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Zombie movie set in Hagerstown puts viewer in a trance

October 27, 2008|By DON AINES

LEITERSBURG -- I'm no film reviewer -- I leave that to highly trained professionals, but "Deadlands 2: Trapped" was the best $6,000 zombie movie I have seen this year.

It wasn't "Schindler's List," but it wasn't meant to be. "D2:T" is a pretty good example of what Gary Ugarek, its 37-year-old script writer and director, described as a "low-budget, grindhouse horror flick."

As I sat looking for myself on-screen, it occurred to me that the muted colors of the film were reminiscent of the granddaddy of zombie flicks, George A. Romero's 1968 "Night of the Living Dead." At the end of the 84-minute film, Ugarek told the audience of 230, many of them -- like me -- zombie extras, that the digital projector was malfunctioning.

"I was really worried we were going to have to refund everybody," Ugarek said after the world premiere of the sort-of sequel to his 2006 film "Deadlands: The Rising."

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Thus the color red was nowhere to be seen in a film in which people are eaten alive. Presumably that glitch will be fixed when the film begins a one-week run at midnight on Halloween at the Hagerstown 10 Cineplex, where most of the film was shot.

The plot is pretty straightforward: A secret agency of the United States government picks Hagerstown to test a virus meant to create the ultimate soldiers -- creatures that never tire and never stop.

A government scientist tries to stop the experiment, warning that the virus has mutated and, of course, something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Six people unaffected by the virus are trapped inside the theater. One of them, the fetching actress Corrine Brush, utters a great line that pretty well sums up the whole misunderstanding between we, the living, and the walking dead:

"They're just people like you and me, besides their ability to kill without remorse."

I was one of the undead, having spent four long nights as a zombie extra at the theater for what turned out to be about 14 seconds of screen time, mostly rushing along with dozens of other zombies after the six blue-plate specials. Even with the coat and tie and knowing what shots in which I was likely to turn up, I had a hard time picking myself out of the crowd.

Three of the nights I wore the same ge-tup, but the second time I showed up, it was rather cold and I dressed differently. Having brought my original duds in a grocery sack, I asked Ugarek if I should change.

"I don't think anybody will notice," he said.

I certainly couldn't, which disappointed me, because I got the best makeup job of the four evenings, a gaping wound to the right side of my face. The other nights, dressed like an insurance agent, I had that "died-of-natural-causes" look.

Ugarek said that all 520 people involved in making the film will be listed in the credits, although not all of the names made it into the DVD he finished editing an hour before the premiere was to start. Fortunately, my name begins with an "A," or I probably would not have been able to find it among the listed extras.

The film is not rated, but parents won't want to take the kids. A certain industrial-strength vulgarity is used scores of times; one scene in a bar shows a woman wearing not much more than a pair of high heels; and there are plenty of ghastly looking zombies and grisly violence.

One could hear a few chuckles in the audience when a character said the bar was in Waynesboro, Pa. Don't bother looking for it -- the scene was shot in Virginia.

Ugarek, who lives in Germantown, Md., and works for a biotech company, said he has a third "Deadlands" in his head, but it might be awhile before it comes to life, as "D2:T" took 13 months of weekends and nights to complete. In the meantime, he has a completed script about "a town run by vampires."

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