18th Jun2018

Interview: ‘Die Zombiejager’ director Jonas Wolcher

by Philip Rogers

die-zombiejager-poster

What inspired you to get into filmmaking?

It was my grandfather. He loved movies and books and introduced me to all kinds of movies when I was five years old. We only had Danish and Swedish television, so we had 3 channels, but the Danish television was so much better than the Swedish television because they showed more movies. He was almost like a father to me and introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock, the Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein. I watched all of the Frankenstein films when I was around six years old. Dirty Harry (1971), Kojak (1973-9178) and a lot of Italian crime. I remember he told me “Jonas, its only ketchup. The actors never die, its only fake”. I think that experience began my fascination into films.

I didn’t start to do films until 1999. Before that I studied to be a journalist for radio. That is something which I really want to do as radio is a lot more fun than TV because you can actually hide, its just your voice and that has always fascinated me. In 1993 I went to Ireland as a reporter and I saw Reservoir Dogs (1992), and that completely changed everything. I saw how powerful the music is when combined with movies and that’s when I decided I wanted make movies.

In 2000 I made a commercial for my webpage maskeradsidan.com which has a zombie theme. One late night in 2002 I woke up and called my friend Jonas Lûbeck and we talked for at least an hour and I then wrote down Bad Milk, which was later was translated to Zombie Noid (2002), as in a Paranoid but fear of zombies.

The horror theme is actually from the teacher in Media at a course I went to 1992. I was doing a commercial for ironing starch and my original song on CD never arrived. When they helped us with the sound editing, I was sick that day and my teacher used some horror music instead of indie pop. When I saw the result, I understood the power of the music in movies. He is my biggest inspiration because he showed me what to do with pictures and completely different music.

You mention music a couple of times, that is an important part of your movies…

Exactly. Music is something I always loved and when combining music and films it is so powerful. When [Quentin] Tarantino did his movies, I understood what he was actually trying to achieve, and I thought we have to do the same. When we did Die Zombiejäger (2005) I received a message from a guy who said, “Hello my name is Michael, I’m are a big fan of horror movies, can we please have a song in your movie?” I said, “Ok”. So, he gave me his phone number, I called him, and said (deep voice) “Lord Ahriman” and I said, “Hi, I am Jonas the director of Die Zombiejäger, you asked me about the soundtrack”. He went from this evil one and suddenly had this really nice voice and said, “We have made some records and I can give you some, send you some links”. When he sent the links I realised, this band was Dark Funeral, one of the biggest death metal bands in Sweden and the world. He obviously didn’t want to sound too big when they said we have sold a few records, but that then became a friendship for me and Mike.

I had bought a CD for a band called Avatar because I loved the artwork and there was this song My Shining Star, which was really good for a movie soundtrack. I called him up and talked to his mother, some of the band hadn’t left school yet and one was only 17. I told them, “I really like your sound and I want your music in my soundtrack”. They were small, playing all these after school clubs, so they were so happy when I said I want your music. They have just had a new music video and they have been touring for almost three years now in the US. They are now one of the biggest Swedish bands in heavy metal, so from this tiny band 15 years ago, they are now they are playing these big sold out arenas.

That is amazing, and you found them when they first started.

Music has always been something because it is always powerful, if you want a movie the music is core in the production. The choice of music in Die Zombiejäger, we took everything we could! I asked my friend who runs the record company for Synth-Pop, EBM and all kinds of electronic music. He gave me five bands from his artists and I think we were very lucky to have them involved.

Following on from your debut short Zombienoid, your first feature film was Die Zombiejäger?

Yes, it’s Zombie Hunters in German. It’s called Die Zombiejäger because it’s a company, it’s not just three zombie hunters. In the beginning you can actually see a small sign which says Die Zombiejäger and something about the company, the door opens up and you are inside the office. That place had become one of the hottest places in Gothenburg, it is a really trendy place and they make their own beer as well. So, our next move will be Zombiejäger beer!

That’s a good way to market it!

I think that the brand is something I appreciated from the beginning. When made this movie I saw it as an example of how to make a full feature and that’s what we achieved.

Why did you decide to make a zombie film as your first feature?

