From Jaws to Nazi zombies - A conversation with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz director Kieran Parker | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

From Jaws to Nazi zombies – A conversation with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz director Kieran Parker

The Fan Carpet Chats To...
05 April 2014

To mark the conclusion of the Scottish home grown horror Outpost trilogy, The Fan Carpet‘s Paul Risker had the privilege to speak with Kieran Parker about his directorial debut which is both a start and an end point, Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz.

Kieran discussed with us his journey from terrified eight year old to writer-director-producer of a Nazi zombie trilogy, sharing with us his vivid memories of discovering horror, learning to appreciate cinematic masterpieces, encountering history, his journey to the director’s chair, and confronting the idea of living in a world without cinema.



Can you remember the moment you first discovered the horror genre?

The first time I saw Jaws 2. Being a child of the late seventies and early eighties parents didn’t understand the damage that horror movies could do. I remember watching Jaws 2 with my auntie God rest her, and in particular that scene when the head pops up out of the boat she had a hairy canary; she nearly dropped dead. I just remember being so scarred after watching it. This is how young I must have been – eight at the time – because I remember going to sleep in my sister’s bed. I’m surprised I’m not traumatised – perhaps I am. I can see it right now lying in bed absolutely desperate to go to the bathroom. The bedroom door was open, the landing light was on, and it was shining light into her room. The bedroom carpet was an ocean blue, and for the life of me despite being as desperate as I was, I wouldn’t get out because I was convinced a bloody shark was going to bite me in two. So that’s definitely my strongest memory of horror.

I also remember recording Alien off TV (on VHS) and then watching it from behind the sofa. Steve Barker who directed the first Outpost film remembers Alien as the classic piece of art that it is. It took me a while to come to that, in the same way that it took me time to warm to Apocalypse Now.  Of course now I appreciate it for the film that it is, but as much as I loved Alien back when I was nine, perhaps I didn’t pick up on the suspense and therefore the suspenseful masterpiece that it is. But certainly Jaws has all the visceral jumps you would want, and enough to scare an eight year old out of his bloody socks.


I understand your point about both of those films. They are two that mature and to leave a greater impression over time.

With Apocalypse Now I remember watching it round a friend’s house and thinking. Oh that bit with the helicopter attack is really cool, and then they spend a lot of time talking during which not a lot happens. There were so many films you were watching back then – First Blood, Conan the Barbarian, and a particular favourite of mine was How Sleep the Brave, which I was convinced was made in the heat of Vietnam but was in fact made in Dorset. It was a favourite to the extent that I dug it out on eBay, and I’ve got a VHS copy of it sitting downstairs in exactly the same cover that I remember.

I hate the fact that Blockbuster Video has gone and you can’t go to the video shop anymore to ponder and to have a look. I still buy DVDs if only because I like looking at them on the shelf. But I just miss those periods.

I remember a point when my parents realised I was a film geek, and if they were going out for the day or going away they would just give me a tenner and let me go to the video shop. I’d hire eight films and watch eight movies over two days. So they just became resigned to the fact that I was going to be this movie geek.


Where would we be without films?

I don’t know what I’d be doing. It’s a strange thought.

François Truffaut famously said, “I still ask myself the question that has tormented me since I was thirty years old: Is cinema more important than life?” I’m inclined to say yes.

He’s probably asking the wrong people because certainly a lot of things in life… I’m not saying particularly the life that I have, but there are those things in life that I either don’t care for or do not wish to learn about. There are the monstrosities that happen out in the real world, and I like the world that movies occupy. The most important thing is that if they are not very good you can turn them off and put something else on.

I’m incredibly lucky because I work with my wife; I work from home; I’ve got two great kids who I take to school every day and we just have a great setup. But we’ve worked incredibly hard for that – it’s our baby. We’ve got two kids and a film company. Whilst we are incredibly lucky it has taken passion and hard work. We’ve got many more films that we want to make and it’s something that we are passionate about, and so long may it continue.



Why do you think zombies are an enduring movie monster?

The whole zombie thing is primal, because at the back of everyone’s mind I do believe that there is a fear about zombies. If you look at how many zombie movies there are, and then you look to The Walking Dead which is probably one of the most successful television series there has been; people love them. The idea that some fucking lunatic is chasing you down the street, and if he gets hold of you then you are going to become like him is the ultimate game of catch. You’ve got to keep away from these guys, and it’s something that boils down to our primal fears.

Steve and I knew that when we were doing the Outpost films, and our zombies are not the screaming, plague ridden zombies of the 28 Days franchise or the Romero films. But there is still something primal there, and the undead and Dracula are both good examples. Dracula is the one character who has been reincarnated more times than any other in cinema. Whilst it taps into peoples primal fears, horror is something that translates well, and you have the international appeal of scary regardless of language.

With the Nazi presence in the Outpost films and the events of the 1930s and 1940s, the audience bring their own opinion to the table. Obviously there are the fucking idiots out there who dig all that stuff, but for us we knew how awful the Nazi’s were and to use their atrocities as a definition of character. It defines your bad guys from the start, and so for us as creators we used that device, because when the audience see something dressed up in Nazi gear, they instantly conclude that that’s a bad guy. Then when you make him a zombie it is an even quicker reaction. When creating and trying to communicate a character through the action, dialogue and costume, those benefits are significant.


Taking the director’s chair on Outpost 3, how invaluable was the experience of producing in preparing you for that step?

There are many ways you can step up to be a director, and I am convinced that my journey was one of the easiest ways of doing so. If you think it through, I wrote a treatment for a short film that was then turned into a feature film, which I produced two movies with, with my best friend directing, a very good friend writing and my wife and I producing. We’ve been through all the painful trials and tribulations of those two films. We lived through being on set every day of the first two Outpost films, and I have seen the success and the failures of all our own ideas on the big screen. We’ve shown them at FrightFest which is a terrifying experience.

You step back and you say, “Let’s do the third film.” You’ve already got the set built; you know the world, what works and what doesn’t work. You step back and you write that with a writer who’s already done exactly the same with the first two films, and then you say right, “I’m going to direct this.” It was such an easy transition, and I don’t mean easy in the fact that it just came naturally. What I mean is that it was a terrifying and incredibly hard experience, but my transition to director was incredibly privileged because I had done all that work beforehand. I realised that every day I spent on a movie set up until that point was contributing to my first days on set as a director. There are things I would change and do differently of course, but that’s what directing is all about. It’s about finding your feet, and working to be able to perfect your craft, which is important.


Where are you going next?

Arabella and I still produce together. We did Sunshine on Leith the same year as we did Outpost 3. We did a BBC drama last year called Castles in the Sky about the invention of radar with Eddie Izzard, which we co-produced and will be out in September. There are several projects we are working on, and we’ve got Steve Barker’s next film after the one he’s currently working on, which is a big vampire and genre film. We are just trying to increase the budgets and to be more ambitious. I’ve got a couple of films that I am working on as director – a big action and chase movie across the Highlands, and a Hong Kong set noir thriller. We’ve got plenty of stuff to go on and there are only two of us, plus an assistant, so it doesn’t take a lot for us to become rather busy. But we’ve got huge ambition, desire and drive, and we’ll see where we end up. There are a lot of other films that come to us, which is all great stuff. So producing is great; it’s a day to day process, but on the slower burn I love to direct. I don’t direct as much as I’d love to because it just takes so long – it’s an eighteen month period at best.  So it’s just keeping things ticking over.



Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz is available to own on DVD now courtesy of Entertainment One