Having directed the low-budget likes of THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE and CORPSES ARE FOREVER, Jose Prendes was approached by Asylum – producer of all things low-budget and brilliantly surreal – to write a script for MEGA SHARK VS MECHA SHARK. Yes, the star of the MEGA SHARK series is going up against his robotic equal! Not only that, Prendes is about to release the first of his Sharkpocalypse trilogy of novels, SHARCANO. Starburst got to cover all of these topics and a host more, including three simple words: Sharks. Zombies. Together.
Starburst: With Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, was that your idea or did Asylum approach you with the story concept?
Jose Prendes: Asylum approached me, and I tried to make sense out of it. But I feel that everyone at the studio, and the fans, knew the perfect direction to go in was a Mecha match-up.
What can we expect to see from the movie?
My goal was to deliver a unique and fun shark movie. You are always hampered by a low budget and limited elements, but if you focus on the characters and try and build the world up, you give the audience something else to focus on. Also you can expect to see a lot of Mega smashing into Mecha and vice-versa!
With the ‘out there’ idea of a giant robotic shark, did this cause any issues for yourself when writing the film? Did you have to do any research into robotic organisms and obey the laws of science or did you have free creative reign to do whatever?
I’ll be the first to admit that the premise on the surface is completely ridiculous and, yes, it was a bit difficult to reconcile it in any kind of logical way in the script. I had a few ideas that I really liked, but those got changed along the nine drafts I was asked to do. The version we have now is set in a world where the Mega has appeared before, so the government has been preparing for a second coming, much like what happened in Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 2. Also, contrary to popular belief, the Asylum is a stickler for research, so yes, I did base a lot of the film on actual technological developments and factual shark research.
The last decade or so has seen a plethora of crazier and crazier shark films. Do you think that there is anything that would be deemed too far or too much, or is it a case of the more bizarre the situation than the more enjoyment the audience can take out of it?
I think it would be a bit much if shark porn became a thing, but you never know. However, I think audiences like it crazy; it’s more fun that way. Does it make the subgenre disposable? Yes, frankly it does. We would all still love to see something primal and frightening like Jaws again.
We’re big fans of these ridiculous shark tales, but a lot of the general public scoff at some of the ideas in place. As a writer and director, does it irk you that some people refuse to leave logic at the door when watching these films and insist on viewing everything in such a serious way?
It’s funny because some people can love a brain-dead theatrical film, but pour copious amounts of hate on a TV movie, regardless of whether it’s, as you call it, a “ridiculous shark tale” or not. It is always frustrating and heartbreaking when an audience downplays your work and doesn’t appreciate it at the very least as entertainment. Despite what they might believe, we all care, and we all tried to make art. At least I tried, but the end result certainly wasn’t 100% up to me. However, I think director Emile Smith did a bang up job with the tools at his disposal.
What do you think is the next step for Mega Shark and for the shark subgenre?
Who knows where the hell they’ll go to next, but I hope they bring me back because my idea for part four is All Monsters Attack. But they might want Mega to fight a giant snake or something; they haven’t had that match-up yet. But whatever happens, I can tell you that Mecha HAS TO be a part of it!
Why do you think that the last decade or so has seen yet another boom in shark movies?
I have no clue, but I love sharks. They are the scariest thing in the world to me. Jaws has kept me safely on dry land since I saw it as a child. I’m just glad I get to indulge in my fear for fun. And with my new novel Sharcano, I got to really dig into my nightmares. I’m hoping it’s the start of a literary shark fiction boom, too!
Out of the shark movies to come along in the last 10 years, which ones are your personal favourites?
I loved Bait and I actually really enjoyed Ghost Shark, believe it or not.
And which ones did you think were just too bizarre and unworkable?
I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of the first two Mega Shark movies. I hope fans think my entry is an improvement, but who knows. I certainly tried my best to improve on the deficiencies I found in those entries.
You’ve written the Sharcano novel. Surely that has to be turned into a movie, right?
Sharcano was my attempt at telling a B-movie concept like Mecha or Sharknado, but in a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall way. Without having to worry about real world issues like budget, my goal was to write the baddest ass shark sci-fi horror thriller. I tell people it’s The Stand meets Jaws! As for the film version, that is up in the air. But we have one very huge producer taking a look at it right now with some very intense interest.
Having worked on the likes of Corpses are Forever, The Haunting of Whaley House, and Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, do you see yourself as contained to the horror genre and its subgenres?
Horror has really just been all that’s presented itself. Like all filmmakers, I’m a fan of everything. I don’t think any artist likes to consider themselves “contained”. But scary movies were my brother and sister when I was growing up as an only child, so I feel very comfortable in that world. If that is all I do for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t regret it.
On The Haunting of the Whaley House, what was it like to work with such a legend of the genre in Lynn Lowry?
Lynn was amazing! I was such a fan of hers from Shivers and I Drink Your Blood and The Crazies, then one day she reached out to me for a part in Whaley, because I was posting about the production on Facebook and we had been "friends". I sent her the script, because I just so happened to have a role that was perfect for her, and she loved it. It was a quick one day shoot, but I got to interview her in between setups for one of the special features. I tried not to geek out while directing her, and left it all for the interview. She was lovely and kind and brought a welcomed sense of connectivity to the world of genre films that I loved. I was working with one of my idols, someone who had worked with major horror guys I admired, and I felt like I was playing in the same playground.
What’s up next for you, and are there any other particular creatures or spooky elements that you’d like to tackle?
I’ve got a lot coming soon. I’ll be directing my fourth film in February called The Divine Tragedies, which is a surreal serial killer thriller based on the true crime case of Leopold and Loeb. I describe it to people as American Psycho meets Videodrome. Also, I’ve written a young adult novel called Elementary, My Dear Watson, which will be published in March and features the infamous Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as kids in boarding school where they supposedly first met and that’s the first in a series. Also, Sharcano is the first in a trilogy that I am calling The Sharkpocalypse Series. The second part of the trilogy is Sharks of the Living Dead, and yeah we are finally going to be able to see zombies fighting sharks. That one should be out around July, hopefully to compete with Sharknado 2. Also, if all goes well, my bloody spaghetti western script A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand will be finally going into production. It will be directed by Thomas Jane, who is also starring with Nick Nolte and Jeremy Irons.