The idea was to make a music video for A/d who did the score for Zombienoid (2002) and the band never showed up. I had all of the people, the actors, everything but only one of the band appeared and said we can’t make the music video today. I had all the crew so I did my own movie from those pages and it turned out to be Die Zombiejäger. From the beginning it was just two or three pages of the script without the songs, but later that year I wanted to explore the world of Zombienoid. Bring back the characters, the Zombie master, the henchmen and of course Hogan. It was our first attempt making a full feature, I wrote the first draft and then Petter Hörberg rewrote the story and transformed it to a proper script.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Die Zombiejäger what can they expect?

Action! Non-stop Action! If you like action scenes and nonstop fighting this is the movie for you. If you don’t like action scenes and endless gun fighting this movie sucks big time! I had screened the film for the first time in 10 years and some of the audience were amazed at this cult movie. I think the hype of the movie is because one of the critics Felix Recenserar has his own website called Monte Fjanton Creations. This guy reviewed Die Zombiejäger and has had almost two hundred thousand views. He ended the review with because this film has a cup of the Pet Shop Boys I give it 10 out of 10. He always gives the movies he reviews a 10, even if it’s bad. For me I really like when people say to me it’s bad, because that is an inspiration for me to do more, but when I get death threats I get quite a bit concerned, because I think that is so vicious and sad. I actually put some of the death threats on my social media, so they will get exposed.


It is excessive, I don’t see why from making a film they would get so angered

That is the bad thing about social media. They are sitting in front of their computers filled with rage and hatred. Maybe they lack something like empathy, because they write some evil stuff. I can take it if you say, “Don’t do any more movies”, “You suck” or “I will never watch any of your movies again, ever!”. For me this is wonderful! I will post those because I think it’s funny, but when you say, “I hope you die!” or “Go hang yourself!” I think it’s sad. That is one thing I want to tell new filmmakers, because you will get some really bad comments when you make a movie. Especially in Sweden because I think they are one of the most intolerant countries of indie film making, because we cannot accept a movie which is in Swedish or English if it is not a complete success it is a failure. Even if it is a success it’s not good enough. That is the Swedish mentality and I think that is something we have to live with. But I always encourage people to make their own movies. Maybe I don’t like it, but I am not the one to judge. The ones that should judge your movie are the audience, if they say it’s good or so bad its good then you have your audience. If they say I just turned it off and done something else, well ok. You need to hear if your good or bad, so criticism is very important.

I remember my wife told me, because I was very unhappy when a movie came, and I felt like such a failure. She said, “Jonas, what on the shelves over there”, [Jonas] “Movies, CD’s, DVD’s”, [Wife] “Yeah, and what else?” [Jonas] “My Movies” [Wife] “and they sold? [Jonas] “Yes” [Wife] “Then what the fuck are you whining for? How many of the Swedes have actually made a movie, got it out by a distribution company and got it sold? But your whining like a stupid dog. You should appreciate this, you are setting a good example of something that actually sells. So, take you beret, red wine and go away”.

Made on a budget, what were your biggest difficulties you faced whilst filming?

Time! I don’t believe the amount of money was a concern as we didn’t have any, but its time, everything is time consuming. We had to get the tools, like the camera which I had to borrow from my friends. I never had my own camera I just borrowed or hired cameras and that’s one of the reasons time is the essence of everything. Planning is so boring, you want to make the movie, but in order to make it you need a coordinator. I just put everything together, we went out filming and sometimes I was not prepared. With some of the water tower shots there were so many cars due to the restaurant at the top. We couldn’t move the cars, so we had to figure out when there were no cars.

I had my daughter in 2003 and when she was one, she was with me and nearly got hit by a car because she was in a parking space outside the water tower, which is where we shot the zombie scenes. One car came so close as she was walking and that was scary. I didn’t realise it was so dangerous to have her with me, but she loved being with us on the set.

What were you favourite memories from filming Die Zombiejäger?

