Sept. 23--A movie shooting right now in the Poconos is part of a planned series of feature-length motion pictures that will carry the "Zombie Killers" tag in the title.
It's part of the ever-growing genre of movies about the undead that seemed to gain life ironically enough in Pennsylvania when George Romero shot "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968 for a reported $114,000.
"Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard," started shooting this month in Eldred Township. Another entry into the genre with the tagline: A small community may be the last outpost of humanity in the wake of a plague that may not be new to world history. Guarded by a small band of young warriors, life and death.
While written, directed and produced by former Pleasant Valley High School teacher, B. Harrison Smith, the idea for the movie was gestating in the mind of a local businessman for years.
"I trademarked this three years before 'Walking Dead,'" said Jeff Trainer, a Lehigh Valley developer and Smith's backer. "This isn't something that came up over night," he said. "I looked at 'World War Z.' Our goal is to make stuff just as good a quality," Trainer said.
As a scene was being shot, veteran Hollywood actor Billy Zane, who stars in the film, and his soldiers were coming down a ridge on ATVs. The actors, carrying military weapons, had "Zombie Killers" etched on the backs of their uniforms. Their duds looked like paintball gear. The world of professional paintball inspired Trainer to work on the story that combined the elements of paintball teams with prep for a zombie attack.
Trainer's son, Ian, is a professional paintball player for San Diego Dynasty. The Lehigh Valley teen has been playing professionally for years, and puts in practice at Camp Pendleton in California. The team figures into the film.
"What I was trying to do was show how young fighters train to fight," said Trainer, who took early cracks at writing the story.
Before getting involved with the zombie movie, Zane, who starred in "The Phantom" and "Titanic," was in Washington shooting another independent project.
One humid Saturday afternoon while shooting in Eldred Township, Zane said, "It's unfortunate, I think. You have to do nearly double the amount of work to make the same kind of living you've grown accustomed to."
He said he knows there's a lot riding on this little zombie movie with ambitions for sequels, mostly for Trainer and Smith.
"I thought it was a clever variation on a theme. Zombie movies are like the white label generic kind of cinema where you can put your brand upon any story you want imprinted upon it. I thought it was an interesting tale of community, and timely social commentary. Let's say, the downside of fracking," the actor said. "And it was entertaining, fundamentally."
Zane said working with Smith was a good experience so far.
"If you have a director who's confident in his ability, yet collaborative and open to suggestions, the likelihood for creating quality is exponentially increased," Zane said.
The movie is expected to wrap up shooting this month.
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