New World Horror

The teaser poster for "New World Horror."

They’re coming for you. They can’t be stopped. And they want to eat your brains — and get their tax cuts.

Some intemperate Wisconsin liberals have painted their conservative Tea Party neighbors as “right-wing zombies.” So filmmaker Adam Schabow is just taking that literally with his first horror movie, “New World Horror.”

Schabow plans to start shooting the film in Janesville in May, but already he’s getting push back from conservative commentators who, not surprisingly, aren’t too crazy about being portrayed as brain-eating undead.

“It is of course a free country and Mr. Schabow can create whatever movie, with whatever message, he wants,” Collin Roth wrote for the Right Wisconsin blog. “But there is something a bit gross and unsettling about a man with Schabow's assumptions and prejudices making a movie that depicts a popular American political movement (one which includes tens of thousands of Wisconsinites) as bloodthirsty, brain-dead, killers.”

In the film, the participants at a Tea Party rally turn into zombies and chase a group of ordinary citizens into a church, where they barricade themselves against the undead threat.

Schabow says the film, co-written with Jason Dean and Joshua James, is pro-labor and pro-education (one of the heroes is a teacher), and the idea was partially inspired by his frustration with Wisconsin politics. But he insists it’s not just about the Tea Party.

“I was sick of the extremism on both sides,” he said. “Obviously we’re having some fun with the Tea Party, but really it’s about both sides.”

Producer Sarah Bartash notes that the eight victims barricaded in the church represent a cross-section of Wisconsinites, including an old-school Republican (played by Schabow’s father).

“We have people of different races, different religions, different age groups, different political views,” Barash said. “Adam and all of us kind of agree that we think that’s a very Wisconsin thing.”

“It is such a purple state, you know?” Schabow added. “Only in Wisconsin would somebody vote in Ron Johnson and also vote in Tammy Baldwin.”

And, in fact, horror movies have a long history of smuggling in political messages among with the scares. John Carpenter’s “They Live” was a wry satire of Reagan-era politics, while one of Schabow’s favorite zombie films is George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” which wickedly satirizes consumerism by being set at a shopping mall.

“One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that it wasn’t preachy at all, and that it wasn’t any sort of propaganda piece,” Schabow said. “That we’re hitting things from all angles.”

Schabow says that first and foremost he wants to make a good, fun horror movie, and wants the film’s production values to be as high as possible, using good local actors and the best camera equipment he can afford. The film will be shot in black-and-white, which Bartash said is both an homage to Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead" and a visual representation of the stark polarization of the characters.

The IndieGogo campaign to raise $5,000 for the film has topped $1,000, and there’s a fundraising concert set for May 31 at the Frequency, featuring The Blowtorches and Gran Fury.

Schabow doesn’t seem too surprised that there might be some conservative critics of his film. Although he thinks once they see it, most Tea Partiers might actually dig it.

And, he says, he’d be happy if some conservative-minded filmmaker made a mirror-image film with an army of Occupy Wall Street undead invading America.

“I would pay to see it, I would,” he said. “There’s satire to be done there. There’s satire to be done with any subject.”


Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.