There is one funny story, when we did the torture scene we needed to do some pickups. This torture room was all red, we put up cobwebs and all kinds of cloths. But when we came back six months later they had transformed this room into a Bollywood room, so it had flowers all over. I told the manager what have you done? It’s terrible! We can’t shoot anymore; all the red and bad things have gone! This is where Dragonetti gets his new face and his old one ripped off, so that scene was filmed behind the sofa in my apartment during the day. We kept the camera up close, so you can’t see anything and put some red cloth underneath. No one has said anything because that scene is so gross, but you never know how the scenes will turn out. That is why all of the camera angles are from above or beneath, like a frog or birds. If you don’t want any tourists or people in the camera eye you need to get rid of them and the easiest way is to shoot below and up to there faces. There are always people, even when we went there at six in the morning you have the big machines there cleaning up from the weekend and the trams. I remember one picture of Christian and behind him is a German tourist bus which stopped in front to take pictures, because we had so many zombies around him lying there. It should be summer, but it was actually February-March and snowing, so Poor Christian had to wear this costume and it was freezing cold. When we started shooting in 2003 it was hot in the summer, then in 2004 it wasn’t. For some of the scenes we had to scrape the snow from the pavement just to make sure the actors and extras could lie there. I had a lot of extras who never came back, because it was freezing cold.

I can imagine that in March laying there, it can’t be much fun for them?

No, I remember I had too different jackets on, gloves, hats, including a cap. I had really warm clothes because I didn’t want to freeze (laughs). That is something that happens, you plan your movie, the sets, but everything will go wrong because you didn’t prepare the weather. At the beginning of the movie when we shot with the Danish reporter it was snowing a lot that day. I asked the other producer what to do and he said, “Fuck it, no one will ever notice” and he was right, no one ever noticed! Maybe today because the cameras are much better, but in 2003 we used DV cameras, so cassettes were used during the movie.

The big scenes with the riots was shot in Gothenburg and one scene in Karlshamn. There is a scene where Heinrich shoots at the camera inside the water tower. The camera then tilts! This is because the shotgun was loaded, and he actually shoots the poor cameraman. It looks terrific in the movie!
In 2005 we shot the last big scenes of zombies at Götaplatsen and the pavement was drenched in syrup and food colouring. We decided to go bit higher to Museum of Art to shoot the last scenes of the day in the vault when suddenly we see one police patrol car arrives nearby our puddles of blood. Then another comes, another and some horses. I got scared and sends down two of the zombies to confront the police. The policemen got so excited they begin to take picture and pose with the actors. It turns out there was going to be a peace demonstration in the exact spot we shot all the bloody scenes. When we left we saw all the people gathered around Götaplatsen, there was Hundreds of people are there.

The last feature film you directed was Cannibal Fog, which delivers an intelligent and unique take on the cannibal genre. Where did the idea for the film come from?

The idea came from making a horror movie without special effects. I have done so many special effects, so doing it without them is a true challenge. I talked with Ruben Östlund who won the Cannes Film Festival for his movie The Square (2017). We spoke, because his grandmother came to my screening of Dragonetti (2010) in Malmö. She is an opera singer and watched it with us in a small theatre, it was very cosy, and she brought her dog. When I met Ruben in 2013 I told him about these ideas and he told me about his new movie Tourist [Force Majeure] (2014). Afterwards I missed the tram, so I had to walk from the city to the island where I live. It takes approximately two and a half hours, but with snow it took more than fours hours. I had two layers of clothing on me, so I was prepared an I knew I wasn’t going to freeze and I recorded three stories during the walk. It is three parts, so it is three short stories into one movie. The name was actually Gothenburg Cannibals, but then Brian Bell came up with Cannibal Fog. Because it’s one for focus, three for orgasm and five you enter the fog. I have a sequel on the go, although I am not sure if I am going to direct this one. It is more like The Rope (1984), this is with three people and one is on the menu.

Cannibal Fog is one of the most important films I did, because I wanted to make a drama-comedy with a very dark humour compared to Zombiejäger and the other movies. We began in February 2014 and in April I met the German guy who runs Weekend of Hell and told him, “I have a movie ready if you want to screen it in 2014” and he said well, “can you get it with the schedule of November 2014?” I said, “Yes I can”. So, we got the go ahead for the film festival and moved on very quickly with the editing and sound. I hope I will never face this problem again as it was too much.

