Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #13

My first impression was that I’d expected him to be a little scarier, somehow. I mean, sure, the blood-encrusted clothes were a little on the horrible side, but he looked fairly normal beyond that… sort of “I was a Government contractor before I died, and I had an excellent comic book collection,” kind of guy.

As he moved farther away from the dumpster, I saw what I’d been worried about. My target had a posse, and they were much more unapproachable. There were five I could see easily from my vantage point, and I’m willing to bet they’d been a motorcycle gang before they’d died. There was a lot of blood-caked leather, metal studs, and chains arrayed around my nerdy target.

I wasn’t sure of exactly how I’d cope with this new information, beyond going back to the bar and returning with more firepower. A katana and a pistol wouldn’t do me much good… and then the thought hit me… unless I started whittling down the herd immediately.

I didn’t think they could see me from where I was watching, but any idiot will start looking around when a shot is fired. They could, if motivated properly, figure out where the shot came from, and I’d have seconds before being mobbed. I had to wonder how many of the motor goons I could ventilate before being overrun.

More importantly, I had no idea how many more of them there might be out of my line of sight.

Shooting some of them might help me learn the answer to that question, but I didn’t have a good escape plan. Weighing the options was driving me a little crazy.

I’d been leaning forward in the chair—lost in thoughts and plans, and unaware of my surroundings—when someone grabbed me by the hair and pulled me to my feet. I tried to draw the sword, but my opponent had his hand on the handle. I was at a significant disadvantage.

When I tried to draw my pistol, someone slapped it out of my hand. I had two opponents, and one of them seemed to know what he was doing. Not good for me, I assure you.

Worse, I wasn’t in motion.

My sensei taught me, many years ago, that if you stop moving, you’re dead. It was one of those situations. They had the drop on me, and whatever I had to do to deal with the situation, I’d have to do it from a dead stop.

I should have studied Judo.

“Before you think about being macho dude, the guy you can’t see has a shotgun pointed at you.”

I looked up into the face of the guy who had me by the hair, and considered his words. He looked down at me—big, and tall—with bloodshot zombie eyes, and deliberately puffed air down at me. Undead breath sailed up my nostrils, and weighed anchor with a stench like an inside-out skunk, coated in rotten Brie.

I gagged and my eyes watered uncontrollably. He laughed, giving me more reason to gag, and shook me around by my head for extra sadistic jollies. My regurgitation switch is very loose, most of the time, but that time I managed not to vomit.

For this guy, I would have gladly tossed my squirrel stew all over. Damn it.

“You really shouldn’t have done that grandstanding shit a few miles from here. Word travels fast. Faster than you, looks like.” I hated the smirk on his face.

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Stir Fried Justice Released

In a prior post, I had discussed our filming of Stir Fried Justice. It was originally intended for inclusion in Newt Wallen’s project Midnight Show, a collection of grindhouse-style movie trailers. Regretfully, it will not be included.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that we can now reveal it in all its 70s-ish martial arts glory.

This was, by far, the largest effort Sanj and I had coordinated.  Prior filmings involved no more than half a dozen people at most. This time around, including ourselves, we had twelve people participating.  While that’s nothing for professional filmmakers, it’s certainly a handful for us.  Luck was on our side that day.  Everyone showed up on time and was happy to participate.  The weather was, with the exception of a brief downpour, cooperative.  We filmed a few green screen scenes in doors during the rain.  By the end of the day, we were all giddy and exhausted.

We’d like to thank the cast for being so willing and cooperative:

Thugs:  Micheal Autenrieth, Nick Cavicchio, Jordan DesJardins, Dan Silvestri, Brandon DiEleateriu
Propeller Beanie Thug: Sanj Surati
Murdered Husband: Brandon DiEleateriu
Women: Dana Hurley, Alicia Lenoir, Amber White
Black Thunder: Victor Milbourne
White Lightning: Paul Palcko
Most Evil Small-time Landlord in History: John Iwasz

More astute readers may notice that Brandon is credited twice: once as a thug and as the murdered husband.  Not one to waste talent, we simple slapped a ski mask on Brandon after his heart is mercilessly torn out of his chest and we had one more thug.

Our next significant filming will be during the first two weekends of November.  This time we’re going back to our zombie roots.  If you are in the Philadelphia area and would like to participate as a zombie or a human or even behind the scenes, please fill out the Want to Be in a Zombie Movie? form.  We plan on submitting the final result to all applicable horror related film festivals.

