An injured man without sight and a pregnant police officer must team up to survive ravenous zombies in DeadSight, and with the new horror movie out now on DVD, On Demand, and digital platforms from RLJE Films, we caught up with director Jesse Thomas Cook in our latest Q&A feature to discuss his approach to telling a new living dead tale, the movie's references to Night of the Living Dead and Resident Evil video games, and collaborating with his wife, Liv Collins, who stars in and co-wrote the film.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, Jesse, and congratulations on DeadSight! When did you first read the screenplay by Liv Collins and Kevin Revie, and what made you want to bring this story to life on screen?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Zombies have always been my top sub-genre within horror. I had produced a zombie film in 2010 called Exit Humanity, but I always wanted the chance to direct my own undead story. Liv, Kevin, and I got together one weekend in October 2017 and started brainstorming ideas for zombie storylines. We settled on the plot of DeadSight and six weeks later we were on set filming it.
In addition to co-writing DeadSight, Liv Collins also stars as Mara Madigan. What made her the right fit for that role?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Liv and I got married about three months before we filmed DeadSight. We have three boys and this is the third film we've collaborated on. In fact, she was seven months pregnant with our youngest son Hollis when we filmed DeadSight. SO, I guess you could say the role was written for her.
Where did filming take place, and how long was your shooting schedule?
Jesse Thomas Cook: It was filmed in a couple of decrepit houses near Owen Sound, Ontario, and in an abandoned grain terminal building in Collingwood, Ontario. Filming took 11 days in December 2017, and then four follow-up pickup days in late April 2018.
Did Adam Seybold wearing a bandage over his eyes bring about any additional challenges during filming?
Jesse Thomas Cook: I literally had to direct Adam to where he was walking, and whether he was veering out of frame. He was adamant to go method, so it was up to me to ensure his safety and that he wasn’t drifting too far away from his destination. It was a big relief once we reached the part in the film where he could discard the bandage.
Were you influenced or inspired by any films, TV series, or books while making Deadsight?
Jesse Thomas Cook: Definitely Night of the Living Dead… there’s all sorts of references to NOTLD in DeadSight, from the lead character’s name to opening on a graveyard and using the farmhouse and basement as big set pieces. I was also heavily influenced by some of the earlier Resident Evil video games. The film functions as a de facto Resident Evil fan-made film. With the police officer character having to complete these side missions, various weapons found and discarded, key items, and limited ammunition, and, of course, the big ending in a destabilized factory with the alarms sounding off.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Jesse Thomas Cook: It went smooth for the most part, but we actually lost a couple of media data cards and had to re-shoot a few scenes a few months after the main shoot, (which was in December 2017). We ended up going back in April 2018 to match the same look, and when the major snow drifts had thawed in Ontario. By that time, Liv had already given birth to our son, so she was now able to do more stunts and battle more zombies as a result.
Filming with Ry Barrett in the crappy trailer setting was a lot of fun, and perhaps was the only relaxed time we could have a dialogue scene in peace. Ditto for the basement scene between Liv and Adam. Those two scenes were nice to let the pacing breathe a bit and allow the actors to do their thing. It was also a lot of fun to see my wife blow the brains out of her two younger brothers, who were playing zombies in the scene where the undead besiege the trailer in the woods.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from DeadSight?
Jesse Thomas Cook: I’m hoping they’ll enjoy the ride of witnessing a blind man and a pregnant police officer navigate their way in this undead world we created. And how we feel blind as an audience the first half of the film while we linger on Ben’s character, and then we start to dwell more on Mara for the second half of the film, and the inevitably of the birth that will occur during this nightmare survival situation. Ultimately, [I hope] that they’ll appreciate the inter-dependence of the two lead characters despite their vulnerabilities.
With DeadSight now on DVD, On Demand, and Digital HD from RLJE Films, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers follow your work online?
Jesse Thomas Cook: www.foresightfeatures.com has all my older films’ trailers and posters. I just finished editing Liv’s directorial debut, which is a charming and awesome little road trip comedy film called To Hell with Harvey.