Exclusive interview with Dave Wascavage, director of Suburban Sasquatch

Dave Wascavage has made some wild movies and that’s an understatement.

Working from eastern Pennsylvania, he’s brought mutant mushrooms (Fungicide), zombies on a home improvement show (Zombies By Design), aliens (Tartarus), demonic evil (Malevolent Ascent), reality TV ghost chasers (Adventures of the Haunted Hunted), creatures in the jungle (Infinities Lock) and of course, a bucolic Bigfoot (Suburban Sasquatch) to the screen originally via lo fi CGI and shot on video magic.

As Visual Vengeance prepares to release a new blu ray of Suburban Sasquatch, I had the incredible opportunity to speak with Dave about his movies, his inspirations and why he keeps on making films.

B&S About Movies: The first time I discovered all of your movies, I watched every single one of them in the same weekend.

Dave Wascavage: You watched them all in one weekend? Man, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe y’all survived.

B&S: When Visual Vengeance announced Suburban Sasquatch, there was a big reaction. There’s a lot of love for that movie.

Dave: It’s great. Actually, I feel almost embarrassed by it. I have recognition, but don’t know how to react (laughs)

It’s wonderful because I love the thought of people watching it, laughing and having a good time. That’s the coolest thing. I just love  that I can bring a little bit of brightness to the world and help people have a little bit of fun.

B&S: I think that it’s impossible to watch Fungicide or Suburban Sasquatch and be in a bad mood. They’re just a joy to watch. I really dislike when I read people discuss their budget or effects and wonder, does that matter? In the long run, if you need a movie to have a big budget or perfect effects, maybe you need to reevaluate watching genre movies.

Dave: For some people, maybe it takes you out of the film. Maybe you’re watching this and you feel like it’s too low budget or there wasn’t any real effort behind it. But I think to your point, it’s entertaining to just get caught up in what happens and if something so bonkers happens that you have to pause and laugh at the absurdity of it, that’s cool. Even if it was cheap, it pulled something off. It wasn’t a cardboard cutout, it was a little bit better and maybe we kind of pulled it off. (laughs)

B&S: My theory is that shot on video films are the last bastion of regional filmmaking. A place where movies could be made outside of Hollywood, anywhere by anyone because the equipment brought the ability to create art to anyone. And unlike big budget movies, you’re not getting notes from a producer, there’s no focus group and you’re not having to follow any format. It’s the same reason why I love Italian exploitation movies, because truly anything can happen. And I find that the same things happen in your films, too.

Dave: There’s a freedom that you get and I was very specific about wanting to pursue this my way. I was trying to explain to my daughter, it’s not that I’m a control freak. It’s just that from an artistic perspective, I have a vision. And I don’t want somebody telling me the lighting should be different here and change this line there. I wanted to see what would happen if I created this piece of art.

I love the perspective that the shot on video genre gave complete autonomy to the creator to create a piece of art that wasn’t subjected to anyone else’s vision. It wasn’t necessarily created for the sake of money. None of my films have been created for the sake of money. So I had the freedom to say well, I’m going to put in there what I think this means to me. And there’ll be some people that are entertained or some people that don’t care.

Even from the trailer, I had thought, “How do I make something that really makes you want to learn more, just like the cover of movie that was so well done?” As someone who rented a lot of movies in the 80s and 90s, I would seek out a film that had art that was enticing. There were so many films that would draw me in and I would enjoy watching them wondering how they made this movie on a limited budget. I never felt these low budget movies were lackadaisical or their creators didn’t care. They were obviously trying to bring their idea to fruition.

B&S: Genre films also depend on advertising and packaging so much more than other films.

Dave: There’s the title. There’s the image. And then when you flip it over, and I did all my films, I had to have something that made you go, “Okay, this is funny or this sounds like it’s cool.”

Like there’s going to be more than just what I see on the cover. I don’t want to be bored by the film. And there are so many movies that I go to some and watch on these streaming services that I tune out of in about four minutes. I’ll think to myself, I know exactly what’s going to happen. And it may look pretty and the music, acting and cinematography are amazing, but if if I know what’s going to happen and I don’t feel the emotion from people, it’s not going to be interesting.

B&S: I’m looking for the same high from movies as some people get from drugs. I want them to make me feel good.

Dave: It’s almost like a comfort food. You want to put that film in! Every October I go through my entire catalogue of horror movies and they’re ones — that whether they’re good or bad from anybody’s perspective — it’s a comfort for me to watch them because I know that beats. I know what they’re trying to get across. I know the emotional gravity and you are so connected to it. And you know, that feeling is going to come along and I think like you just said, it’s a serotonin release.