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A Party For the Rest of Us

Zombie for PresidentElection Day is coming ever closer—rather like a distant, staggering figure that nevertheless will have you cornered and surrounded in minutes—and frankly it can’t come soon enough. The constant name-calling and mud-slinging is enough to put a zombie off her brains. (And by the way if it’s a legitimate devouring, your brain has ways of shutting down yada yada you know the rest of the joke.) You know that politics have gotten ugly when a bloodthirsty undead monster is saying, “Whoa, now, let’s take a step back here.”

Since my little shamblers are home-schooled, I’ve had a great time teaching them about the democratic process. We’re learning about the differences between Democrats and Republicans, the electoral process, and why it’s always safe to eat anyone who uses the words “socialist,” “fascist,” “communist,” and “Muslim” in the same sentence to describe the same person. It’s been a constant temptation to abuse my parental powers in the name of education. I had to bite my tongue—and damn near took it off—when my older son asked, “So who’s the good guys and who’s the bad guys?”

The answer, of course, isn’t that simple. There are morons on both sides. The problem is that anyone with the money and drive necessary to become President shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the job. And that’s why I propose the start of the Undead Party.

It’s the best of all possible worlds. We won’t need half the funding of the average candidate, because press will never be a problem. All a zombie has to do is pop some bath salts and bite someone’s face off and he gets instant headlines for weeks. Zombies are inherently tireless, so one zombie can canvass an entire neighborhood without stopping for a break. In fact, eating on the go is what we’re best at. Also, the undead are NEVER ignored. Have you ever been approached by a stranger with a clipboard, and you just looked the other way and pretended they weren’t there? That has never happened to a zombie. Ever.

Zombie Speech

A minimalist campaign strategy means we won’t own anyone any favors after getting elected. Which means that we’re free to create our own platform. Here are a few ideas I’ve been kicking around:

Abortion. Since zombies have nonfunctioning reproductive systems, I see no reason why we should involve ourselves with the reproductive rights of others. Let’s leave that up to the breathers and their doctors.
Welfare. If breathers don’t eat, we don’t eat. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
The Environment. If breathers don’t breathe, we don’t eat. See above.

The Undead Party: Because the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Let’s make sure everyone pays their fair share.

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Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #12

With my shirt tied to the back of my motorcycle, I hopped on, kickstarted the monster and headed down Wilson Boulevard to do my business.

I saw what I expected to see as I went along: broken windows, bloodstains, and the signs of people who were moving about in a hurry. The Metro station at Clarendon was a minefield of broken glass, and restaurants that weren’t in business anymore. Hell, from the look of things, they’d been looted down to the furniture.

How silly is that? If you don’t have electricity to refrigerate your ill-gotten food, you and your people get one day of serious feasting… and nasty food poisoning the next.

The exception to that, of course, are canned goods and shelf-stable staples. I’d done my own share of looting in that department, as well as taking it in barter, and for blood-soaked services. My personal stash, locked up in Marvin’s basement, was pretty extensive—God knows, it needed to be!

All reminiscing aside, the drive down to the apartment building was pretty quick and completely uneventful. I stopped about two blocks away and took a good look around for potential places to settle in. There were tons of options, including the wreckage of my former-favorite steakhouse, right across the street.

Ultimately, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the restaurant and use it for my observation post. There was enough crap around that I could hide myself and my bike without a lot of effort, and reasonably expect to not be bothered…unless they saw me arrive.

No one appeared to confront me, so I went across the street, rolled the motorcycle behind the wreckage of the bar, and checked my shirt. It wasn’t dry. I let it be.

There were still a few chairs strewn about, including a gently water damaged leather armchair. In my humble opinion, stakeouts should be as comfortable as possible, so I pulled it over and sat down. It didn’t make any squishing noises when my ass landed on the cushion, and that was more than enough reason to smile.

A few minutes later, I decided I could get a better view if I shifted closer to the broken windows. I moved, and started to watch in earnest.

I could see the dumpster that Miss Malley had mentioned, just beyond the decorative wall that ringed seventy-five percent of the property. Some time ago, the section near the dumpster was as white as the rest of the wall, but not anymore. That day, it was the color of dried blood, spread about in Rorschach blots and Pollock spatters.

Some of the blood on the cement glistened, which meant it was probably still wet. My target, or someone like him, had recently made a kill there.

The clue brick descended from heaven, and landed on the peak of my skull.

