People often ask me where I came up with the idea for PEST (they don’t…) and I always tell them that I have a very dark and damaged mind (I do…), but it really goes a lot further than that.
A few years ago was a very quiet time for me where I had more spare time than one 30 year old male should be allowed. Obviously this was not very conducive to a proactive mind set and I found myself thirsting for a creative output for my frustrations, so what better to do than to start watching the Horror Channel on an endless loop.
I swiftly came to the conclusion that most new, low budget zombie movies out there are just recycling the same old crap that Romero was making waves with forty to fifty years ago. The problem was that this new breed of Zed – movie didn’t have the texture or humanity of those old classics. The characters were often 2D and the plot would normally revolve around a small group of survivors (each as vacuous and unlikable as the next) trying to out run the ravenous hordes of undead. They would often fail…good I didn’t like any of the characters anyway, but by far the biggest problem with these offerings was the Terror factor.
I’m terrified of Zombies like you wouldn’t believe; I actually have recurring nightmares where I find myself becoming one of those unlikable characters trying to out run the chasing zombie mob. Often I fail, every time I wake up heart beating and adrenaline rushing. I haven’t felt like this about screen zombies for a very long time.
These low budget horrors are often preoccupied with showing off their fantastic VFX sequences or zombie make – up, or spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on the spilling of guts…I’m over intestines. These set pieces are now so clichéd, and an almost necessary expectation of the film, that the impact of the intended horror is lost.
I then read a couple of books which would change all that, World War Z (DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THE FILM) and the graphic novels of The Walking Dead. These books would cause my horrifying dreams to return; suddenly those feelings of terror were clawing their way out of the dark recesses of my mind once again. I found that the beauty of these books was not the zombies, who were just the catalyst for the horrific incidents that ensued, but the people and the survivors. Those who had so much more to them than the characters in the watered down replications of the old classics being spewed out at an alarming rate (ironically becoming a kind of zombie themselves).
The books focused on the human drama, the histories of the characters and how they impacted on the decisions each of them would make.
The final lines of World War Z really stuck with me, describing a world where we no longer teach our children to fear the undead but rather educate them about the disease and its effect, demystifying the monster that has haunted their dreams for so long. It was this that made me turn off the TV and start writing. Imagine a world where zombies hold no horrors and the real terror comes from having to live with the memories of past actions and events.
The other really important thing I am trying to achieve is to make the zombie more sympathetic, I mean these monsters used to be us. We should feel something for them when a bullet is put into one of these guys’ heads! For that reason I’ve tried to show an individual being consumed by the disease, a bit like a terminally ill cancer patient, and how him and his family cope (or not) with the inevitable conclusions. Fun huh! Now I realise this kind of story line isn’t a massive barrel of laughs so I have tried to offset the doom and gloom with the Gilliamesque character of the Pest Control Man, a down to earth white van man who sees himself as a kind of modern day cowboy (in the western sense, not the builder sense).