What better way to usher in the Halloween season than to take you on the set of Jim Stramel’s upcoming zombie pit fighting web series “Reviled”. It took me over an hour to get to the remote set in the boondocks of Powhatan County, Virginia . There in the back woods of an old farmhouse were signs posted telling a weary traveler how to get to the set. The trail went long and deep into the woods, but finally you get to a clearing to see what Stramel’s successful fundraising on indiegogo paid for. The make up tents, the spread of food, coolers full of beverages and the lighthearted feel of the place on a warm September afternoon.
Once I got there I saw that Jim’s wife Renee was applying the gore to Randy Boyer, one of the actors playing a zombie. Renee’s experience in gore goes way back to the early days of Jim’s reign as the kingpin of homegrown exploitation films like “The Thrillbillys” (2001) and “Degenerates Ink” (2010). Don’t sit to close to the screen, you might get some on you. I’ve known Jim for a number of years through my work with the James River Film Society. Jim has always felt comfortable in the underground; he would rather promote his flicks at Tattoo conventions than at film festivals. Plus he puts on one hell of a yard sale full of horror and B movie memorabilia .
Once I got to the set I saw a cage built from scratch . Jim said it took them four days to build it.
Made from old barn wood, barbed wire, and straw, the custom-built cage also featured smoke barrels in the background and a few bales of hay used for seating the onlooking audience. Each zombie was equipped with a metal hook in his back to be controlled by their keeper. These keepers are controlling their zombie fighters with long poles with grappling hooks. Observing Jim and the way he manages his set was quite an experience. He likes to keep the atmosphere very lighthearted. Everyone is joking around. Jim lets his actors improvise their lines. But Jim is also a man with an eye for detail. Using a single camera he shoots the action from several angles, often doing reshoots to capture the light refracting off of a character’s hat.
The fight scenes take a long time to shoot. Jim was filming the zombie’s face getting raked along the fence in order to capture the latex flesh being rolled back in gory detail. He often calls upon Renee to do touch ups on the make up, calling out specific colors by name.
The final shot is of the audience placing their bets on the carnage to follow. All the extras – myself included – were there shouting and cheering the fight taking place in the cage. Latex body parts were hurled out in the audience for comedic value, because after all this web series is tongue in cheek all the way. The zombies were being poked and prodded by onlookers. For a September afternoon it was 90 degrees out in rural Powhatan and I’m sure the guys in all of the zombie make up were suffering for their art. As the evening was approaching , Jim was losing sunlight. He knew he had to rush to get those last few shots in.
Jim told me ‘Reviled’ was making it’s debut at the end of 2013 or very early 2014. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for further details regarding“Reviled”, a horror web series not to be missed. Happy Halloween and remember try to to get any on you . – Jeff Roll