The most talked about horror film of the year is set in a shopping centre. But if you think you’ve seen it all before, Ivana Sidey says, think again. Death Walks will add a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Dying to go shopping…’
“It is nothing like you’ve seen before – the twist will make people’s jaws drop,” said a confident Spencer Hawken, who certainly knows how to sell his directorial debut with Death Walks. When we met on set, which incidentally is the Mercury shopping centre in Romford, the sterile glare of the flashing torches catching the faces of the bloody extras didn’t seem to faze him.
And the assertive statements didn’t seem to be of particular concern. After all, Death Walks was never meant to be a film that crept into people’s consciousness. The psychological zombie horror has been ranked as the top British horror film currently in production, and the eighth highest British film currently in production by the film website IMBD – which bases its rankings on the interest people have shown online; many have been from overseas, creating Hollywood hype on zero budget. Absolutely everything is being donated to the project free of charge. This included cast, crew, the derelict Pulse nightclub, and the entire Mercury shopping centre. No one has ever attempted a zero budget film on this scale before, with a high quality look and feel.
So what can we expect? All I know is that it starts with a group of people in a shopping centre just as it is closing up for the night, when the security guards see a lady at the door and let her in. But by bringing her into the centre, they unwittingly invite something else in too.
The psychological thrills and dark plot are to keep people on the edge of their seat. But natural comparisons to Dawn of the Dead end there. George. A. Romero may have defined the genre, but Spencer isn’t doing a bad job of turning that on its head. But for a really good zombie film, you still need a few key elements. Below is why I think the film will be horrifyingly good:
There has to be a very real impending sense of danger throughout. Perfect for the large cast in the small Mercury centre. Scott Mullins who plays Rob said that “Pulse nightclub is also great. We have filmed in the bathroom and the lights were flickering on and off – it looks like a readymade film set and different to anything else I have worked on.”
Strong characters are key so the audience cares whether they live or die. When claustrophobia is strangling them, you are nervous too. Arguably the most famous member of the cast is Lucinda Rhodes, with 15 years acting experience. Her character of Louise is described as “a bit of a man eater” when she is not nurturing the young talent such as Joanna Finata and Scott Mullins. She told me how much she adored being an actress but loves producing too. “I run my own production company ‘KandLe’ with Kelly George, but I wanted to produce ‘Death walks’ because I love the script and wanted to be a part of a local film.”
Support will be given to the new cast too. People from Romford may have the strongest feelings towards Martin Holland, who plays Andy; based on the real Andy who is the actual head of security at the centre. Not to mention model Kelsey Cain who plays Poppy; a zombie who holds the key behind one of the twists. Orina White, AKA the compassionate Lisa, looks her after. No doubt the film will give their careers a boost as cast members have already been grabbed for bigger projects, such as the Hollywood film Rush, and BBC’s Downtown Abbey and Sherlock.
The make up in this film is truly incredible. Everything about these zombies is different. The special effect makeup artists like Cat Forsyth, have effortlessly created an entirely new genre. Cat told me that the new look was created using gelatine. “I have to make it at home because of the no budget. We are applying that directly to the actor’s faces – to make the zombies look different, not B-movie stuff. And we have had creative control, so it feels like our film as well – which is lovely.”
But lovely to an extent – there will be a body count, and those who have seen the popular film poster will have noticed the sufficient amount of blood involved. So while there will be psychological thrills, there will be a very visual feast too – after all, it is a zombie film!
So, if you’re after a twist as big as Cabin in the Woods, a marketing campaign on par with The Blair Witch Project, and a genre defining British film like 28 Days Later, then don’t go anywhere. Keep your eyes peeled for information leaked from the Raindance Film Festival, Cannes, Montreal, Venice and Toronto. And important people have been listening to the rumours already because Spencer and Lucinda have recently received £150, 000 funding for two more independent films.
No Reasons is a bloody horror about a missing girl, with a fairly small budget of £30,000. Road Rage, due to go into production next summer, will focus around a series of murders with the bigger budget of £120,000.
But for now Spencer explained “We want people to want to see Death Walks.” And that’s the real unique thing about this film; more than creating a new genre, Spencer and Lucinda have created a film that listens to the people. It is set in Romford with residents as the cast, so a film by the people for the people? Maybe he has created the American Dream without spending a single dollar. I can’t wait for its release.
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