They discuss some unusual recipes in the film. What sort of research did you do for the film Cannibal Fog?

Because I am an educated chap I went to culinary school and I have been working in kitchens. My fascination with food and comparing food to porn was something I wanted to do and that is why I did Cannibal Fog. If you show someone a cookbook, that is actually porn for your eyes. It’s almost the same as if you watch porn with nudity, because with the pictures of food gets you excited about it. If you see a picture of a really tasty cake and you read about it, it’s almost like reading a porn novel. I remember my teacher at school, he has been in this business a long time and ha his own radio show, so he knows his food. I said, “Can you compare food with sex?” and he said, “Of course you can, that is why you are still selling 300 cook books each year in Sweden”. 300 new cook books! Is it new? No. Is it porn? Definitely! When you see those pictures you get excited, you get hungry. I tried the website for food orgasm and yes there are a couple of websites who specialise in food orgasms. It is pictures of people eating and they are taking pictures of them whilst eating in a restaurant or something. They put this on a porn website, there is no sex angle to it, but the pictures are sexy. That’s why I thought about making the movie, because you compare food and sex, so when you watch Cannibal Fog you can see how close they are…

The dinner in the third episode with these connoisseurs. When the Australian with the bushman hat tells them about the kind of shit he’s been eating like tigers, he tells the audience how stupid it is. This is one of the most appreciated moments in the film because they are so ridiculously stupid. I had a lot of fun doing the research and the research for the cannibals was actually true. Jeffrey Dahmer said once that when you start eating human flesh you can’t stop, because it is so powerful. The Russian cannibal who is quite famous, he explained its almost like eating horse meat, but its so powerful. It is like an obsession, once you begin to eat it drives you through, it’s like a tunnel vision.

The French cannibal who said he lost a piece of his sight once he began to eat his girlfriend because it’s so powerful. I am not sure if its true because I haven’t tried it, but during the period when I wrote the film there were two Pakistanis who were specialising in eating foetus of young girls. That was really scary! And in Syria in 2014 and there were these two guys who went into the hospital and they had mad cow’s disease from eating the flesh of their human flesh.

So, a lot of the film is based in true events which you incorporated into your story?

Yes, a lot of the events were actually true. We shot some of the footage in the Philippines and some of the ancestors of the extras were cannibals in the early 90’s. So that is something which makes this movie quite special. I have some extra stuff which will put in the special addition DVD/Blu-Ray which explains how he became a cannibal.

Music plays an important role in your films. How much involvement do you have regarding the soundtrack?

Everything! This is my baby. Music is one of the most important things and it drives the movie forward. You can have complete silence, that is music! You can have whistling, that is music! Special effects, that’s music as well! But once you find that magical track it’s like going to heaven. I was quite young when I got into collecting soundtracks and I also bought commercials on CD’s during the 90’s. You could actually buy the best of BBC tune commercials 1991-1992, it was so strange that you could actually do this. I was into all kinds of music, but as I said before the trip to Dublin in Ireland that was definitely a break in my career.

When I decided to use music in my movies I knew that second which scene, because I have already heard the song. With Die Zombiejäger, I was involved with the song Die Zombiejäger. I met an unknown band who sang in German and I said, “Do you want to write a song about zombie hunters from Germany rampaging around Gothenburg?” This guy was like “of course I can and wrote down some lyrics”. I said, “We need a tune” and he said, “Give me a couple of days” He came back with the first song and I said “No, I want it like this” (Starts clicking his fingers to the rhythm. He came back, and it was quite good. I went to my friend Christian and he made his version of the song, we put it in his computer and suddenly boom we had the song. That song had become the trademark for the band. That song went on like a blizzard on the dancefloor in Germany and that song now is still popular, but not many people know where it comes from.

You have been called “the creator of New Swedish Genre Cinema”. Can you explain what this is and what it means for Swedish cinema going forwards?

I received this title after I was interviewed by a group who are running their own Theatre of Blood which is fan club of horror movies. They decided to write an article about me and used the expression the Creator of Genre Cinema. I said well I am not the creator of genre cinema, but I am the creator of New Swedish Genre Cinema and that’s why I use that instead. I decided that New Swedish Genre Cinema would include all the directors, producers and actors in the new era from early 2000, because it has been like an explosion. I am taking everything from Swedish genre cinema and combining it together in one big sphere. I want to make and build up a Troma House or a Tromaville.

