Interview with Scott Thomas, Director of 'Flight of the Living Dead'

September 30, 2007 -- Scott Thomas is a new name on the horror block. But don't expect his name to be unheard of among horror fans much longer. His excellent new zombie movie, "Flight of the Living Dead," which he co-wrote and directed, is hitting DVD shelves on Tuesday. It is definitely one of the best horror films of the year. Horror fans will definitely like this movie and want to see more material from this up-and-coming director.

Our review should be up on Monday. If I could make a comparison to another impressive debut, it would be the now-classic "Dog Soldiers." Thomas shows he knows what makes a good horror movie with this zombies-on-a-plane thriller, which is actually much, much better than "Snakes on a Plane." We caught up with the director on a phone interview Friday. Remarkably, little has been written about him anywhere that we can find.

Esplatter: I loved your movie! It doesn't look like you've filmed much in this genre before though.

I did a psychological thriller, "Deranged." I did a series called "Nightman." It was a poor man's Batman. It was on TV for a couple seasons. It was a Marvel comic. I produced and I directed. I've been a huge fan of the horror genre since I was a kid. I have a ton of scripts I want to do. For 15 years I've been trying to get different projects off the ground. This one hit.

I did a psychological thriller, "Deranged." I did a series called "Nightman." It was a poor man's Batman. It was on TV for a couple seasons. It was a Marvel comic. I produced and I directed. I've been a huge fan of the horror genre since I was a kid. I have a ton of scripts I want to do. For 15 years I've been trying to get different projects off the ground. This one hit.

Esplatter: What I liked about your movie is that the first 50 minutes were relatively subdued, then anarchy hits.

I did want to establish the characters somewhat before you go into the nonstop zombie action. It was intentional. Certainly character development and establishing certain things. You get teased along the way. Then it does break loose. It's along the line of what's happening in the plane. It is a real time event.

The original script, the very opening of the movie you see the plan crash into the mountain. Then a screen comes up and says "93 minutes earlier." It was kind of a real time event.

Esplatter: The film does unfold as a real-time event not unlike "United 93." It's hard not to watch this film and think of the events of 911. An enemy takes over an airline and the passengers fight to survive.

I did have several actors say that. Really it was not intentional at all. Clearly that whole event does play on the mind of everybody. But it wasn't intentional. But people are afraid to fly in general.

Esplatter: What are your favorite films of the genre?

I've seen Fulci, all the standard zombie films forever and ever. I love "The Exorcist". I love "Dawn of the Dead". I love "Jeepers Creepers," "Cabin Fever," "The Hitcher," "Invaders From Mars" the 1950s version. "The Exorcist" is certainly a great film.

Esplatter: You like Fulci and Romero, but your film didn't have slow moving zombies.

They're not slow moving. It is a virus. I have comments from people saying the zombies keep coming back to life. I said clearly, that they keep coming back to life. Unless you take their head off they'll keep going. Esplatter: When I was watching it, I felt it could have been an entry in the "Return of the Living Dead" series. A few tweaks to the plot could have done it..

I didn't think of that. That's a great series.

Esplatter: Do you have a sequel planned?

A lot of people ask for it. But it only comes out next week. The TV ads are running this week.

Esplatter: One thing that's striking about the movie too is the effects. For a direct-to-DVD movie the effects, particularly the plane crash, are amazing. It was good as what you'd see in a Bond film.

It wasn't intended as direct to DVD. I threw in the kitchen sink and went as crazy as I could within the limits. Did the best I could. I put in stuff that I wanted to see. And still stay within the genre and not piss anybody off. We had 350 CGI effects. We had a studio in Chili, a studio in Thailand and three studios here in the U.S. It was low budget. It wasn't a $30 million movie but it wasn't $500,000 either.

Esplatter: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

I've got a couple projects. I've got a TV series that I had sold in the U.S. about five years ago. I couldn't sell foreign. It's called "The Strangers." We have a trailer for it. If I say the plot I have to give everything away. I'm also talking to people about optioning a book. Nothing's going to happen until next year anyway.

Esplatter: What was the casting process like for 'Flight'?

It took about four weeks. I didn't let the casting agent read people ahead of me. I wrote the script with Derek Webster before. I worked with him on "Nightman" before. Also, I wanted to cast Laura Cayouette, who plays the first zombie. She did "Kill Bill," just a ton of stuff. I kind of tend to use the same people or people I've worked with in the past. Kevin O'Connor was just one of the people you look at and say it would be great to work with him.

Esplatter: What was it like knowing you had a hit on your hands when you first started getting feedback about the movie?

The first time I really had a huge impact was at the Brussels International Film Festival. They were cheering, yelling, laughing and screaming. Plus it was a lot of fun to make the movie. Besides me rigging them with squibs, shaking them up, no one really complained at all.

Esplatter: What do you think of the horror genre today?

I'm just in Boston going to the Fantastic Fest. I saw four movies a day for five days in a row. I saw some great stuff.

Esplatter: What was the best movie you saw?

"Time Crimes" is a Spanish film. Low budget, smart movie.

Esplatter: Do you think the horror genre is healthy given the bad box office of some films?

There's a lot out there. The new Will Smith thing. The box office in general is funky. It's in transition. Every studio in town is having a direct to DVD division. I think with the Internet and VOD the industry is changing. It's unfortunate because there's really nothing like seeing a movie with a crowd.