In Banning, zombies, from a zombie's point of view
|Courtesy photo — Shannon Elizabeth Smith feasts upon the brain(s) of James Marshall.|
That, typically, is what zombies crave, isn’t it?
The zombies in a series of six Web-isodes, “Chronicles of the Dead” — the first one was released last week — are not your stereotypical zombies, its producers explain.
“Our zombies are a hybrid,” according to John Marshall, of Hemet, who helped produce, direct, and write episodes of “Chronicles of the Dead,” with lead writer, Monica Bryant, of Banning, CA. The “Chronicles” zombies are a combination of “the traditional voodoo zombies, modern-day infected zombies, and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ zombies where frenzied zombies run around and eat you.”
For those who are not fluent with zombie lore, Marshall gives a basic overview.
Voodoo zombies are the original zombies, created when witches cast spells on a person and rendered them soul-less and lifeless, to bumble along and do their captor’s bidding.
Infected zombies, their history based more in “science,” depict a person whose brain becomes infected with some affliction or virus that mirrors the effects of rabies, killing a person and bringing them back to “life” with a zest for brains, and an urge to feast on human flesh.
And, all zombie experts know, that the cult classic “Dawn of the Dead” changed the rules a bit, since it portrays zombies as simply wanting to eat people for no particular reason (they’re not necessarily infected, under the control of a voodoo spellcaster, etc.). They just attack humans for consumption.
In zombie movies, the main character is trying to escape being attacked, infected or devoured.
In “Chronicles of the Dead,” the perspective is produced from the zombies’ point of view: instead of people coming together and hating zombies, “Marshall explains, “they’re coming together because they are zombies — and they need help.”
The series is based on a 167-page novel that Bryant is hoping to get published someday. The book, she explains, “has a lot more details of what it’s like to be a zombie: the body’s stiff, the blood’s not flowing, the heart’s not beating.”
The cast is entirely made up of fellow Mt. San Jacinto College students, recruited from film classes.
The first episode aired on their website and had just under 50 hits in its first afternoon.
Shannon Elizabeth Smith, who plays the lead character Sarah Daniels, had worked with director Marshall on other projects.
“She is a complex character,” Smith explains. “You don’t learn too much about her in the first episode. One thing you do know: she is infected, and has been for some time.”
While the story itself takes place in San Bernardino County, local scenes around Banning are recognizable in some of the footage. Filming took place all around the southland, as far as Hemet and Wildomar.
Spectators can expect a minimum of six completed Webisodes, between four and six minutes long. They debuted with their first one on Aug. 30, and a new one will air each week.
The pilot, which is online, “is very different from the first episode,” though they will be very similar in plot, Marshall says. “The first time, it was a lot of our friends working with us,” which poses unforeseen challenges, especially when it comes to filming schedules — it’s hard to get a bunch of actors together, because they’re always involved in other shows and productions. For the actual series, they still used friends and acquaintances — Marshall even cast his brother as a prominent character in the first episode.
“It will be neat to see how far this goes,” he says. “I’m glad to have a starting base and an audience. I’m hoping to eventually establish a film production company and work on additional projects.”
To see more photos of the cast and production of “Chronicles of the Dead,” check out their Facebook page.