It's the end of a very long day in the abandoned Thalia Power Plant in New Orleans, and we finally get the call. We being me, your SCI FI Wire news editor, and a handful of my counterparts from other film Web sites, who have volunteered to take part in the filming of Dead of Night—a live-action buddy-action-horror-comedy movie based on Tiziano Sclavi's best-selling Italian comic book Dylan Dog—in the Big Easy this past Monday.
Our roles: flesh-eating zombies. More on that in a bit.
Before we got to play our part in the demise of a key villain of the movie, we got to speak with director Kevin Munroe and observe a bit of filming in the power plant, which has been dressed as the decaying lair of a clan of zombies.
The movie, from Hyde Park Group and Platinum Studios, stars Superman Returns' Brandon Routh as Dylan, a reluctant "nightmare detective," or paranormal investigator, and his Superman co-star Sam Huntington as Marcus, Dylan's best friend, partner and the unfortunate victim of a supernatural crime. The movie also stars Journey to the Center of the Earth's Anita Briem as a mysterious woman who becomes Dylan's client, for whom Dylan investigates the murder of her father by what appears to be a werewolf.
The premise of the film is that vampires, werewolves and zombies really exist, though they escape notice by average citizens. Munroe is directing from a screenplay by Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly (Sahara).
"The whole movie's sort of a really cool [mashup] of just sort of my favorite things," Munroe tells us at lunch. He adds: "It's a really fun buddy action movie that just happens to take place in the world of horror icons. And so there's a really strong sort of Men in Black angle, in the sense that there's a world that exists that we don't know about, and this film sort of exposes that a little bit."
Munroe—who makes his live-action feature-film directing debut with Dead of Night after helming the animated TMNT—adds that his goal was to put the fantastical into a real-world setting. "It was always the goal to kind of keep it as real as possible, I think," he says, adding: "If the movie's done right, you kind of walk out of the theater and you go, like, 'Oh, at that hot dog stand, that's where zombies work. And at this fast food place, this is where this happens.' Or 'The dock is where the werewolves ... live and work.' ... The goal was always to sort of ground it in reality as much as possible."
Hence today's setting, the rusting hulk of the empty power plant, still filled with floodwater from Hurricane Katrina, with its broken windows, decaying catwalks, rust-covered iron girders and inches-thick dust on the ground. Perfect for a couple of scenes we observe.
Dylan (Routh), dressed in his trademark black sport jacket and red shirt, and Marcus (Sam) are searching for a clue in the plant, which Dylan knows is the haunt of bad zombies. Here and there are piles of bones and skulls, the remnants of zombie meals. As Dylan stands with his back to a door, it cracks open and a massive creature (we won't describe him so as not to give away the spoiler secret) grabs him by the scruff of the neck and pulls him out of the room.
Later, the scene picks up with Routh engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the giant creature: Routh swings a pipe, appears to connect with the creature's jaw. Routh swings again; the creature blocks it, then head-butts Routh's Dylan, who staggers back onto a staircase leading up to a catwalk. Dylan/Routh kicks at the creature, who falls back. Dylan scrambles up the staircase; the creature has the pipe and swings it, but it clangs against an overhead pipe.
The fight (and scene) continues later as Dylan trades haymakers with the creature. Huntington's Marcus, meanwhile, engages the creature, only to be thrown over a railing. Does he live? Does he die? You'll have to see the movie.
As for us, we've been conscripted for a scene in which a creature falls to the ground only to be attacked by zombies. We've been caked in makeup and dressed in ripped and ratty clothing, smeared with (movie) mud and spritzed with water and K-Y Jelly for that appropriately filthy, gelatinous zombie look.
On cue, we crouch, stagger, snarl, drool, then lay into the creature from all sides, as if we're a pack of starving rats attacking a pork chop. It's more fun than it should be. Two takes and we're done, applause all around, then time for a few pictures with the creature and our fellow zombies.
Munroe is aware that he's got a lot to live up to with this movie. "It's such familiar territory in a lot of ways," he says. "[We're] not the first people at all to ... put vampires and werewolves in a movie. Or zombies. I like how we manage to fit in a lot of these creatures all within the same world, in the same universe, and I think ... the reality treatment is really something that I latched onto and I really like. ... If you were a zombie [and] could not eat human flesh or else you would turn into [an evil creature], how would you survive? And we have a scene that explains how you survive as a zombie. And we have ... how the vampires are existing, and how long werewolves have been [around]. And I like the idea of generations and how things change. Because that feels real, like real families would do that, and they would sort of evolve as they ... keep on living."
Stay tuned for more reports from the set of Dead of Night, which is still in production in New Orleans with an eye to a 2010 release.