I’ve never had the opportunity to share this experience. It seems like a lifetime ago. Once upon a time I was a zombie. It all started when I got this flier from my best friend. He picked it up over at one of the Exhumed Film screenings. They were looking for extras to play zombies in a horror movie to be filmed locally. I loved horror films, so this sounded like a good time. The director, Kyle Warren, was looking for plenty of zombies, so the more the merrier. He gave me a meet time early in the morning over at his Cherry Hill office, Dark Universe Productions. I traveled over there with a friend, Eric, not knowing what the hell we were in store for.
A couple cars were sitting around the parking lot but no one was getting out of their cars. This dude came up to my car window and it was Kyle. The introductions were made and shortly after we were all driving up to Port Elizabeth, NJ. It was a cool drive because we ended taking two other extras along. This guy and this girl. The girl had just got done shooting a scene as an extra for a Troma movie. I’m not sure which one but she told the story of getting drenched in fake blood. Nice! Anyway, after being on the main road for awhile we started taking back dirt roads and we were getting deeper in the woods. It was kind of like The Blair Witch Project as in we were in the middle of nowhere.
Me and Eric had the job of carrying the cooler of food and beverages for the cast. This was no easy task. The cooler was flippin’ heavy. It felt like Kyle had stuffed a dead body in there. We carried this bad boy through the woods. Oh, did I mention it was hot out. I think we were already in the 80’s and it was still morning. I think it went up to the mid-90’s that day. We finally reached our location. It was a pleasure to drop that damn cooler. Now, the waiting began. Lots and lots of waiting.
It was cool to watch the other scenes get shot. Kyle had this awesome storyboard that he kept going back too. I was amazed at how detailed the cartoon drawings were for such a low budget project. He obviously spent a lot of time and creativity on it. We were told to bring our zombie outfits. He didn’t want it to just be jeans and a t-shirt.
He wanted the dead to be fresh out of the graves. So, they wouldn’t be wearing everyday clothes. I got a old suit that hardly fit me and and a neck tie and some old dress shoes – and that was my zombie uniform. When I was home I used some scissors to cut the clothing up a bit. While in the woods we spent some time beating the clothes up even more, getting them nice and dirty.
Linsey and James were on hand for Make-up and FX. One by one , us zombie extras, were called over to the log where we sat down and got our faces made up. I think they did a pretty good job of making most of us look dead. Kyle had told us earlier that someone from the Courier Post newspaper was coming out to cover the shoot. That was pretty exciting to hear. Little did I know at the time that they would choose my picture for the big picture on the story ( see picture – I’m the dude in the middle ). That shot was taken while we were just doing scenes of the zombies slowing walking through the woods. Yes, we were slow zombies. Not like these new fast walking or running zombies of recent.
I think I had my dead walk down perfectly. It’s funny watching low budget FX in progress. There was a scene were a stick gets shoved through a demon’s head. We rigged the stick so it looked like it was going in one side and coming out the other. I feel like we worked on getting that stick to stay for at least an hour. I might be exaggerating. We just couldn’t get that stick to stay. I forget how, but it finally worked out. After watching some other scenes, it was finally time for my zombie acting ability to shine. I have two cool zombie scenes.
We were after the stars of the movie and the one dude, he was like a zombie/demon hunter or something. A real bad ass. The director told me that I was going to be the one getting shot with a gun and to basically fall down. They were going to add the gun effects and the back end. I wanted to do something dramatic, so I brought my Aikido training into play and when I was shot , I took a huge bump. I mean, I got some air time. This might not have been too zombie like, but I kicked my feet up in the air and took a high back bump into the leaves behind me. Kyle thought it was awesome and wanted to catch it again. So, we did a few more takes. The first time I did it , I didn’t think it through completely. One big back bump onto the ground was enough, because those leaves didn’t offer too much padding. They ended up shooting I think like 5 takes , so that means 5 back bumps onto the hard ground.
Wow! What did I do to myself. I think the very first one I did came out the best – I got the most height. The other scene done was the hunter tossed some sort of explosive gadget that wiped out all the dead at once. We all fell to the ground. There were lots of shots done with us just laying there motionless. I remember going to the studio months later to do some green screen work / zombie close ups and what not. While I was there and talking to Kyle , he showed me some clips of the scene we did it the woods. It looked awesome. He said he was going to take our eyes out and add like glowing red eyes or something. Cool idea.
Well, if memory serves me correctly one of the last scenes we did in the woods as zombies was a small fight scene. Again, the good word was that I was the one who was going to struggle with the hunter. The scene went down like this, he was walking past all the down zombie on the ground and as he walked past me and reaches up and grabbed his leg trying to pull him down. In return he pistol whipped me to break my grasp and then kicked me away after a brief struggle. I know, it doesn’t sound like much but it was cool to be in any kind of zombie fight scene.
After a few more scenes we all called it a day. It was just in time too, because on the drive home the skies opened up on us and we had some vicious rain. The movie is called “ The Poison Tree “ and before you get too excited , everything that I just mentioned was filmed 10 years ago. It was the summer of 1999. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already.
Every now and again and still bump into Kyle and he still tells me that the movie is still being edited. Maybe it will see the light of day before I die? It’s a lesson, that out of all those low budget movies out there on the internet or on DVD , there are still tons of horror movies that are made that are just sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting for some sort of distribution. I hope Kyle the best of luck.
Unexplained Confidential: I Was a Zombie