The funny thing was to me that not many people would like the films that I’d want to watch. I would say to somebody, “Wow, Halloween 3 was great.” And they’d be like, “Oh, that was terrible.”

And I think that’s why I’m always the odd one out. I always love the weird and on the fringe. If it was mainstream, it didn’t hit it very well. I loved different pieces of different movies. They always hit with me and they became the comfort ones. Maybe they’re the ones that I want to emulate with something. They’re super dramatic, sometimes overly over the top. Cool! When that happens, the movie resonates with you and it sticks with you. Like I really love Burial Ground.

B&S: What other movies influenced you?

Dave: Most people my age would probably say that they were heavily influenced by Star Wars — and I was greatly — because I do think Lucas does an amazing job with painting with light. I think he has an amazing sense of scale and operatic story. That drove me to make something grand. I thought I always have to make it as grand as possible.

You’ve got John Carpenter. I mean, not only was he an amazing musician, but his directing and his sense of holding and a sense of capability when it came to putting people in these situations and how they respond to it, what always amazed me was his writing.

Then there’s Lucio Fulci and the Italian films, like their zombie movies.

But one of the largest influences was George Romero, not that I was able to emulate anything of his style but a lot of films like Dawn of the Dead, where they are basically a metaphor for something in society but they don’t really hit you over the head with it.

I kind of want to send a message in my films. Or at least people pull a message out of the films, like they did with Suburban Sasquatch, but Tartarus was a little bit more in-depth on that sense. It really got me excited than that you could send that message. Again, art is subjective. Two people can look at the same piece of art coming with different feelings and different perspectives, but also draw a different conclusion.

So those folks really drove me to believe that something like that was possible with moving pictures. Obviously the ability to have a low budget and survive, you know, I go to people like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson who started off with doing low budget. So I would think if they can start somewhere, I knew I could start with at least some middle amount, get something done and call it a day.

B&S: What inspired Suburban Sasquatch?

Dave: Well, it’s like most things in life. It’s a confluence of multiple inspirations. First and foremost, I was always inspired and fearful of Bigfoot. So I grew up in the 70s, where TV shows were talking about Bigfoot and it was a frightful thing and you only had books in the library to learn more. There were no movies about it. I mean, if there was a movie with Bigfoot, they just had him scaring people by standing in a window. Nothing where he was violent.

I thought that would be interesting to do this. You know, it’s 2003. And I thought, if I could buy that, I would buy it. But since I can’t buy it, maybe I’ll make it. (laughs)

I was just prepping Fungicide. I thought: “Okay, well, if I’m going to shoot one more movie, and I could put the money towards it, what would it be? And it’s either going to be Bigfoot or zombies.”

So they’ll all go for Bigfoot first. That would be a cool thing to tackle. So I wrote three scripts, you know, from the first script to a sequel then a third movie. I figured that if I ever came back to it, I wouldn’t have to write it. I would get the same momentum, tempo and ideology. And then getting people interested wasn’t hard to do people. They had seen me do Fungicide or heard me talk about it.

By the time the film started shooting, I didn’t turn people away. Everybody wanted to be a part of this because they were all fascinated by the idea of shooting a Bigfoot movie in the neighborhood. And the name just comes from that!

You know what everybody hears Bigfoot but Sasquatch is rarely used and it’s more closely tied to the Native American legend. So had to go into Suburban Sasquatch into areas where you never seen these monsters coming into, because the message of the film was about encroachment on natural areas and how our predatory behaviors are chasing out animals. And then obviously the sasquatch is going to be a defender of that area. So Suburban Sasquatch, there we go.

B&S: How did you get the cast that come together? Was this mostly friends or did you put a call out?

Dave: At the end of Fungicide, all these people had seen it and almost everybody would end up saying, “Oh my gosh, can I be in your next film?” And this was before streaming. So the more people that got to see it, the more I was excited because I thought, “Hey, look at this, what would you do different to try and learn from it?”

I wanted to be a little more serious with some of the actors because I had my friends and family who are willing to be a part of it, but I started putting out casting calls and I wanted to see what happen because I really wanted somebody who was different. Someone who had a different look than what I had seen before. I was actually interviewing a lot of models and actresses and I thought I really want to hit that one on the head as close as possible to what I described and then I just had more and more people coming and wanting to be alone.

