates into the zombie apocalypse, shared wall space with the much higher brow Martin Scorsese-produced Tomorrow on the walls of UK production/sales co. Carnaby International. Both films star British polyglot Stuart Brennan, who has a multi-pic deal with Carnaby.
“It is a sensitive subject matter, so we’ve been delicate with it – we don’t pitch it as an ebola zombie movie,” said Carnaby’s Director of International Sales Tania Sarra. Currently in post, Plan Z will debut at the Berlin market.
P.T. Barnum and William Castle would be proud of the antics on display at AFM, where the poster for a movie called Lavalantula earned some of the biggest wide-eyed reactions this year. What’s Lavalantula, you ask? Lava spewing spiders (and several original Police Academy cast members) run amok in LA, from Big Ass Spider! helmer Mike Mendez, who’s carving out a real eight-legged niche for himself.
CineTel Films also gave mockbuster pros The Asylum a run for their money with disaster pics like Stormageddon, Earthtastrophe, and LA Apocalypse, while Zone Entertainment Group tapped into pop culture wish fulfillment with Jersey Shore Massacre. The VOD revolution has brought with it too much choice, and sellers say that’s forced them to latch onto low budgets with high concepts, gimmicks, and sub-subgenres like creature horror (Freshwater, about… some kind of menace beneath the surface!) and the vast infiniteness of the versus mash-up (Ninjas vs. Monsters! Bigfoot vs. Zombies! Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead!).
Even dogs are having their day, between Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon, Army Dog starring AFM staple Casper Van Dien, Guard Dog, and Dude, Where’s My Dog?, about an invisible pooch. Credit that to the Frozen Effect: “Little girl” movies are in. “Dog movies sell great,” one seller told me between sips of 6PM wine outside his company’s suite. “Unless the dog dies.”
And while ex-007 Pierce Brosnan owned last year’s AFM, where his mug was plastered across no less than 8 indie/genre vehicles, this year the crown of ubiquity was claimed by Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell whose genre starrers include Red Sea Media’s action pic Gridlocked and Guardian Entertainment International’s sci fi-horror Turkey Shoot.
Meanwhile, the minds behind 2012’s Nazis on the moon pic Iron Sky assaulted AFM with a teaser for sequel Iron Sky: The Coming Race, which hit the market hoping to drum up pre-production sales and bolster a crowdfunding campaign. This time around Sarah Palin destroys the world as we know it, then descends to a secret netherworld to report to a dino-riding Hitler. Look for it next year decking the halls at AFM 2015.