I’m a big fan of The Reapers Are the Angels, a book by Alden Bell (pen name of New York author, Joshua Gaylord). It’s a soulful southern gothic-style novel that follows a girl slaying zombies with a Gurkha knife in a spare and gorgeously post-apocalyptic world. So imagine how excited I was when I discovered that the book’s journey was only just the beginning. It appears that Reapers is finding its way to the big screen via interactive cyber snippets on the web. I’m now avidly following an unusual story that begins with the backwards inspiration of a song in search of an idea, and a book-to-movie in development, blossoming out of a series of digital videos. It goes like this:
Chris Milk is the guy behind the interactive Arcade Fire video, The Wilderness Downtown, and The Johnny Cash Project, among other things. If you haven’t seen The Johnny Cash Project, it’s an incredibly cool construction-in-process of Johnny Cash’s final music video using frames from over 250,000 collaborators in 172 countries and counting. It’s amazing and definitely worth checking out.
Milk was intrigued by Danger Mouse and composer Daniele Luppi’s recent concept album, Rome (with Jack White and Norah Jones), inspired by Ennio Marricone’s music and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. The album has been floating around as a soundtrack without a movie, so Milk looked for a story to fit the music. Milk found Rome’s match in Reapers, making this an unusual, synergistic, and gloriously backwards way to start making a first full-length film adaptation of a book.
I’m thrilled that Reapers is finally getting the film treatment it deserves, and in such a creative way, via the web. In the book, the zombie slayer heroine named Temple sees magical bits of beauty in a death-splattered frontier (things like “disco-lit fish in the shallows”). Now imagine these disco-lit fish, digitally illuminated and transferred to the big screen, then hum the feeling of a Sergio Leone film while envisioning Terrance Malick-meets-Faulkner, blazing through The Walking Dead and starring a seriously hard-edged Buffy wielding a giant knife. Sounds intriguing, yes?
Likely Story Productions optioned the rights to the book and teamed up with Annapurna Pictures to make the movie. Although it is not yet in production, Milk has designed a series of web-based interactive videos using Google Chrome as a sort of techno-storyboarding process to create an animated and conceptual feel for the film. I’m hoping this film goes into development pronto, but the gap in production gives us some time to follow the i-storyboarded breadcrumbs, read the book, listen to the soundtrack, and get into the stunningly spare and elegant spaghetti western-ized zombie-slayer mood.