For example, tthe role of Steve was played by Juan Fernandez. He came in, interviewed and he actually tried to be cast for different roles but everything was cast. He got the small bit part of a few lines. And after he read, I’m like, “Damn, this guy can act.” And I thought about it and said, “Why don’t you take the role of Steve?” I was going to do it, but it’d be better if you did it because you act better than I would. Plus, it gave me more of a chance to direct instead of being in front of the camera. He nailed it.

So by getting the word of mouth around and when people heard about it, that always helps sell your concept and your idea. I always tell people, “Look, this just may go nowhere. Thirty people may see it, but I will try my best to get it distributed to get recognition. And now here we are, right eighteen years later and we’re still talking about it.”

B&S: Now a whole new audience is about to see it.

Dave: I’ve been fortunate that I’ve gotten several deals over the years where it’s been in different countries and in different formats. It’s had some streaming success, but through Visual Vengrance putting this out, they’ve done an immaculate job on the packaging. They were so amazing to work with on the upscaing and the rescaling and getting the materials together. It’s so phenomenal because a lot of it is technical in nature and the technology has greatly improved since 2004. So in anticipation of my next films, I had to learn a lot more and try and get ready for HD upscaling. But they did an outstanding job and it’s wonderful to think that the audience for it is going to grow.

B&S: Your movies seem like family affairs.

Dave: I would say that I truly believe that my family wants to see me happy. I truly believe my family gets a kick out of being involved but not one of my family members is like, “Oh yes, I really want to be in front of the camera or behind it and get this thing done.” They’re all like, “Yeah, we’ll help you out for a day we’ll have some fun.”

I think they just want to see me be successful. And that’s the most you can ask of anybody, right? I mean, they’re dedicating their time to either be in front of her behind the camera or cooking or logistics. Like my wife Mary, I’ve relied on her for reviewing the screenplays and passing some scenes by her to get her take on things. You really can’t work in a silo. You have to have some kind of input to see if it’s going down a path and someone to challenge your vision because if something’s not clear to them, well then maybe you have to go back to describing it in a different way.

I’ve been blessed with with both family and friends wanting to have fun and be a part of it. And they’ll always want to offer more and I’ll say, “No, no, you’ve done enough!” Like I would love more help, but I feel bad asking you so because it’s been very wonderful having them help out.

B&S: You made Fungicide before Suburban Sasquatch. How did that happen?

Dave: I shot some very short films from 1987 through 1997 which were like two minutes long. And then I always thought to myself, it would always been a lifelong dream to shoot a full-length film. But I started to get into CGI graphics back then — really rudimentary and I’m talking about okay, I’m able to make titles appear on a screen or I’m able to make you know a really badly animated basketball — and I thought, “Well, if I can do this, what if I made a full-length film that didn’t rely on CGI but relied on really, you know, really poorly made products?” Because I can’t make props. (laughs)

So I actually had some time free and I said to Mary, “Why don’t we put like, you know, under $50 down, we’ll buy the equipment for the props. I have an idea for a really dumb film. And the great thing about it is the film concept is it’s so dumb that if Hollywood stole it from us, well, what are we going to lose?”

$150 budget, you know, that was our business model. So I wrote a treatment. Mary came in and she added some lines and modified some things. We got people together for a weekend and shot it. And then when it was done, we added five more minutes and crossed the line for a full-length film. Then you just spend a lot of time in post-production cleaning up and trying to make it look as best you can and getting by with what you could.

The whole idea was, “How can I drag it over the finish line and say it done?”

How can I get enough people can look at it and say, “I just watched the movie.” That was really the goal.

B&S: I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but it seems like you do a funny movie and then you do something really dark like Tartarus.

Dave: This is why I didn’t want to shoot a sequel to Suburban Sasquatch for a long time. I was really going to shoot around 2015, but then I kept thinking I don’t want to fall into a trap where I’m like the costume movie guy. Like it’s always a prop costume. So when the idea of Tartarus came up, I was really intending on making a 15 minute film to send to festivals, but I wanted to test out a brand new camera that had great depth of color. So I said to Juan, who stars in the film, “What about this idea, you know, it’s 15 minutes…” and he was all in.

As he read the the script, he said “This is really cool. I can do a lot with the character. There’s a lot I don’t know about his past and what he’s done here.”

And I said, “I have to hold that thought.”

