It’s not easy being a zombie. As well as all the killing, stomping, stumbling and flesh eating, there’s also a lot of sitting around, waiting and being shouted at.
Welcome to the life of a zombie extra on Zombie Driftwood, a B-movie being filmed by Scottish director Bob Carruthers in North Side on Grand Cayman.
The film is using about 200 extras as zombies in the movie, most of which is being filmed on location at the Driftwood Bar near Rum Point.
College student Monique Rowe has been on set since 8.30am. She’s an intern helping with audio and video work, but when she’s not doing that, she’s hidden behind a hideous latex mask and under a mass of messy grey hair.
She’s one of the sight gags in the movie – an old woman who has been turned into an elderly zombie who still needs to use her Zimmer Frame walker to get around.
Surrounded by other “zombies” who, even with their slow, shambling steps quickly pass her, Rowe makes her way across the sand and scree to join the others as they bang on the walls and doors of the bar, trying to get inside.
She attended a Cayman Islands Film Commission workshop the weekend before shooting began and was chosen as one of the interns to work on the set.
“I’m in school at New England Tech and I decided to put my skills in video and audio production to use, so I’m trying to help out as much as I can,” she says, as she picks fake scabs and flaking skin off her arms after shooting finishes on a recent mid-June evening.
Helping out involved putting herself in the hands of makeup artist Jimmie DeLoach who “zombified” her; Carruthers, who taught her how to use the walker; and cameraman Guido Milian, who weaves in and out of the marauding zombies getting close-ups.
It’s hot and sweaty inside the mask, especially after a couple of hours of being told to go back to starting positions and stagger, yet again, towards the bar.
“OK, one more take,” Carruthers shouts, for the fifth time, as the zombies hustle back towards the sea wall to repeat their siege on the bar, inside of which some of the last remaining humans on the island have barricaded themselves.
To drink water, one has to pull the mask up and away from the mouth, but some zombies just pull their entire masks off, revealing damp, hot faces. When they put them back on, they have to ensure their hair is in place and that the eye holes are correctly positioned so they can see where they’re stumbling.
As the afternoon goes on, more zombies join in, culminating in a scene where a dozen of the undead try to smash their way into the Driftwood, hammering their fists against the wooden walls and the glass-panelled doors.
Some of the zombies are wearing sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts that are louder than heavy metal band October File, which is booked to play a scene on the movie. In the film, all the zombies are tourists who have arrived on a mysterious cruise ship. That’s why they’re wearing colourful shirts, shorts and holiday clothes.
Among the zombie extras are also real tourists, like Sherry Barry and Cody Steele. Both have flesh falling from their faces and are bloodied and wearing tattered clothing. Barry has a huge, bloody gash on her leg – a latex wound attached by DeLoach – that at one point brings shooting to a halt when it falls off her thigh onto the sand and has to be reattached.
Barry and Steele are part of a group of eight family members and friends who are staying near Driftwood for a 10-day holiday.
“We came over and got more information about the movie and asked if we could be extras,” said Barry, who added that they hoped to be able to take part every day.
As the sun dips toward the horizon, Carruthers and his cameramen go for take after take, trying to get as much footage as they can before the light fades.
It’s a bizarre scene that attracts several observers who peer around the corners of the building to get a glimpse – zombies covered in blood and gore, some with their brains dribbling down their faces and others with eyeballs hanging down their cheeks, against the pristine backdrop of a white sandy beach and the azure Caribbean sea.
Filming is due to continue throughout June, and the movie makers hope to release the film on DVD and Blu-Ray in time for Halloween.
Co-producer David McWhinnie says the film is a comedy zombie movie, but unlike Shaun of the Dead, which was billed as the world’s first “rom-com-zom” – a romantic, comedy, zombie film – in this film, the zombies, as well as the humans, provide much of the humour.
With that in mind, he and Carruthers have created scenes where the zombies provide the laughs; like the old zombie lady with the walker, and another where a zombie adopts and protects a dog; and zombies who were first-class cruise ship passengers, who, even though they’re now dead, believe they still deserve “first-class” treatment.
“Zombies are intrinsically funny,” McWhinnie says.
With the filming over for the day, the zombie extras are off duty and make their way to their cars to go home to wash off the fake blood and paint, which incidentally is quite hard to remove. Some head into the bar for a well-earned beer and compare notes on what it was like to be a zombie for a day.