Actor Terry Kiser, who starred as Bernie, a most animated cadaver, in the 1989 comedy film “Weekend at Bernie’s,” portrays a TV newsman in the zombie-horror film “Dead Start,” which wrapped filming Saturday at the Stardust Drive-In in Watertown.Terry Kiser pops out of the make-up chair after Jenn Smith completes her powdering and painting of his face. About 205 budding “movie stars” spent more than four hours at the Stardust Drive-In in Watertown Saturday to play zombies. Here the crowd waits in line to have fake blood splashed upon their faces and chests.By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post
WATERTOWN -- To zombie or not to zombie?
That was the question Saturday morning at Watertown’s Stardust Drive-In Theater, where “Dead Start” writer-director George Demick planned an assault on the world record for largest gathering of zombies. He was shooting for 8,000, double the record that was set in Seattle in July, but the number of walking dead fell far short at just over 200.
“We were aiming to break the world zombie record, but that didn’t happen,” Demick said. “Today, we‘re shooting the very last scenes of the film. ‘Dead Start’ will be as realistic a picture as possible about what you would do if the dead came back to life. Most of us would just sit at home and watch CNN.”
“In this life and death situation you have to make a decision,” said Chuck Nicholson, executive producer. “Do you board up your house or run?”
The biggest name actor in the horror flick is Terry Kiser, best known as Bernie, the stiff in “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Kiser has a cameo appearance in the movie as a TV news reporter covering the zombie invasion who gets a little too close to the flesh-chomping multitude.
Nashville-based Flickering Candle Productions sees a tentative release date for the indie feature film as Oct. 24.
The zombie extras, who came from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia, were calm for the most part except when director Demick asked them to run amuck when the cameras were rolling. Many of them came in their own costumes and with self-applied make-up, but the movie’s company’s special effects make-up team applied a few gallons of blood to the extras who were game.
The fake blood was a mixture of Karo syrup and food coloring.
Driving down from Cincinnati to get their faces in the film were Stephanie Sams and Joseph Brown. “I‘m absolutely loving it,” said Brown, who like his friend, in the guise of a bloody bride, are students at the Cincinnati Acting Studio.
Coming from Mt. Juliet were the Pearson family, led by 15-year-old B.J., that included his mother Kathy, sister Lauren, 11, and brothers Markus, 17, and Alex, 9.
“I just liked the idea of being in a movie and getting to be dressed up like a zombie,” B.J. said.
“When he grows up, he’s wanting to do movie special effects. The best way to learn is hands on,” his mother added.
“Hold on for blood!” hollered make-up woman Jenn Smith, as a long line of zombie wannabes waited their turn to be drenched in the sticky red liquid.
Mike and Paula Flynn and their son Michael, all of Hendersonville, were into the swing of things with pretty ghastly looking faces. “We saw about this on the news and decided to come. We’re into Halloween,” Paula said.
Like all movie sets, most of the time is spent waiting. Thus, the 200-plus extras milled around, played cards, kicked a beach ball and called friends on cell phones. A lot of them munched popcorn, chowed down on hot dogs and drank Cokes and other concession-stand foods.
Michelle Thornhill, a fantasy body artist from Smyrna, bit no flesh but enjoyed nipping into an orange snow cone.
“We thought it was a great idea: bringing 3,000 to 4,000 zombies to the drive-in, and we have the concession stand open to sell food to the zombies,” said Stardust owner Barry Floyd. “So far food sales are good. Zombies have got to eat, and they’re eating burgers, not each other.”
A big white sign guided such budding movie starlets as siblings Lori Knox and Angela Hankins to the zombie sign-in as the production company registered all of the living dead.
The creativity of the non-professionals proved indescribable. In costumes that would win first prize at Sleepy Hollow Halloween parties were Sherrie Ward, who came as a zombie housewife with her hair in rollers and a rolling pin as her weapon, while Jessica Armociea had a dummy rat perched on her shoulder and another emerging from her side pocket.
Meanwhile, Beech High student Dylan Brown impressed director Demick with his zombie scream, something horrifying that he unleashed from the depths of his lungs.
Antioch’s Melissa McCallister claimed her 5 seconds of fame as she portrayed a lass fleeing from a zombie horde. She got the coveted role when another scream queen backed out. There were no lines to memorize. “That’s it, I run,” she said of her plum role.
Other than the heat and humidity, a good time was had by all zombies, and nobody got eaten alive.
Movie mayhemTo keep up with the progress of the film Dead Start, check into the Web sites www.tropicheatstudios.com or www.myspace.com/deadstart09. It is tentatively set for an Oct. 26 release.
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