Louise Malley never said what the zombie did with his victims. Based on circumstantial evidence, my guy brought his dinner home. It was possible he didn’t dispose of his victims at all. If that were the case, the people he attacked and killed revived nearby.

Then again, the recently re-animated were probably less than thrilled at running into the dude who killed them so soon after the event. It didn’t leave many options. Either they left, before or after trying to kill him, or they stuck around.

It didn’t matter which was the case; both possibilities led me to the same conclusion. There was a non-zero chance that my target had reinforcements/friends/cohorts/insane, munching pals. That could make my hit (let’s call it what it is, shall we?) a little dirtier than I usually prefer.

Maybe Marvin had a point about the situation, and my client? I suppose I might have been distracted by the pale canyon between her pectoral dim sum, and failed to be effectively cynical about her request.

“Hello, Frank? This is your libido speaking.”

“Yes. What?”

“Well, Señor Quixote and the Panza twins are feeling under-utilized. As their duly appointed representative in these negotiations, I would like to point out that getting laid could help your attention span dramatically… in situations where female clients are involved.”

“Excuse me, but are you telling me that my junk has joined some kind of organized labor union?”

My libido didn’t have anything else to say after that exchange. Sure, I’d been lax in securing warm companionship over the past… more than a year… Shit. I supposed I’d been paying more attention to staying alive and killing reanimated, formerly dead, people.

There wasn’t anything to be done for it right then, so I turned my train of thought back to more practical matters. Does my target have buddies? My angst obliged me by returning, louder than before, so I crossed my legs, gripped the arms of the chair, and waited for something to happen.

After what felt like an eternity, my stomach growled, and my target made an appearance across the street, all at the same time.

Follow me on Twitter @crawford4033, or read my blog.

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Look! Up In The Sky! – Part Two

In a prior post I described how John and I came up with all the visual components necessary for us to create a meteor hurtling through the sky for our short film Blobageddon.  By visual components, I mean, we had someone pointing up into the sky saying “What’s that?”, and a photo of the afternoon sky with some trees in it.  The important piece for creating the effect was the photo of the sky.

Sky Shot

A blank slate

I volunteered to come up with the effect.  First, I went looking around the Internet for one of those clever After Effects tutorials by bored 14 year old boys with far too much time on their hands.  No luck.  The best I could find were some effects that made a cheesy disney type shooting star, and then a number of effects that required purchasing additional software.  Since I didn’t feel like plunking down several hundred dollars for a 2 second effect, I took the disney type shooting star effect and figured I’d see what I came up with there.

The shooting star effect was achieved using an effect called Particle World.  In this case it consisted of a blue ball that was animated across the screen while spraying out delightful sparks.  Not quite the effect I was looking for.

I took the effect and tweaked some of the settings.

First, I set the particle type to “Faded Sphere”, gave it a fire-orange birth color and a black death color, and tweaked the size settings as follows:

Particle Settings

Next, I tweaked the Birth Rate,  Longevity and Physics.

Particle Settings

BirthRate controlled how quickly stuff was generated, and Physics kept the effect up in the air.  However, Longevity was key.  If I made it too long, I ended up with a long orange trail that went to black.  What I needed was something that looked like a fireball that went to black.  Using the above settings and a glow effect, I got the following effect:

Half a Meteor

Half a Meteor

Not bad – but the meteor looked kind of cheesy – I wanted an impressive black smoke trail.  I thought about it and then added another particle effect layer.  This had all the same settings as the previous layer except the birth and death colors were black, and the longevity was pumped to 10 seconds.  I layered this smoke trail under the meteor and got the following effect:

The Whole Enchilada

The Whole Enchilada

I then animated the effects in conjunction.  One thing to note in the above photo is that the path through the trees was clear. If I’d had a number of trees, I would have had to carve another layer for the trees I wanted the meteor to pass behind and carefully mask them out (the technique is described in this post).  That would be a pain in the ass.  I like to avoid pain in the ass work whenever possible so I made sure I had a clear path.

The effect looked good – now all I needed was sound.  I asked Shmoolie for sounds of jet flybys figuring those would be appropriate.  He sent those, then also included the sound of a train going through a tunnel, which ended up being the sound effect I used.  At the tail end of the sound you can actually hear the whistle of the train, but when it’s pulled out of context, nobody has any idea what the sound really is so no worries there.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the final effect.  Every time I see someone’s eyes get wide with a “Where the @$%! did that come from?” expression on his or her face, I consider that to be a job well done!

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