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This zombie life 

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I have no idea how long we've been standing in poison ivy. It's the end of a year-and-a-half-long movie shoot, and we're filming the finale fight scene in an abandoned trailer park. My legs itch, but my everything itches, so I pay it no attention. I won't find out about the ticks until we get home; I'll discover the poison ivy the morning after. Yeah, I said ticks.

We make low-budget horror flicks. This means we usually end up in horrible places in less-than-desirable conditions. That's because it's fast and it's free and nobody asks for permits in tick-infested graveyards.

This particular shoot was a long time coming. We started the zombie film Sick and the Dead under the assumption we could finish it in about six months. We filmed and filmed, but zombie makeup takes a long time to apply (two to four hours per corpse!) and deadlines came and went. By this point, none of us wanted to see latex or white contact lenses again for a long time. This would be a wrap if we could finish these scenes, but fate conspired against us.

There were several mishaps ranging from the comical (me, yelling at everyone to be careful, then promptly crashing through a rotten trailer porch) to the more serious. A girl, fully clad in zombie makeup, fell off a cemetery wall after passing out from heat exhaustion. She woke up pretty quickly and swore she was OK, but filming was obviously done for her. After we got over the initial shock, we realized we had only one girl zombie that day and had to finish the scene. I looked over at one of the undead actors and said, "Will, can you put that wig on and let us smash your head in?" Will did as I asked and we got the shot, but that scene still makes me laugh anytime I see it.

My wife played the final zombie and was very excited about eating one of the lead character's fingers. We practiced with the fake hand, crew waiting to push the plungers connected to the tubes that would squirt homemade blood everywhere. I yelled "Action!" but before she could get one bite, she stepped directly on an upturned nail. Tetanus shots are required on our sets, but it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell.

My brother Leeko played a "non-zombified" survivor. Leeko begged to be a zombie in any scene, but we thought it would be too hard to disguise him. One night, a missing actor gave him his chance. It was late and we were a single zombie short. I picked up the phone and said, "OK, dude, we're gonna make you a fat, bearded zombie in a Yukon hat." He was overjoyed. He was not, however, very happy when he had to peel off the fake beard. It had adhered itself to his real beard and left him with what we affectionately dubbed the "motorcycle mustache." He never asked to be a zombie again.

To sum it up, when we tell people we're making a zombie film, everybody wants to be one of the undead. Nine times outta 10, it's a little more zombie than they bargained for.

Sick and the Dead was released on DVD Feb. 3. Read more at sickandthedead.com.

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