So, you are unifying it all together?

That right, but it’s not just the Swedish guys as I have connections in Germany, Switzerland and in all kinds of places around the world. My aim is to bring everyone together and make really good movies. I have a collaboration with a Russian, Indian, Spanish, Switzerland and the US. Suddenly we have five different countries. I have been quite busy in Africa as well, because the way they make movies is quite special. They do not have the money or equipment we have, the microphone stand, light equipment, screws, tools. They don’t have these, so what they need they make them. This is something we in the Western World should appreciate, we don’t have the money, or we don’t have a great camera, today there is no excuse! You have your cell phone which can take better pictures than a great the camera like the XL1.

Moving onto something else which you love special effects. You do a lot of the special effects in your films which you also teach. How did you first get into special effects and what sort of training did you receive when you started?

That’s quite funny, I began in 1988 and I worked in a fun shop where you could get costumes and novelties. The manager she was quite old, and she had three different kinds of make up suggestions. The first one was the Zombie! Put some white around your face, some black around the eyes and some blood in your mouth; or you could be a Vampire! Put some white around your face, some black around the eyes and some blood in your mouth; or you could make a Ghost! Put some white around your face, some black around the eyes and some blood in your mouth. I said, “You have such wonderful makeup, do you know how they work?” She said, “No I do not, and I don’t want to learn”. I told her, “if I am going to stay here and sell these products to the customers I want to learn how it works”. She said “Help yourself to a kit of makeup” I grabbed a lot of makeup and began to experiment. Once I began to experiment with the different types of bloods, I suddenly understood this is powerful stuff, but I needed models. Because I am an old RPG player, I had been to so many gaming conventions and I thought if I use the people on those conventions as models I can charge them for the cool makeup. Suddenly I had a lot of customers and I was doing a lot of stuff.

Within three years I had done makeup on maybe four or five hundred people. I still continue doing this, but now I get paid a bit more. I quit counting after doing make up for 3000 people. I think that was maybe 10 years ago. You don’t need to have a perfect makeup on the camera as it will smear it out, the colours, the lighting, so for me it doesn’t matter. But if you know how to do a proper make up which looks good for the camera, it’s good makeup. One of the biggest mistakes people are making is too much blood or a bruise but people don’t actually realise how it will appear in real life. They just get some blue and black inside and smear it off with a hint of blood. When you see it in a tv series it looks fake.

A wonderful example is Eden Lake (2008) it’s a wonderful story, but it horrible, it is painstakingly real. If you see that scene where he has some metal rods inside his leg because he has fallen and has a gruesome wound, you feel for him because he is in really bad shape and you except it. When you have a guy, who gets his head blown off you say that’s a cool effect, but you don’t feel it. A scene in Eden Lake where the put the carpet knife in his mouth and his tongue if all mashed up. That is a horrible scene because if you have used a carpet knife you know how sharp it is, so if you put in in the mouth to rip your tongue you know it will hurt. That is something you can rely on as a filmmaker, if you have small effects that is much more powerful than having a guy who gets his head blown off. That is why I have a scene where Michael is eating his own flesh from his hip. It wasn’t supposed to be that gory, I just wanted the audience to feel that something is eating him during the night which is a scary idea. If you found someone was eating bits of you when you were sleeping, you would never go to sleep anymore. For Michael he doesn’t care much, because he has so many other issues. For him it doesn’t matter because it’s always about the sex, he is a sexaholic!

You have your new art called the #fakeskinart, where you transform everyday household items. How did the idea come about?

