Jason Toler - Crack House of the Dead
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Zombies and nostalgia with director Jason Toler

Zombie fan and filmmaker Jason Toler talks about his new film Crackhouse of The Dead and more.

Reviews & Dunn – What is the first movie that you can recall seeing in a cinema?

Jason Toler – That is a great question. I am probably dating myself a little but I think the first movie that I recall seeing in the cinema would have to be Ghostbusters. I remember my family ended up going to the showcase cinemas in Cincinnati, Ohio and we all went and saw Ghostbusters. I also remember that there was a huge painting of Slimer on the glass doors leading into the theater.

Reviews & Dunn – When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in film?

Jason Toler – I actually started having an interest in filmmaking early on when I was around 11 or 12. I used to go to the dollar theater and just hop from movie to movie. I think around 12 or 13 I realized that there were people who were actually paid to write and direct films. Our group in the Midwest did not have any real connection to Hollywood. My soul man father would always tell me to read up on it as much as I could. I spent plenty of times in the library reading books on filmmaking and the trades from the Hollywood reporter to Variety to Entertainment Weekly. I must have been a pretty funny site to the library, seeing this preteen sitting back reading Variety magazine

Reviews & Dunn – John Singleton was one of your mentors. How did you two meet?

Jason TolerJohn and I actually met in a comic book store, of all places. I recognized him and we just drove a conversation about different superheroes and then from there we exchanged numbers and kept in contact. He was always excited to hear about the project I was working on and most recently, we talked a lot about his show Snowfall. There was an idea that he was helping me flush out in regards to making it into a series before he passed. Truly was a great friend and a good mentor.

Reviews & Dunn – What can you tell us about your new film Crack House of The Dead.

Jason Toler – Like many latchkey kids in the 80s and 90s, we lived in the video stores. I grew up watching many Grindhouse horror movies on VHS. It was common on a Friday or Saturday night as a kid to have two movies, a 2-liter of soda and a pizza to share amongst my brothers and friends as we watched whatever crazy vampire, creature feature slasher film we were able to pick up from the local Video store. As entertaining as those films are, it was always disheartening to see that the people of color in the films were either nonexistent or always died. I have always been a huge fan of zombie films and wanted to make a movie that was a much to the return of the living dead or the zombie movies that we watched. Crack house of the dead is an urban updated version of night of the living dead. I always noticed that when you see the zombie films, it is always like a group of friends or even most recently with army of the dead a bunch of mercenaries on a mission. It made me think to myself, how I can make a zombie film a tad bit different. By putting together people who normally would not get along and are now forced to work together for survival. An undercover cop, a drug dealer, a pimp, and a prostitute; mixing all of these personalities and forcing them to survive together I thought would be a really cool take on the zombie genre. In addition, I wanted to give the film an aesthetic as if you were watching an old VHS tape. Sometimes people watching the film are thrown off in the beginning and then they realize oh that is the director’s choice in the aesthetic of the film.

Reviews & Dunn – Your directorial debut Half-moon started as a stage play and later became a play. What was the writing process for Halfmoon?

Jason TolerWhen I wrote Half Moon, stage plays were getting a lot of traction. It seemed like there were a lot of gospel stage plays or urban stage plays similar to what Tyler Perry was doing. I wrote that film in about two weeks and we put the play on about a month and a half later. We did a two-week run and sold out the second week of shows. It was a big learning curve for myself and it really inspired me to do more film stuff. In addition, it was a good way to work on my directing skills before I made the leap into doing features. Doing that film was a great opportunity for me to really learn the aspect of filmmaking. I did learn at film school sales, distribution and marketing. I was able to cut my teeth on that film. What really gives me a lot of pride with Crackhouse of the dead is that it is the first film that is completely independent. I wrote, directed and produced it and I have self-distributed it theatrically. I am probably the only black filmmaker to say that he is 100 percent independent when it comes to his films. I have no major company behind me backing me in any aspect.

Reviews & Dunn – You have dealt with zombies and werewolves in your films. Which supernatural creature would you like to take on next?

Jason TolerNext up for me in horror will be a vampire film hopefully. I have a great script that is kind of an updated version of Dracula and I want to connect it also to crack house of the dead the way that Half Moon is also connected. The police officer in Half Moon is the police officer that is in crack house of the dead. Both of those films live in the same universe and I would like to do the same with my upcoming vampire film in some way.

Reviews & Dunn – From a fandom standpoint, where do you think Peter (Ken Foree’s character in Dawn of The Dead) is in 2021?

Jason TolerI love this question! Peter from Dawn of the Dead is one of my favorite characters. I would think if he was still living in that universe, he is probably very similar to like Rick from The Walking Dead. He is probably the head of some community helping survivors get through the Apocalypse.

Reviews & Dunn– Given the chance, with an unlimited budget and full creative control, would you rather remake Blackenstein or Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde?

Jason TolerThis is a hard question. I actually like both those films, Blackenstein and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde. I love love love Bernie Casey, so as an actor I would love to remake that film, take on that part, and follow his footsteps. HOWEVER, I have actually considered doing a black Frankenstein movie and I have an interesting take on that character. Who knows, you might see some version of both of those types of stories for me in the future

Reviews & Dunn What advice can you offer to first time filmmakers looking to get into the horror genre?

Jason TolerIf I would give anyone getting into the horror game advice, it is just go make your movie. Come up with something that you think is going to entertain you. All the movies I make, I make for myself and a select group of people who I know will enjoy them as well, I hope the masses like them also, but I do not make them trying to please everyone else. My focus is to try to come up with a cool premise. Surround yourself with people that support your vision and just go make your film. Fail from there. If you have any specific questions about sales distribution and marketing, find people who can give you good advice. You can always reach out to me.

Reviews & Dunn -Is there anything you would like to add? In addition, where can fans find you on social media?

Jason TolerI would encourage everyone to keep in contact with my company Sunrayz International Films or me directly. I am on Twitter and Instagram, that way you will always be up-to-date with the projects that I am producing, casting notifications and where to see my upcoming films.

IG / Sunrayzfilms Twitter / @sunrayzfilms

Jason Toler Twitter @jasonmadedilms IG Tjasun

Twitter @Crackhousedead IG@Crackhouseofthedead

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