Arts and Entertainment

Zombies return to the quiet shores of Port Gamble

Just another day in Port Gamble, as a zombie washes ashore in the opening minutes of
Just another day in Port Gamble, as a zombie washes ashore in the opening minutes of 'Zombies of Mass Destruction.'
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

A corpse has literally washed ashore in Port Gamble.

A blind man, played by the late local actor Harry Helm, stumbles upon the remains while walking along the beach one morning. "Is that a whale?" he asks himself, sniffing at the air, poking the lifeless body with his walking stick. As he kneels down for a closer look, the zombie's eyelids ratchet open, revealing wicked yellow irises, right before it attacks the old man and starts the spread of the infection.

"Tonight, in the town of Port Gamble, they are in the throws of a viral attack," a TV newscaster reports over the airwaves. "It reportedly turns its victims into what can best be described as zombies."

Supposedly launched by an Osama Bin Laden-like figure as the latest weapon in terrorist chemical warfare, the undead have come alive, running amok and wreaking havoc throughout stereotypical small-town America in "Zombies of Mass Destruction" — an independent film shot in Port Gamble over the summer and fall of 2007.

The cast and crew are slated to return for the movie's Port Gamble premiere Oct. 2.

"It's basically kind of like a homecoming," the movie's producer John Sinno said of the event. "It was a wonderful collaboration with Port Gamble and the town's production company. This will be a chance to go back and say thank you, celebrate our cooperation, and also show people the film and where it was shot."

Port Gamble is almost a movie set in itself.

The silence of the old logging town is deafening late at night. The idyllic, archaic architecture stands stoic and spooky against a backdrop of the night sky looming above an empty town. As the fog sets in, it doesn't take much of a stretch to imagine this place really could've been recently evacuated and quarantined in the aftermath a zombie attack.

"We couldn't think of a single living person, who knew a single living person, who knew of any single living person that actually lives in Port Gamble," Corey Fox joked, introducing "ZMD" at last weekend's Port Townsend Film Festival.

The film — a hybrid horror/comedy with post-9/11 socio and political undertones, a "political zomedy," they've termed it — has been gathering a good amount of traction among audiences, since its world premiere this past spring at Filmfest DC, Washington D.C.'s International Film Festival.

The movie has been making the festival rounds all summer long, from Seattle to Minneapolis to Los Angeles and Philadelphia. It headlined MOHAI's Zombie Film Festival in Seattle the same day it played to a near sold-out audience in Port Townsend.

"Festivals, right now, are pretty much the only way for independent films to gain attention and visibility," Sinno said.

Through their tireless attention and application to the festival circuit, "ZMD" producers have certainly gained visibility for their film, not only within festival audiences, but also online and in the media.

Variety calls the movie a "rare breed: a horror-comedy that's actually consistently funny and occasionally almost scary." Film Jerk lauded the film's "potentially interesting political and social commentary to go along with the blood and guts."

"And we're having good success in terms of viral marketing," Sinno added, "with just under 5,000 hits on youtube for the trailer."

While the Port Gamble premier — a special showing limited to 100 people — is already sold out and has a waiting list, Sinno said the details of "ZMD's" distribution should soon be decided, hopefully within the month, and the film will then be available in theaters, on demand, on DVD, or by some combination thereof.

"The world of distribution is really in a state of flux right now," Sinno said, noting its often a long process. "So many films felt like they had to do a theatrical run to make it, but nowadays, theatrical runs are very expensive."

But by the same token, a movie like "ZMD" really shines in a theatrical setting, Sinno told me before I got to see the film, last Saturday night at the Port Townsend Film Festival.

"It's kind of a communal experience," Sinno said. "It really benefits a lot from having a large audience watching it together. The more the merrier. People feed off each other, laughter is contagious and fear is contagious."

He's right. And though it's not exactly clear whether he was aiming for a pun in the last half of that quote, the film certainly has its fair share of

"But it's not strictly a zombie movie," Sinno said. "It's more than that. At the same time, it's not an art film. It's got so many different elements."

To get on the waiting list for the Port Gamble premiere of "Zombies of Mass Destruction," call (360) 297-8074. For more info on the film, see www.zombiesofmassdestruction.com.

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