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Eyes sewn shut – playing an emotional zombie

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Eyes sewn shut – playing an emotional zombie
Photo: Nowhere Fast Productions
07:43 CET+01:00
“Colin” is the title and hero of the new sleeper-hit zombie movie playing at this year's Britspotting film festival. Made for a reported £45 (€50) in a lot of people's spare time, it caused enough of a stir in Cannes to get a British cinema release. Ben Knight meets Colin himself, Alastair Kirton.

What did you spend the £45 on?

That was the cost of various bits and pieces on the way. We had a really good recipe for fake blood, which is incredibly cheap. Golden syrup and red food colouring, and coffee to make it grittier. You can use that coffee to give to the actors. Then there were some very cheap biscuits, and I think the director Marc (Price) bought a crowbar as well, for one shot, which cost about £7.

You filmed most of the film without permission. Did you have any run-ins with British coppers?

When we were shooting the street-battle, a police officer turned up, because somebody had reported there was a riot going on. It was on a Sunday in a cul-de-sac somewhere in Teddington. When the policeman arrived he was really relieved. Marc was very good in those situations – convincing people it was just a student production, and these were his friends. But he took care to remove the tape from the camera. The policeman was very nice about it. We asked him if he wanted to be a zombie but he turned us down.

Any difficult moments with the general public?

We had a couple of close calls. There's the bit when Colin is being attacked by some youths, and a guy turns up with a samurai sword. That was filmed on quite a busy estate. But for some reason it was really quiet that day. Considering we had people wandering around with half their face falling off we were very lucky. We did have a few twitching curtains.

Some of the extras seem to be having a great time in the film. Did you ever have to tell them to tone it down a bit?

Marc did have to tell two guys who were doing some really big stuff – sort of banging into each other and things – because it was a close-up. But the extras were one of the most amazing things about the film. We had a lot of friends of friends in the film who usually spent their Sundays sitting around watching rubbish TV. We just told them, "Come down, bring two sets of clothes, and we'll turn you into a zombie."

How did the success of the film happen, without even a viral marketing campaign?

First entering it in a lot of horror film festivals, then going to the Cannes and Berlin film markets. Then all of a sudden the press picked up on the story. It's a gritty, old genre movie, and suddenly it's being reviewed in the Financial Times. I mean it was always meant to be a genre movie, which we were all fans of, but we hoped that with the emotional parts we were doing something you didn't expect in a horror film.

How do you act an emotional zombie?

When we first started, Marc would just shout "Too human! You're being too human!" because if you've got no dialogue, you naturally over-compensate by doing more and more. So we started by working out what worked best physically. We set up some rules, like I was only allowed to be aware of things that were in close proximity to me. And we developed things like holding objects the wrong way round.

A lot of low budget horror films get round their money shortage by leaving gory details to the imagination. Colin doesn't go down that easy road, does it?

We were really lucky with our make-up artist, Michelle Webb. She had just come off doing X-Men 3. She'd spent about two weeks gluing Hugh Jackman's side-burns. But she hadn't done a huge amount of effects make-up. And Marc gave her free rein to create the most beautiful zombies. So basically it was a chance for her to do this amazing show-reel. The make-up team, who weren't that experienced, had to come up with some really good ideas, especially for those people in the cellar with their eyes sewn shut.

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