So a week later, I come back with a fully fleshed script. And I thought that this movie is a good way to go outside of what I’ve done before to show people that I am more than just the costume movie guy and to try some of that with as little dialogue as possible. We gave him a little more of a voice and some more diaogue and it grew from there.

That’s why from Tartarus to Zombies by Design, I wanted to create almost a comical movie thats a throwback to 50s mad scientist movies, punctuated by short blasts of music, that’s almost goofy but also creepy.

I just want to try something new and different. I don’t feel like I want to repeat what’s out there when I do that. I’d become stale or it’s easy to compare my movies against others and see where my shortcomings are. (laughs)

B&S: Zombies by Design has a moment that feels like something right out of Fulci, the cameraman is about to get attacked by the zombies and instead of running, he just stares at them and gets eaten!

Dave: Thank you. That’s actually one of the best compliments I’ve got! I appreciate that because that was in the back of my mind as we were running it. I wanted the cocnept of the zombies — you know at this point, Walking Dead wasn’t on yet — this was a homage to what Romero and the Italian filmmakers did with dhambling zombies. It was just slow. It wasn’t something that was rushing to get you. It wasn’t like 20 Days Later where it was this virus. That was a new trope not to throw shade against it, but it was just wasn’t what I wanted to go for. And I really want to take the time to play this cartoonish end of the spectrum with the bad guys because it keeps the zombies separate. It keeps them as being this thing that’s out there slow and it’s unstoppable, relentless, but it will get there.

B&S: I think you do something really difficult and that’s walk the tightrope between horror and comedy.

Dave: Thank you, I would say — I mean if I look at every film I’ve done, — I try and pull one or two pieces out of it that I would say I’m proud of that, I’m okay with everybody criticized the other end, but the one that would hit two things on Zombies by Design that I did that I feel I would be hurt if people didn’t like the music because I really worked hard on that soundtrack and I was really happy with that. But also on the writing, I thought it was a neat idea. I love the concept and I love the comedy but I have to say I’m a little worried I was too much on the nose of the comedy. As I age, I look at comedy differently. I always like dry humor so I’m not sure if it was too over the top or some of the comedy got missed.

It’s very hard to get comedy right! You have to have good timing ,  good understanding that the joke and and all these films you have to run fast when it’s a lot of stuff! You have to say okay, it’s good enough, just keep going.

B&S: I think Malevolent Ascent is — and I mean this as a compliment — almost a movie like someone who lives close to you, M. Night Shyamalan, a movie that takes a confined area and a concept and runs with it. It’s a lo-fi version of one of his big concept — and big budget — movies.

Dave: Thank you. It was tough in that it was a very much a big departure from all the other films. There really wasn’t much humor in it. I felt like it was my most darkest because the character that you know ends up being the bad guy in the film, I really felt like it was close to being human in that sense that I don’t like making real human people that do violent acts. I just I like the supernatural type of thing. So that kind of bugged me but I felt like if I could get the story and script right, I felt like I could shoot it. But yeah, certainly nowhere near M. Night’s money-filled pockets. Nor his capability and skill set.  (laughs)

It’s another low budget “ket’s see what we can pull off here” movie.

B&S: You said there was a deeper message in it.

Dave: Spoiler warning, if you haven’t seen it yet. There are wo aspects, one which is as we see the character in the beginning who is ultimately going to be the bad guy, he’s just unconscious and I wanted the idea that evil starts out very simple. And it’s not as black and white as someone who’s terrible. This is someone who just basically fell downhill through their life. They had many things going wrong. So I wanted to be sympathetic toward people that fall into that trap and people do need help.

But the other part was that the concept of the film is to always climb. Always be striving, always survive no matter how bad you hear things are on the outside world. In this case, they all thought it was a nuclear attack. And, you know, as they got out, they didn’t know what the outside world was going to look like.

No matter what you must always try to survive and keep going every day. Just make one more day because you do not know what’s on the other side.

I was either going to have an end with, they come out and it really wasn’t nuclear attack, or they came out and they found that everything was fine. But I wanted to leave it ambiguous.

B&S: It goes back to Dawn of the Dead. It doesn’t spell it all out for you. In fact, the zombies could have been caused by anything from a probe from space to a virus to Hell coming to Earth.

Dave: Literally my favorite part of that movie is the first five minutes of it! It starts off in a TV station and there’s chaos and you hear people talking over each other and you as a viewer, you’re trying to figure out what’s actually being said and should I listen? It’s clear that nobody knows what it is and where it came from or even how far it’s been happening. That is as close to real panic and a real world situation as you’re going to get! No matter what people think that their government is going to help them or there’s some authority or people know what’s going on, it’s just chaos and they’re trying to maintain control. And that was so real.

