Dirty deeds . . .
Monsturd took years to complete and taught the duo scores about the capriciousness of the DVD distribution biz. Though one review dubbed it "the greatest movie that Troma never made," Popko and West actually turned down a deal with the famed schlock house, unwilling to sign over the rights to their film for 25 years. After hooking up with another distributor, they didn't see any money from their Blockbuster coup. Still, they remain proud of Monsturd and its success.
"We tried to make it the best movie we possibly could, but we had nothing," West explains. "We didn't piss it out in a weekend. It took a year to shoot it, then it took a year to put the thing together."
"We didn't just shit out a crappy movie, pardon the pun," Popko says.
Neither filmmaker seems concerned that their trash-tastic subject matter might prevent them from being taken seriously as artists. And it doesn't bother them that Monsturd's joke tends to overshadow the film itself — not just for viewers, but for critics, who were by and large polarized by the killer shit-man tale.
Popko also recalls unsuccessfully submitting Monsturd to a half dozen film festivals intended to showcase DV and underground flicks. Quickly pointing out that the film got picked up anyway, he blames image-conscious programmers: "It's like, how can you have a respectable film festival when you've got a shit monster movie playing in it?"
Though Popko and West live in San Francisco and filmed both Monsturd and RetarDEAD in Northern California, they say they don't feel like part of the San Francisco filmmaking scene. Again, they suspect the whiff of poo might have something to do with it.
"We've kind of been ignored," West says. "We're not bitter about it, but it would be nice to be acknowledged for what we're doing — we're making exploitation films, and we don't really have any guilt about what we're doing. It'd be nice for somebody to develop a sense of humor and acknowledge it once in a while."
. . . done dirt cheap
As with Monsturd, RetarDEAD is a nearly all-volunteer effort, pieced together when the responsibilities of real life permit. Despite the obstacles — say, a sudden insurance crisis involving a rented cop car — unpredictability is clearly part of the thrill.
"When you undertake this shit, it's an adventure: 'What did you do this weekend?' 'Well, I was chased by 42 zombies, and the weekend before that, a bunch of burlesque dancers ripped our villain apart and ripped his face off,’” West explains. "It's like, how else would you spend your free time?"
This sentiment extends to the film's cast, several of whom have known Popko and West for years and reprise their Monsturd roles in its sequel. Coming aboard for RetarDEAD were members of San Francisco's Blue Blanket Improv group, as well as the Living Dead Girlz, a zombie-flavored local dance troupe.