Louisville, Kentucky may have been the fictitious stalking grounds of the zombies in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, but now Bluegrass pedestrians really are sidestepping intestines on the street thanks to writer/director/producer Mark Poole’s DEAD MOON RISING. Poole calls his Louisville-based film a hybrid of “SHAUN OF THE DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER and HIGH FIDELILTY.” Thanks to 10 wildly diverse main characters, including Jim (Jason Crowe), who consistently breaks the fourth wall à la John Cusack’s FIDELITY character by chatting directly with the audience, this zombie gut-muncher promises to be much more thoughtful than recent low-budget zombie fare on the order of DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM.
With a budget “well under $100,000,” one of Poole’s top priorities was to “create characters that people would give a shit about” rather than walking, talking zombie food. So what we get is a couple of charismatic, yet terminally bored, car rental clerks who don’t seem to realize that the world is falling victim to a nasty plague that causes mass vomiting of blood, death and the eventual energetic return from thereafter. This naturally leads the heroes to encounter both hot chicks and furious ghouls.
That’s right—we’re talking more “fast zombies.” But while that may seem slightly clichéd by now, Poole has a distinctive spin on the hunched-over flesheaters that run rampant in his flick: “Basically, they’re regressing,” says Poole, a successful and computer-savvy businessman who looks more like a well-to-do relative at a family reunion than the madman behind such sexy and splattery antics. Indeed, Poole directs a particular scene on Louisville’s slightly grimy 11th Street with much ambition, both denouncing and respecting Romero’s classic zombie walk at the same time. Poole’s undead slowly become more animalistic as their reanimation by the ferocious virus continues, which means packs of grunting, slouching, scrambling corpses chasing frantically after their next meal.
RISING is a collaboration between Poole, his wife Janice (also a producer) and the cast and crew—which means everyone is giving their all during the shoot, and will get a piece of the action once it’s sold. This kind of close-knit working environment is not without its problems, as every indie filmmaker knows; a few actors have already bailed, leaving certain scenes requiring total rewrites. But those who remain are 100 percent dedicated to making the best possible chunkblower imaginable—including one actor who was injured so badly in a separate work-related incident that physical therapy is a necessity on off days from the shoot.
Though Poole has previously only written and directed one short film (THE BIG GREEN), he certainly has the itch to pursue a career making more movies. His own house has been used in scenes, and serves as the hub of activity for all of RISING’s activities. With a computer, laptop and poster-size spreadsheet adorning his office, Poole maintains his actors, shooting days and script developments like the legitimate project manager he is at his day job. One look at his organized operation makes it difficult to believe that this guy is even remotely interested in zombie mayhem—but he is. Poole’s movie has its share of inspired gore: a man is split between the legs with a chainsaw, another has his tongue bitten out of his mouth by a super-sexy zombie (Erica Goldsmith) that would make Linnea Quigley proud, a man petrified of guns eventually uses a monstrous weapon à la PREDATOR to make Swiss zombies and, on the day this writer visits the set, a religious zealot is torn apart and eaten while holding a crucifix, and a cop’s innards are distributed amongst hungry corpses looking for lunch.
Poole is adamant about completing DEAD MOON RISING in time for the Eerie Film Festival in September. But for now, check out the official website for updates, stills and info on how you can contribute to the gore by coming to set and being a zombie. Apparently, Poole is still looking for willing walking-dead thespians and bikers (with their own cycles, of course) to come join the fun for the movie’s final shoot in August. Those interested should start practicing their slack-jawed stares and gnashing maws…