Fans of SYFY’s delightfully cheesy B-movies like Sharktopus and Sharknado, rejoice. This weekend, the network debuts its latest offering in the genre: Zombie Tidal Wave. The title pretty much says it all.
(Mild spoilers below.)
Director Anthony C. Ferrante is the mastermind behind the hugely popular Sharknado and its five (count ’em!) sequels—it’s a franchise that now even has a theme park attraction in Malaysia called Sharknado Alive. So what’s this latest movie about? The trailer (embedded above) reveals a few details. A mysterious substance oozes out from the ocean floor, and suddenly hordes of the undead are swimming to the surface, popping up in the shallows off a local beach to snack on some unsuspecting sunbathers just trying to enjoy the day.
And then… ZOMBIE TIDAL WAVE! Yes, it’s a zombie pandemic, and “rogue veteran sea captain” Hunter Shaw (Sharknado franchise star Ian Ziering) is just the man to fight the monsters off and figure out what’s causing the pandemic in the first place. He’s aided by a few plucky locals from the fictional town of Emrys Bay, and it’s a safe bet that not all those locals will survive.
When Ziering approached Ferrante about making Zombie Tidal Wave, the director was immediately intrigued by the fun, silly title, even though he’d never made a zombie movie before. “I love the genre,” he said. “So I thought, let’s make a zombie movie first and foremost.” The film was shot over 18 days in Thailand late last year, and it mostly takes place during the day. In light of that, Ferrante chose to play up the 1980s feel, particularly the style of Italian horror director Lucio Fulci (aka the Godfather of Gore).
Given his budget constraints, “We can’t achieve the things that World War Z does, or The Walking Dead,” said Ferrante. “We don’t have $200 million and we don’t have 100 days to shoot. But we can do really graphic gore and make it fun. It takes place in modern day, but if you’re a fan of these movies, you’re going to notice a lot of little nods [to the ’80s].” There’s a character named Blaine (Lincoln Bevers), for instance—”We needed a douchebag, and Blaine is the quintessential 1980s douchebag name”—who sports a pink polo shirt and teal blue sweater despite the heat on set in Thailand. Think preppy Miami Vice.
Zombie Tidal Wave really does dial-up the gore-factor, an unusual choice for SYFY even if the network has been known to produce edgier fare in the past (for instance, its raunchy 2017 grindhouse homage, Blood Drive). About 95% of the gore on-screen was done with practical effects rather than CGI—like the moment when someone’s head explodes, spewing brain matter out the back. Blood has long been simulated on-screen with corn syrup and food coloring, of course, combined in this case with chunks of material in a pressurized blood rig. “We thought we were going to be trimmed by the network, but they said it was fine,” said Ferrante.
“At the end of the day, I just want people to go into it having a good time.”
Most of the boating scenes were filmed onsite, along with a few dives to get some footage of sunken ships. On the first day of shooting, the crew actually got stranded at sea when the boat’s anchor got stuck. The blue-tinged zombie makeup also posed a challenge, not just because Thailand is hot and humid, but the monsters are often in the water. And because of the brutal shooting schedule, some scenes at the end of the day were pretty much done in one take—like the scene where actress Tatum Chiniquy, who plays Sam, is hiding from a zombie in the closet and the zombie smashes its head through the door. “We broke once or twice for the door [effect], but that was essentially a continuous take,” said Ferrante.
That ended up being a bonus, according to Ferrante. It kept the actors on their toes and in the moment, lending an immediacy and spontaneous energy to the final film. “It’s supposed to be silly, it’s supposed to be fun,” said Ferrante. “At the end of the day, I just want people to go into it having a good time. I don’t think there’s any shame in trying to have fun.”
Zombie Tidal Wave premieres on SYFY Saturday, August 17 at 9pm ET/8pm CT. It’s part of SYFYs “Off the Deep End Weekend,” which means you can also binge all the Sharknado movies, plus Sharktopus and a bunch of other campy shark movies for good measure.
Listing image by SYFY