I have been doing so many props for my movies, my friends movies and I had an idea. I joined a group called Odd Things in Sweden. They have a lot of taxidermy on this page and you can buy all kinds; I sold my mug penis dildo in metal and I received 60 Euros’. Then I thought, lets make some cool stuff like a pizza cutter with skin! It’s something that the Manson Family, The Texas Chainsaw family or Ed Gein had made it. I started experimented with a nose I put it in the pizza cutter with a different type of skin. It has become so popular I said, “Let’s go further”, so I made a dry penis and put it on a spatula as a handle. It was all blue and dried out, well people went berserk when they saw it, they said, “of my god what have you done, its so gross!”. Then the guy who runs the website said, “Well, do you know how to make lampshades? A lampshade of skin would be cool! Maybe one with a tattoo on!” I had this idea for a lamp in Cannibal Fog, which I made with pieces of spines, unfortunately it didn’t show up in the movie, so I decided to do it now four years later. I decided to make it into a space creature with tentacles and this creature looking stuff to make it look alien. My next project is transforming a 1985 Nintendo Game console into something from the Manson’s, so it will be in flesh. The controllers will look like stuff from Nintendo, but when you turn it around it will be human flesh, maybe add some teeth and some lips on the console.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on?

A classic western movie called Just Reward. This is a project which we really want to do, and it is really important to me. We have some really good actors for this, but we are looking for some more financial support. We will be shooting in Sweden and Spain. In Spain it will be shot in the same city as Hang ‘Em High (1968) and those kinds of movies. When we shoot here in Sweden we have three Western cities which we can shoot in.

I have a Viking movie called Dead Mans Mount. This is a high budget movie, but we are still waiting for investors in this one as well.

We have The Door Between which is being directed by Paul Weston who done the stunts for Superman III (1983). He has been doing this for 50+ years now, has been a stuntman for nearly all of his life and has been in a lot of movies. He was a stunt coordinator for Aliens (1986) as well, so he has been in the big leagues and he finished his work with Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series, so he really knows what to do. We brought him to direct this movie. The Door Between is in like Jacobs Ladder (1990), Amityville Horror (1979) and Shutter Island (2010). It’s so good, it’s a new genre of Swedish Cinema. I have never seen a film like this!

We have Swedish Pole Dancers vs Demons from Hell. As you can hear, it’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996-2003), but they are Swedish pole dancers. There is Inga, Rita, Anna, they have very Swedish names.

Then we have Dinorilla which is a big monster movie. In Gothenburg we are going to have a lot of new building and construction sites, so I thought what if we had this big gorilla-reptile raging in Gothenburg, farting fire and eating oil and is 300 feet high.

The other project is a completely new Dragonetti movie where we start from the very beginning. We have the idea of Dragonetti in a hut in Africa and they put a spell on him, so he can’t die, but he can feel pain. He is in bad shape, but he rises from the grave. This is a supernatural-action-thriller.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to direct their first film?

Do it! Do it! Do it! I had a seminar on how to make movies here in Gothenburg and I showed them this is how you make movies, and this is how you go further. I went for the idea, to the marketing and bringing it back to life. That is the main issues in filmmaking, once you’ve done your movie, once it’s been made, once it has been up in several film festivals you have to cherish it and make sure the seed grows. The easiest way to do this you have to keep growing, publishing new things or old things. Remember the dates it is so easy to do. The 4th of February was the first time we shot in the woods, those pictures are horrible, but that was the first day we shot in the woods. So, for me as a filmmaker, Do it! Do it! Do it!

There is no can’t, go and make your feature. Because if you haven’t done a feature you can never succeed. Because if you make 50 short films, they don’t mean squat, because making a full feature will put you in the big league because you have achieved something. There is so much planning, how to progress from day 1 to 500. If you are willing to have three years of your life totally destroyed without much money and people changing haircuts for months, so you have to put a hat on. It is the same with Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986) The reason why the sex scene is blue is because no one had a hairdo and they had changed so much, gained weight and all kinds of stuff. So [Ridley] Scott told the producer, “Fuck no, we will just shoot the scenes, put some blue light” and that’s a very powerful scene. No one will notice! Well they do but they will forget it and say it fun. So, Do it! Do it! Do it! There is no try, just do it!
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Die Zombiejäger behind the scenes pictures taken by Mattias Slabanja :


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Die Zombiejäger Trailer:

Cannibal Fog Trailer:

You can find out more about Jonas Wolcher on the following:

Websites:www.imdb.com/name/nm2034411/ | 
www.dinopublishingjw.weebly.com | www.jonaswolcher.com
Social Media: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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