Zombies are taking over Bowmore Road Public School.
Some play Flappy Bird, others send Snapchat or Instagram photos. One got inside a Grade 7 class and watched a music video for Sweater Weather some 50 times.
Smartphone zombies and the usual limping, groaning, brain-eating kind co-star in Call of the Dead, a four-minute horror film by Bowmore students that won the top Grade 7 and 8 prize in the TIFF Kids contest last month.
“I thought our film had no chance really,” said Max Lafferty, a member of the six-person film crew and a zombie extra.
But the three TIFF Kids judges, who had 14 other films to weigh, clearly disagreed.
Among the finalists was Precious Cargo, a film about a senior thinking about moving to a retirement home. Another was Man vs. School, a spoof on Edward “Bear” Grylls and his outdoor survival show.
That one had every kid in the theatre howling when it screened with all the other finalists at the TIFF Lightbox.
But Call of the Dead got laughs from everybody, kids and adults, said Alice Irving Hughes, who came up with the idea for the film and co-directed it with her twin sister, Grace.
“I think that’s one of the reasons that we won,” she said.
The film also has a message that many people can appreciate in 2014 – city streets have way too many ‘zombies’ zoned out on smart phones.
“I was flipping out because we beat somebody with an IMDB page,” said Alice, referring to Theodor Pucak, a 14-year old actor-singer-director who has a website and three films listed on the IMDB website.
“Just let that sink in for a while.”
Alice said the Bowmore crew began work in January, but she and Grace, both zombie fiends, started trying out make-up long before that.
Working from YouTube tutorials, Grace said they learned to peel tissue paper into separate, skin-thin layers. Then they added liquid latex and make-up on top, making chewed arms and face bites that look awfully real.
“Don’t get it on your hair,” warned Finn Hourihan, another zombie extra.
And don’t walk home with a zombie gash on your arm, said Lafferty, who freaked out his neighbours when he went home from a shoot without washing up.
Elizabeth Elliott, Call of the Dead’s leading zombie, said they all tried hard not to spook younger students during the shoot.
But that didn’t quite work during filming for her favourite scene – the one where teacher Raffi Sekdorian gets attacked by a zombie and lets out his best horror scream.
“There was a kindergarten class passing by,” Elliott said.
“They were staring, but I think they’re kind of used to it.”
Besides the scream, Sekdorian helped his students by showing them inspirational clips from The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock’s Vertigo (Alice also listed Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino as influences).
Sekdorian also got a credit for the soundtrack – a scary song with low, rumbling vocals that he recorded with a former band.
“It was the nineties,” he said. “Portishead was really popular.”
Asked what they will do with their $1,000 in TIFF prize money, some on the Call of the Dead crew said they will shop for cameras.
The school may also be in line for new cameras after a recent Bowmore Rocks! fundraiser added $6,000 to its media literacy program.
Cameras would certainly go to good use. Bowmore had a record six films at TIFF Kids this year, including Spaced Out, a mix of animation and live-action that won the TIFF Kids Choice award in the Grade 4 to 6 category.
But Finn Hourihan had another idea for his share of the TIFF prize, one that might send a chill up his parents’ spines.
“I’m going to get a phone,” he said, laughing.
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