Reel World: Zombiefest

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Ardent film fans rarely limit their love for movies to just watching their particular favourites on the big screen. Action figures, tie in novelisations, games, extras loaded special edition DVD’s, posters and tee shirts are just a sample of off screen merchandising that exists to further cement a films place in the hearts of it’s fans. Some films, genres and characters however create levels of devotion that go above and beyond the call of duty.

Science fiction conventions (especially celebrating Star Wars and Star Trek) have been around for years, Secret Cinema is growing with every screening, Lebowski Fest, a light hearted homage to all things dude related, is now into it’s tenth year and cosplay, an area previously looked at in The Big Picture is growing ever more popular.

Here in the UK Terror4fun, an online site with an e-zine sent out to 10,000 subscribers, is devoted to all things zombie and horror, including make up tips, independent film promotion and games, graphic novels and merchandising news and they take levels of interactivity to new heights with the annual weekend of mayhem that goes by the name of Zombiefest. A combination of live action events and film screenings all based around the much loved horror staple Zombiefest gives film and game fans the chance to get together and take part in their own real life zombie apocalypse. Shortly after this years event I put some questions to (Zombie) Ed Thurlow of Terror4fun, Zombiefest’s main organiser, to flesh out the facts about their yearly flesh eating extravaganza…

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Neil – how did Zombiefest come about initially?
Ed – It all started in 2004 when a friend wanted me to write and run something for her birthday, she had a campsite hired but wanted some fun on the Saturday and I had previously organised some murder mystery events so she called me in. She loved the 1970s and I loved zombie movies, so she gave me £50 and said get something fun sorted. We ran a 70s inspired zombie Live Action event where everyone dressed in 70s clothes and played a character, when a zombie touched you you got showered in blood and tried to eat your friends… and from this Zombiefest was born. I suppose for the uninitiated its like a Murder Mystery party, where everyone plays a character and then it descends into general chaos as zombies try to eat you and when infected you join them.

Are you aware of any similar events either in this country or abroad?
There are, to my mind, no similar events anywhere. There have been a couple of Live Action Zombie Events, but none with films, professional make up artists or the great feedback that we have got. In America there is an organisation called the Zombie Squad, that go shooting and hiking and talk about zombie survival, but nothing like ours.

What exactly goes on during the ‘fest?
Nowadays the fest consists of a blend of Live Action activities and films. When folks arrive on the Friday night there is food and drink available and then on a proper cinema set up we show a selection of international zombie shorts, anything from 1 minute to 20 minutes. Some are awe inspiring and some are really bad, but each has a standout reason for being shown. This year included one featuring Sir Ian McKellan and another was a Danish language Zombie Western filmed using only puppets… bloody inspiring. One of the things that Terror4fun does when not running events is promoting independent film making, so we quite often show film projects that we have supported at Zombiefest.

On the Saturday morning everyone gets to blow chunks out of zombie targets on a shooting and archery range and then people get into costume, have lunch and then get involved in the Live Action fun. This year it lasted for about 7½ hours and once again, no-one survived, so now we have a 99.3% mortality rate at our events.

Saturday night this year, we had something called the Adwagon show up for the UK’s first ever play of Dead Rising 2, the new game from CAPCOM. We had zombies playing on a 60 inch plasma screen on the back of a massive Dodge pick-up, It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Read part 2 of this interview tomorrow

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