Child Bite VS. The Rat Rebellion: Behind the Scenes with Director/Writer Ryan Oliver

If you’re a fan of creature features and wily noise rock, the music video for Child Bite‘s “Vermin Mentality” is 7+ minutes of smirk-inducing gonzo mayhem. The cut off this year’s Negative Noise (from Housecore Records) is pure, filthy exuberance, and the video matches that energy while impishly winking through the splashing blood.

At the video’s helm is Ryan Oliver of Deathblow Productions, a Windy City company that has paired the loud ‘n’ heavy with striking visuals in videos for both The Atlas Moth and Lair of the Minotaur. Starring horror favorite Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects), the video slyly references 70s eco-horror creature feature The Food of the Gods (starring ex-evangelical preacher Marjoe Gortner). So that means giant killer rodents, a tour van full of explosives and weaponry, and the opportunity to watch Moseley sip from a beaker of rat tears.

Break out your rat traps and check out Child Bite’s “Vermin Mentality” video below. After the dust and blood settles, read thoughts from Deathblow Productions director/writer Ryan Oliver on the video’s production process, his “big four” film influences, and his plan for a bat-shit feature directing debut.

The video reminded me of a Frank Henenlotter version of The Food of the Gods with a Looney Toons sensibility. How did the concept of the video and its giant rats develop?

Ryan Oliver: Indeed it is a hat tip to The Food of the Gods. [Child Bite vocalist/guitarist/founder] Shawn Knight gave me their new album (Negative Noise) in advance and the song title for this video triggered images of this movie and started making me chuckle long enough to invest in the idea. We had just 11 days between the time we settled on a concept and when the band was going to be in Chicago during their tour, so my team and I made giant rat props and prepped for stage production in the back of our shop. The laboratory sequence and the miniature sequences were their own productions with great time lapses between the three shoots.

What was it like working with Bill Moseley, and how did he become attached to the project?

Oliver: The band has a celebrity in each of their videos, we were fortunate enough to have Shawn and Housecore secure Bill for us. I’m a huge admirer of his work, so I can say that this unabashedly was a great personal milestone for me. My Deathblow merch table was next to Bill’s at the last Horror Fest and I got to talk to him a bit and get all my fanboy bullshit out of the way, which put me more at ease in a professional setting. He was a total gent on set and improvised a lot of funny stuff; it was hard to pick which take of his to use in the final cut. You can see some of that in the outtakes during the end credits.

One of the biggest video/film production suggestions is to avoid working with animals and children. What was it like working with your cast of rats?

Oliver: This is a The Food of the Gods-influenced piece, but I have a love/hate relationship with that film due to the very clear cruelty to it’s animal talent. We took great measures to take care of our critters. In LA, we rented a massive amount of rats for the lab set from a fish and rodent breeder who was right across the street from location. That wall of steel cages in the lab was filled with rats in every cage, but they all ran to the back of the cages even though we were feeding them the priciest chow we could find. We were adamant about good conditions for the live rats. Now in Chicago, the rats from the miniature set came from my friend Colin at Crosstown Exotics, which we sourced from his rat guy. On miniature day, Colin showed up to set not only with the rats, but also a 14-foot Python, a monitor lizard, and a giant iguana since they were coming right from some educational zoo gig. You could say there were “rat-motivators” all over the set. It was an awesome day, even with a bit of waiting here and there. I learned their first instinct is to run and hide, but eventually they get hungry and you just rub peanut butter on their cue markers to keep them in place. [There were a] couple things they did I wouldn’t have expected, and some things turned out better than I would have thought. Also worth noting: Three of our rats were adopted on set into loving homes from cast and crew and spared the “serpent’s jaws.” As for the no kids/animals practice, it seems like a silly rule born from lack of ambition. I don’t subscribe to it. A lot of awesome movies wouldn’t exist if there was any weight to that.

How collaborative were the guys in Child Bite during the pre-production process and the shoot?

Oliver: Very cool band to work with, love those dudes. Once we agreed on the general premise they let me do my thing and they gave me lots of time to do it. This concept was more grandiose than we expected it to be in the beginning. The band was very patient with me as the video grew bigger and more ambitious all the time. I’m glad they allowed it to keep growing from a music video into the weird short film it ended up being.

What are some of your major film-making influences?

Oliver: John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rod Serling. I have a tattoo on my leg of those dudes getting killed by their own movies. Those are my “big four” of the film world. Beyond that I love old sci-fi, Shaw Brothers, William Friedkin, Coffin Joe, Jodorowsky, Kenneth Anger, Jim Henson, Tarantino, and the list goes on.

You’ve produced videos for The Atlas Moth and Lair of the Minotaur as well. When and how did your interest in heavy music begin?

Oliver: I always loved metal and any music with high energy, big stakes, and great power. As the years went by I began to befriend more and more musicians. I have a much lower percentage of film friends compared to my friends in bands. I leach recommendations from them and am constantly discovering incredible new music all the time.

You have a lot of screenplays and log lines listed on the Deathblow Productions site. What sort of stories are you most interested in telling?

Oliver: My writing tends to lean towards weird and obscure subject matter, typically with a morbid edge. It isn’t always the case; sometimes it’s silly, most of it’s dark. But I try to trust my gut that whatever I’m doing is awesome. I make stuff I’d like to see and hopefully there’s an audience out there that’s on my side.

Shawn Knight mentioned that you were handling miniature models for a large project right now, but wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be a secret or not. Can you reveal any details for that?

Oliver: We’re collaborating with my friend and colleague (Phil Mucci of Diabolik Films) on a video for a high-profile band so I can’t really divulge much more than that. But Phil, in my opinion, is rocking the shit right now in the music video world. I love his work and am really proud to be collaborating with him and the mystery band as well.

Q: What do you have planned for the rest of 2016 and what’s in store for Deathblow Productions in the future?

Oliver: I’m finishing a script for what I believe will be my first feature-length directorial debut. It’s called More Blood Faster! [It’s] a really nasty, violent, over-the-top, heavy metal biker movie. Short of that, I’m expecting to complete the trilogy of videos for my pals in The Atlas Moth as their new album comes together.

Keep up with Deathblow Productions and that awesome feature concept by following them on their website or on Facebook HERE. Now that their tour with Lord Dying is complete, stay tuned for more from Child Bite at their website HERE, or at Housecore Records.