A couple of weeks ago, a man bit a fellow passenger's hand on an Aer Lingus flight. The biter died. When Baltimore filmmaker Kevin Perkins read this, he couldn't believe it was happening.
"This is, almost word for word, how our [opening credits] start," says Perkins during an interview at Clark Burger next to Senator Theatre where his film, "My Boring Zombie Apocalypse," premieres on Oct. 29. Perkins' film is paired with a 30th-anniversary screening of "The Return of the Living Dead."
For the past five years, Perkins and his editor Chris Resnick worked to bring the 38-minute film to the big screen—but the budget was tight.
"We had no money really," Perkins says. "Whenever we did have money, we put what little we had into the movie. I called in a lot of favors and people stepped up to help. Then life got in the way. Kids were born, things like that."
The idea for the movie—in which characters quickly grow accustomed to a world taken over by zombies—came to Perkins after watching the way Americans reacted to and related to the events of 9/11.
"This is how people react to a huge monumental event that changes the world," he says between bites of burger. "You just get used to it. It's not a diss on people. You can't keep that level of awareness. You've got to walk the dog, go grocery shopping, or take the kids to school. It's not a big deal anymore."
And some people seemed to get off on the thrill.
"After 9/11 people were seeing terrorists under the bed," Perkins says. "It was exciting to some people. They wanted to shoot guns. The same with our film. There's a lot of people with guns. They found the [apocalypse] exciting."
Perkins refers to his horror film as a "dry comedy" in the vein of "The Return of the Living Dead," the undead comedic classic that gets that balance of comedy and horror just right. There are a few other zombie comedies that work—"Shaun of The Dead," "Zombieland"—but most don't. Zombie films like "Dawn of the Dead" and "Fido" have also been used as satirical social commentary and "My Boring Zombie Apocalypse" contains elements of all of these movies.
"I always hate when shows like ['The Walking Dead'] and movies like the 'Dawn of the Dead' [remake] don't happen in a world where zombie movies are a thing," Perkins says. "Ours has several references to other zombie movies and there's even a cameo by ['Dawn of the Dead' director] George Romero." Baltimore baker Duff Goldman, of "Ace of Cakes" fame, also has a cameo: He gets bitten and subsequently terrorizes his staff. Then we see a young teen watch this scene on his computer, unfazed by an undead Goldman running around killing his workers.
"We wanted to make it funny but not stupid," Perkins says. "'Return of the Living Dead' did that perfectly. It was all in the writing and not slapstick."
The 1985 film which set the precedent for "funny" zombie films centers around two inept warehouse workers (Thom Matthews of "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" and James Karen of "Mulholland Drive") who accidentally release a toxic gas, called Trioxin, into the facility. When they try and burn the evidence, they raise the dead at a nearby cemetery. The dead terrorize a group of punk rockers, cops, and EMTs. The U.S. Army is called in and nuke the graveyard and surrounding area.
"We reference 'Living Dead' a lot," Perkins says. "It's like the father of our film."
While not quite on the same scale as "The Return of the Living Dead," "My Boring Zombie Apocalypse" does boast a scene with 500 extras: "That was a huge undertaking. We had at least 500 zombies who mostly came made up themselves."
"My Boring Zombie Apocalypse" comes on the heels of other local horror films. Chris LaMartina's "Call Girl of Cthulhu" has been a hit on the horror indie film circuit, and the new short, "Killer Queen," from director Tony Savero about a murdered drag queen bent on revenge has local roots.
"I think horror is cyclical," Perkins says. "You have periods where things [are] stagnating and then for instance [Wes Craven's] 'Scream' comes along and gets all meta. Then it died down again. It seems to come in waves, and I think Baltimore is in on that too."
"My Boring Zombie Apocalypse" screens at Senator Theatre on Oct. 29 at 9 p.m. For more information, visit thesenatortheatre.com.