The Movie Waffler Interview - FACE OF EVIL Director Vito Dinatolo | The Movie Waffler

Interview - FACE OF EVIL Director Vito Dinatolo

Vito Dinatolo
Six years after he first started work on it, filmmaker Vito Dinatolo unleashes his terrific zombie horror movie Face of Evil upon the world.

face of evil poster

You only need to do a quick google search to see just how much of an icon Jamie Bernadette has become. What do you attribute to that to?

I wish I could attribute it to the success of Face Of Evil, but Jamie has done her own homework and made a bunch of movies, so her success is only her merit. Maybe F.O.E. is going to boost her up even more now haha!

How did she get involved in the film?

Just casting. No connection whatsoever; I chose her over hundreds of candidates. I viewed a couple of thousand people online and auditioned most of them in person, only to select a few good men and women of good will and plenty of talent, to enlist in this mission. Auditions took four months, but it was fun, especially finding the right face for all characters. It was great to see how the characters finally took shape and matched exactly the idea I had in my mind, and how I wrote it in the script.

The cast is my best asset in this movie. That's important, especially when you write/option a character based script, with well shaped personalities. I like character based stories. If you notice, the most memorable movies are character based. Once you know the story, it's no big deal anymore, but if the story is based mostly on the characters and not just on their actions, we will never get bored of watching those scenes, because we are no longer interested in the story, but in their character; you want to meet them, hang out with them, say the same lines with them. Those movies are evergreen, some become cults. That's why casting is so important.

And is she a big reason people are now discovering the film – six years after you made it?

Six years from the very beginning, not after I finished it. Let me digress about production. The first draft was quick, about a month - I wanted to make a horror film and zombies were my favourites. But I needed a realistic background, with dynamics justified by plausible causes, thus him being a war vet, the mysterious vial he brings back, and all other possible causes of this mysterious epidemic, including conspiracies. So I wrote a 70 minute story, plain horror/action, many zombie chases, lots of blood, but also comedy. Shortly after, zombie-mania exploded, catapulting the zombie genre into the mainstream, which, along with the boom of affordable HD video and DSLR cameras, stimulated the production of zombie movies, with the downside of a rising genre inflation, as all kind of zombie titles were popping out, you name it!

I had no intention to waste the following years of my life making just another stupid zombie movie, so I thought I should add a psychological element to it, with a final twist, which lead me to re-write the script from Jay's (the lead) perspective (it will make more sense after you watch the movie, and when/if you watch it again).

Bottom line, to get to the final draft it took me about a year, as I was also cutting down on blood and extras for budget reasons. I wrote the script thinking about production and my budget. Since the first half of the story takes place in a house, and the second half has different locations and characters, I split production in two parts; this way it was easier and cheaper to shoot over time, but it took way longer. Also, the story takes place in one night, so there were real zombies on set falling asleep. In the first half, the house itself was used as both set and camping ground for actors getting make up and waiting for their scene. The second half, on different locations, was even campier, but cast and crew was smaller and easier to manage. Despite that, the vibe on set was always great, because they all liked the story and they wanted to be part of it, so they all got along.

Was there ever a time when the film wasn’t going to be done independently, with fresh faces, and a gun-for-hire directing? Can you imagine that version?

I was always supposed to be the director. That was the whole point, that's why I wrote it. It was supposed to be a bigger budget, but instead of waiting on people I decided to cut the budget and slightly change the script, for the better, like it happened. Same thing with the cast, instead of keeping searching, querying etc, I did casting myself and discovered a few great unknown (back then) talents, such as Jamie Bernadette, Janet Roth, Scott Baxter, Chad Bishop, the ex hardcore talent Charmane Star and many more. Best cast ever. I was able to do that since horror does not necessarily need star power behind it, and it's always marketable.

Are there other benefits to doing a film independently, without studio involvement, other than getting to captain the ship?

Being the captain does not mean calling action and cut for fun, but being involved in every single aspect of the film, without ever having to report to your producers for content or time restrains. I guess those are already many good reasons.

What films or filmmakers inspired Face of Evil?

I was stylistically inspired by masters like Leone, Carpenter, Kubrick, Scorsese, Tarantino, Bava. To give a quick idea, Evil Dead meets Jacob's Ladder meets 28 Days Later.

Did you frame or shoot certain scenes as a homage to those films or filmmakers?

The desert scene towards the end, is a pure homage to Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. I hope people will realise it and appreciate it.

The film features an amazing performance by Ms Bernadette, among others. Had all of your cast worked before – anyone that was a ‘discovery’ of yours?

Well, any of my cast that will do well, are in part my discovery.

And they all didn’t shy away from doing anything? All brave?

All great men and women of good will!

How important to you is sound?

Sound is 50% of the film, so it's very important. I did the sound design, as sound is another passion of mine, and the film won an award for that at the Silicon Beach Film Festival. Music is another important asset in this film and hopefully it will stand on its own and have a commercial value. I wanted to have a soundtrack you can listen to and appreciate independently from the movie. I also wanted a variety of genres, since the movie goes from a house party to thrilling moments.

Since I already had specific ideas in my mind, and since music is another passion of mine, I scored part of the movie, but for many scenes I was able to licence songs from artists I already knew and appreciated, like the awesome psychedelic rock/electronic band Gram Rabbit; the versatile hip hop artist Kid Hustle (aka John Rhymes) who also plays a cop in the movie; Raven Hughes, who performs one song live in a scene and kills it. All great artists who add to the movie soundtrack. Like with my cast, I couldn't be happier with the music.

Face of Evil is on DVD/VOD now from Gravitas Ventures.