Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 August 2021


With the return of The Walking Dead this week, our resident US-based stellar scribe and comic book aficionado, Nick Smith, takes a well-earned break from reviewing all the things to talk about the inherent challenges of making a zombie horror B-movie during a pandemic.

It's not as easy as you might think.

Guest post by Nick Smith

It’s easy to watch a B-movie and ridicule the low budget, DIY production techniques. But making one is no laughing matter, as I was reminded when I agreed to produce a feature film about flesh-eating zombie bees called ZomBeez.

Executive Producer-Director-lead actress Elesia Marie had a good script that didn’t take itself too seriously, a strong cast and a determination to get her project picked up by the SyFy channel. There was only one drawback – we had no money.

While that salient fact has scuppered many movie projects, we soldiered stubbornly on, seeking funding and locations like a barn in the middle of nowhere (we found a farm specializing in ecotourism) and a school that wouldn’t mind being devastated by giant mutant anthophila (we secured an old school office building that was due to be torn down anyway).

Next, we jumped through a carnival’s worth of hoops dealing with the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), a union that has many rules to protect its actors from making movies. Er, I mean, to make sure they’re taken care of properly, with plenty of tea breaks, pensions and benefits, and fair billing in the credits.

SAG’s paperwork was tougher to take care of than any movie monster but we completed it while working on our next step – filming a proof of concept, in this case, a sequence from ZomBeez that we could use as a teaser trailer, showing the tone and basic concept of the film.

We got a permit to film in a woodland location where we could tell our mini-story about strange bees chasing a pair of hapless joggers. But before the running could happen, there was another unanticipated hurdle.

Our camera didn’t work.

Without a way to repair our Black Magic camera on site, we had to return it to the manufacturer and they couldn’t tell us how long it would be until we got it back. The only proof we would have for our Proof of Concept was proof that we were screwed.

We could have given up. We could have gone home and left the trees to the bees. Instead, a kind colleague lent us his gear and we were able to make our day.

We were almost ready to release our Proof of Concept to an impatient public with our rough footage, bloody makeup, and ‘bee’s eye view’ shots using a Ronin and a superimposed swarm. We needed one more ingredient – and that came from local rock band Nik Flagstar and his Dirty Mangy Dogs, best known for the theme tune to the show Nightmare Theatre. They created a super catchy original song for us and it added to the whole impression we wanted to make with the raw teaser sequence.

There was a lot more work to do. After we completed principal production of the movie this summer, Elesia got stuck into the editing process, rough-cutting a two-and-a-half-hour version of the film. We have to trim that down to 90 minutes, colour grade the footage, add digital effects and clean up the sound.

Only then will we have a finished product to show to distributors and channels like SyFy. We’re starting to talk to sales agents, the first of whom says he’s ‘a sucker for films like Zombeavers and Big Bad Bugs.’

There certainly seems to be an audience for this kind of B-movie.

I’ve focused on our challenges while making this movie but there have been many highlights too – the camaraderie of our cast and crew, the excitement of making a feature in our own neighbourhood instead of having to travel to a different state, the kindness of local businesses and organizations as we looked for locations. All this helps to motivate us as much – if not more – than any A-list movie buzz.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Digging Eight Graves

Nick Smith, our resident US-based stellar scribe, has a new movie out and is eager to share the macabre making of Eight Graves (available on Amazon Prime).

Guest post by Nick Smith

On a remote former plantation in South Carolina, two actresses are performing an intense scene. One of them is playing a scaredy-cat character, wary of the house she’s staying in. The other character is more cynical but she listens to her friend’s fears. The sun is setting and the wind barely gasps through tall marsh grass. The scene must be completed before the natural light of the ‘golden hour’ is lost to the night.

‘Cut!’ the director has to stop the scene. Something’s rustling in the marshland.

It’s not a ghost or a murderer as the movie’s title, Eight Graves, suggests. It’s not a coyote either. As the crew takes a closer look, a head pops up from behind a bush. On the other side of the actresses, another head pops up. It’s the gamekeepers who cultivate the land around that scary house. They wanted to have a ringside seat on the shoot and they have just photobombed a feature film.

Once the rubberneckers have been cleared away, the scene gets completed just as the last drop of light fades. It’s time to rest up; the cast and crew watch horror flick The Descent - research - before getting some sleep. The next day has another long list of shots to cover.

There’s nothing shockingly new about Eight Graves’ storyline – a group of young women stranded in a haunted house – although there is a spine-tingling twist. As screenwriter, I focus on making the characters distinctive. A bossy lawyer. A poor little rich kid. A new parent with baby daddy issues. A mouse and a cynic. The women all have a unique voice but they all look forward to a getaway in the country, away from kids, money worries, job angst, all responsibilities.