That set the groundwork for that movie being completely frightening.

B&S: It was strange over the last few years with the pandemic and January 6 and war coverage how much of the 24/7 news cycle feels like the beginning of that movie.

Dave: There’s so many perspectives on it. I tend to be a very pragmatic scientific person. So the first thing I always go to is what information evidence do we have to go on? What’s actually taking place and I break things down in a very methodical way.

So that shows itself in the films but you see real world events, right? You can look at what’s happening over in the war in Ukraine now and you wonder what the heck is going on? Where did where did people seem to lose our sense of direction and our connectedness and our togetherness and it feels like we’re bordering right on the edge of chaos so many times. It’s frightening, but I sometimes, I have to ignore that to do things that make people feel good and positive. We have to support and listen and be sympathetic and peaceful as much as possible, despite my films probably showing the opposite, right? (laughs)

B&S: What’s next?

Dave: I think it’s okay to say but Suburban Sasquatch 2 and 3 are written and ready to go. I just need to get the time together and work on more the costumes. This is probably the first I’m mentioning out but Fungicide 2 is also written and that’s ready to shoot. There’s another horror film but I can’t mention the title because the title itself is just amazing. It’s been in gestation since 1998. Probably it’s finally gonna get see the light of day. And the problem I’d say is like the problem with Fungicide 2 is that I had a script last year. But after rereading it, I’m like, “Wow, that’s actually good to throw it away because clearly Fungicide isn’t very good. So I can’t put out something this good. It’s got to be dumbed down quite a bit because we can’t have quality for Fungicide 2. (laughs)

A visual aid for readers too young to have ever seen a blacklight poster.

B&S: I have to tell you, I love your CGI. I referred to it as “70s blacklight posters from Spencers.” I’d rather have what you do than perfect CGI. It sets up the mood of Fungicide so well.

Dave: That’s a huge compliment. The e funny thing is I think people probably look at it and say “My gosh, goodness guy, pay money or have something better done!” Well at the time, that was the best I can do. And I couldn’t reach anybody that could do CGI better but literally, like when you see flames exploding around a mushroom, I literally just learned it that day or the day before so it doesn’t look refined or real because that’s the best I can do. And when you’re making these movies, if I spend 50 hours on making perfect flame effects, that’s 50 hours less on editing, music, cinematography, color and script. There’s so many things that need work, you got to just cut your losses on some of them!

For Fungicide, I was even thinking maybe in the end of the movie, I’ll have some explanation where they’re holograms, which is why they look so fake. Then I said, “To heck with it!” (laughs)

I have a question for you. Let me ask you about in the big fight scene at the end of that ovie. What were your thoughts on that? Did you feel like it was too long? Should it have been different?

B&S: I loved it! I mean, I’m a lover of martial arts movies and fight scenes, so I thought it was a lot of fun.

Dave: Good, I love it too. But so many reviews are like, “The fight at the end is too long.” And I wonder, did you notice how fake the papier-mâché head looked?

B&S: The scene with the balsamic vinaigrette grenade in that movie is the hardest I’ve laughed in so many years.

Dave: That’s all my wife, Mary. When she says, “It’s a hobby,” looking straight ahead, I mean, she just knew how to hit the beat on that line. Now that’s comic timing!

I’m glad that I get to do this. I want to entertain people. If they laugh, and they think this film is stupid, but they had a good time laughing at it, I’m thrilled to death I really am.

I want to make the world just a little bit of a brighter place.

Want to hear even more from me and Bill from Drive-In Asylum?

We’re on the commentary track for the blu ray of Suburban Sasquatch from Visual Vengeance in August!

Select Bonus Features:

  • New 2021 Commentary by Director David Wascavage
  • Commentary from Sam Panico of B&S About Movies and Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum
  • Includes full RIFFTRAX version of the movie
  • Archival Behind The Scenes Featurette
  • Making The CGI for Suburban Sasquatch
  • From The Director’s POV: Archival Interviews
  • Limited Edition Slipcover designed by Earl Kessler FIRST PRINTING ONLY
  • Collectible Mini-poster
  • “Stick your own” VHS sticker set and more!

For more details on the label and updates on new releases – as well as news on upcoming releases – follow Visual Vengeance on social media – IG, Facebook or twitter

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