IT is a typical sleepy Sunday in Banbury... apart from the hordes of zombies who have invaded the town centre, that is.
Aside from a few curious passers-by, no-one bats an eye, because this is the film set of Apocalypse, a horror film set in the town, and due for release next year.
The movie focuses on Kat – played by young British actress and model Ruth Galliers – a journalist who has previously been a prisoner of war in Burma.
As well as struggling to deal with returning to work and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, she now has to cope with a zombie invasion.
She is trapped in a six-storey news channel building, trying to reach her boyfriend on the outside.
The film is being made by Jopia Productions, an independent film company run by two brothers, producer and screenwriter Stuart and director Tony Jopia, who lives in Deddington. They have previously made a number of horror comedy films, including Crying Wolf, available on DVD.
The film’s other screenwriter Stuart Bedford, 23, said: “I used to be a journalist so I found a lot to identify with Kat and I understood the drive for her.”
Stuart Jopia said: “In our film the virus is unleashed by terrorists trying to reduce the western population and it’s gone wrong.”
The 36-year-old said: “I’ve been watching horror films since I was about eight and we wanted to incorporate lots of different things that we’ve seen in other zombie films.
“We’ve got a good mix of zombies: the classic wanderers from the films of Romero [the American director who made Night Of The Living Dead] and we have also got ones that are the new breed of zombies, who are a bit more animalistic and predatory. We’re also having some zombies grouping together as an alpha pack to take people down.”
Filming has been going on throughout August, and finished on Sunday with a day involving hundreds of extras, and the finished film will be premiered in the town’s Odeon cinema.
Mr Jopia said: “We wanted local people to get involved in the film and be a part of it, and we’ve had an unbelievable response.
- Extra Selina Thomas rocks the undead look
“We didn’t know if it would work, if anyone would want to be involved, but 3,500 people on Facebook said they wanted to be zombies.
“In the end we’ve got 300 extras.
“People are crying out for something to happen in Banbury.”
Among the hundreds of residents who were transformed into the walking dead during the filming process was Emma Walsh, 39, who works at pet shop Croft Pet Foods.
She said: “I loved Shaun Of The Dead, and how often can you become a zombie?
“This is the most exciting thing that’s happened here.”
Glyn Smith is the owner of Banbury’s comic book shop Comics Connections.
He said: “I’m friends with the director Tony Jopia and I was involved with his last film as well.
“I’ve done extra work before. I’ve worked with Sir Christopher Lee.”
The 57-year-old said: “It’s fun and not something many people get to do. It’s also great PR for the shop.
“Banbury’s a great place to film because the council are so amenable.”
It may seem unusual for the undead to walk down Parsons Street and Bridge Street, but Chris Drury, owner of Banbury Market Place, insists this could become a regular sight.
He said: “Our message should be that Banbury is open for business for television and film companies from London or wherever.
“Cities are so expensive to film in because they’re busier and it takes a lot of money to close streets off.
“There’s no reason why we can’t see more companies coming here.”
- Oxford Mail’s Alex Wynick gets a zombie makeover
I quickly learn after agreeing to be a zombie extra on Apocalypse that there is an awful lot of waiting around on film sets.
There are 150 people to turn into zombies and only a handful of costume and makeup staff to do it.
But the long delays do not act as a deterrent for the eager extras. The enthusiasm is palpable.
At one point a costume assistant even has to ask that people stop ripping up their own clothes.
Much like the zombie virus itself, the enthusiasm is infectious: I’m soon counting down the minutes until I can get into the makeup chair and become one of the undead.
With a light layer of grey makeup, some dark greasepaint and a realistic wound made from prosthetic glue and red gel, I become a convincing zombie.
I have to admit I enjoy getting startled glances and double-takes from Sunday morning shoppers as I walk through the town.
My acting career may be non-existent, but it was fun to dip a toe into the waters of horror films and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished film.
'This was a real bucket-list day'
- Kyle Beardsley on a break from filming
FOR firefighter Kyle Beardsley, who was one of the film’s most prominent zombies, this was not a normal weekend.
The 40-year-old, from Northampton, said: “I watch a lot of zombie films and read a lot of books – there’s been a resurgence in the genre I think.
“I heard about the film on the radio and thought I wanted to be involved, and then when I saw it again on Facebook I decided to go for it.
“It’s a bucket-list day for someone like me, it’s one of those things I wanted to do before I die.
“It’s been amazing, fantastic experience, just a really good insight into the hard work that goes into movies like this.”
He said: “It’s good to see independent companies making movies in the UK like this.
“Lots of people take part in zombie runs across the country, but this is much better. Knowing it’s being filmed and will be released next year, and that it’s something we will keep, is amazing.”
1 World War Z (2013) Zombie pandemic threatens to destroy humanity. Grossed £125m
2 Hotel Transylvania (2012) Animation with cute, misunderstood monster folk. Grossed £89m
3 Zombieland (2009) Comedy high on humour and gore. Grossed £45m
- Warm Bodies
4 Warm Bodies (2013) Romance blossoms between undead boy and warm-blooded living girl. Grossed £40m
5 Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) Action thriller with added in-your-face 3D visuals. Grossed £36m
Filmed in Oxfordshire
- World War Z (Shirburn near Watlington)
- Harry Potter (Christ Church and New College)
- The Young Victoria (Blenheim Palace)
- The Italian Job (Malmaison Oxford) s X-Men First Class (Sheldonian Theatre and the Bridge of Sighs)
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