And what a country. The first sight for the film crew driving into Georgetown, SC is the old steel mill, faded and eaten by Robocop rust. The crew, pumped up with a hearty Burger King breakfast, marvel at the old town, a skeleton of its former industrialized self.

Georgetown has a low-run local newspaper, an independent movie theatre, a Main Street and a barbecue joint or two. But it’s the plantation house that attracts us, old and full of stuffed hunting trophies. The house creaks and settles in the night. We don’t get much sleep.

We have fun during filming, though. To escape the tropes of our horror film, I’ve injected plenty of humour into the dialogue and early character interactions before people start… disappearing. The one joke I’m not sure about is from the director, Gus Smythe. A girl from Eastern Europe must be starving because she’s from…

Hungary? I groan, but Gus keeps it in (it turns out to be one of the audience’s favourite gags). There’s also an oddball character called Mitch, an oily hick of a tow truck driver played by Braxton Williams. Brax makes the guy highly memorable but chews a little too much tobacco and makes himself nauseous. Don’t try that at home kids!

Other cast members include Daniel Jones (Logan Lucky, Revolution) and Jessica Slaughter (One Tree Hill). Jessica plays one of the heroines who spends part of the movie drunk. We don’t ask her how she prepares for those scenes.

Surviving sleepless nights in a house we become convinced is haunted are a minor inconvenience compared to our postproduction problems. Our original editor drops out; some original footage goes missing, presumed wiped (luckily we have different-quality copies); a flood in our editing HQ in Charleston, SC delays us further, while our location in Georgetown is also threatened with flooding, hopefully washing any wraiths away. It’s only thanks to the unceasing hard work of Gus and Braxton, the latter taking on the challenge of completing the film, that it gets released at all.

Eight Graves is my third feature film and like the others it’s a labour of love, the fulfilment of a dream that began with experiencing the thrills and chills of Spielberg and Lucas films as a kid and greedily reading copies of Starburst, Monster Monthly and Fangoria. Even though the project cost my friends and I a cemetery’s worth of time and money, I would make another horror movie in a heartbeat… but it would mean going back to that dark, foreboding house.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Dark Matter

Clym Dodds, a friend whom I met as an undergraduate at Bournemouth University and worked on December Duet (1996), wrote to me to announce that Darker Projects' latest audio drama, in association with Infected Books, is now available online!

Autumn, by David Moody, is a vision of apocalyptic horror.

Autumn Trailer (MP3)

A Word from the Composer

I have been a tremendous fan of Zombie "culture" ever since experiencing Romero's Dead series. I can remember a friend's reaction of horror when he learned I had not seen Dawn of the Dead – at the time I was a little cynical and naive about the whole thing – I didn't understand what the big deal was. "You have to f***ing see it!" he exclaimed violently. That night we put on the film and around the point of the Monroeville Mall and that line "This was an important place in their lives. " I was laughing with delight, but I also felt the abject horror creeping up on me. This WAS a delicious sort of existential nightmare emerging. There were (perhaps obvious in retrospect) wonderful societal commentaries as well – the idea of a consumer culture, gobbling up everything and everyone in it's path; our collective fear in discussing or really dealing with the idea of our own mortality, and unprepared and unable to let go of the ones we lose (you're going to have to let go, or they're going come and eat you!); I realized after the film that Dawn of the Dead was not a film for gore hounds, it was a film for intellectuals. Intellectuals unafraid of facing a slightly more morbid subject matter. And, of course, intellectuals with a dark sense of humor.

David Moody's 'Autumn' feels born from the same womb. It hearkens back to the intellectual horror old school - his book had me imagining in black and white movies (pictures like Night Tide, Carnival of Souls, and of course Night of the Living...) with atmosphere and subtext, less gore and more subtly building sensations of isolation and that skin-crawling, existential type of fear. I attempted to convey these qualities in the musical score, along with a few healthy doses of schlock horror music fun!

I must also mention the level of freedom and support provided by Paul Mannering and his Darker Projects team. It's lovely to be involved in something so close to the (now virtually obsolete) genre of Radio Drama - Bernard Herrmann's work for Orson Welles' Mercury Theater productions are personal favorites of mine. And I just love hearing people being operatic and theatrical without any distracting images or CGI effects to get in the way.

Devin Anderson
March, 2007

You can listen to the full episode over at Darker Projects and download the free eBook at Infected Books. Darker Projects audio dramas compare favourably with Dirk Maggs' productions and I can't recommend them highly enough! But, then again I'm biased!