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Welcome to Jasper, Alabama, and the series premiere of Town of the Living Dead! Jasper is like any American small town in a John Cougar Mellencamp song. But there’s one detail that makes it slightly strange: Jasper is the shooting location of Thr33 Days Dead, a super low-budget zombie movie made by a crew of misfit locals. Town of the Living Dead catches up with the cast and crew after they’ve already been shooting this movie for a whopping six years. The odds are better for Rob Zombie to nab an Academy Award for Best Director than for Thr33 Days Dead to come out in theaters this century.
The first episode kicks off by introducing us to the motley movie-making crew. Tina, the movie’s producer, is a Southern gal with a get-‘er-done attitude that would make Larry the Cable Guy proud. She’s quick to point out that she’s sunk $25,000 of her own money into the movie, and she’s making sure the crew sticks to her budget. “Eat cheaply,” Tina barks during a production meeting at a Mexican restaurant, “like a taco and some water.”
John is the long-haired writer/director of Thr33 Days Dead. He breaks down the movie’s plot: Three good ole boys embark on a fishing trip, only to return and discover that the world’s in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Unlike Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick before him, John works at Radio Shack.
Production of Thr33 Days Dead is back on track after going on hiatus. Catie, the lead actress (and Tina’s daughter), went on maternity leave, but now she’s ready to rejoin the zombie crew. Preparing for a weekend shoot, Tina and John head to a party-supply store to buy props. Tina’s credit card is denied. If you have a hunch that things are only going to get worse, you are good at hunches!
Before the shoot begins, Tina sends the cast to go “Zombie Recruiting.” This is what they call gathering locals to play zombies and do extra work for free. To attract new zombies, the cast dresses up like the undead and approaches customers in a grocery store. Amazingly, they get one nutty woman to agree to be an extra. Three of the Zombie Recruiting participants are also the film’s main actors. Bryan plays the lead in Thr33 Days Dead. He brags that he had to turn down extra work on The Walking Dead to appear in this movie. Who is this guy’s agent? Terry, who looks like Mr. Clean but with multiple piercings, is the film’s lone gay cast member. Chase, the slacker of the cast, says that he’s cool with homosexuals because he used to work in the thee-AYE-ter.
Finally we get to the day of the shoot. Have you been asking yourself, “How bad can it get?” Well, you’re about to learn that the answer is: very bad. John is trying to get a shot of the three heroes in a pickup truck plowing into a zombie. Before they can even begin shooting, a cop shows up and says he’s received 911 calls about a dead body in the street. Once it’s explained that it’s just a mannequin, the shoot proceeds. A teenage girl plays the zombie who gets hit by the truck, but she’s so horrific at acting that John and Tina decide to have a dummy get hit by the truck instead. Tina fills the dummy’s head with stew and fake blood, and throw it in front of the speeding truck. The head explodes upon impact, but it splatters John and his camera. John wigs out and attacks his brother, Gary, who was driving the truck. Gary attempts to calm John down by saying, “All your chicken wings are intact! What’s your problem?” This soothing Southern phrase doesn’t calm John down. Bryan observes that they’ve been working for six hours and haven’t filmed a line of dialogue.
John comes up with a solution: Have the truck back up over the zombie corpse. They nail that shot and John says, “We’ll fix it in post,” which will probably become the catchphrase for this season of Town of the Living Dead.