Town of the Living Dead – Episode 1 “Jasper Needs Zombies”

Town of the Living Dead (Photo: Syfy)
Town of the Living Dead (Photo: Syfy)

Syfy makes everyone who ever attended film school feel good about their decision not to max out credit cards to self-produce a terrible movie with the new docu-series, Town of the Living Dead.Before we even start, let me take a moment to summarize Town of the Living Dead.  One of Family Guy‘s spoofs about Ben Affleck’s acting abilities perfectly encapsulates the people Town of the Living Dead follows.  This is how Seth MacFarlane thinks Ben Affleck prepares for a role and this is how I think the people on Town of the Living Dead prepared/prepare to shoot their film.

Recap

Town of the Living Dead follows a group of people trying to make a zombie film1 in Jasper, Alabama. Syfy found out about this and agreed to air the final product, if there ever is a final product.

The film being shot is titled Thr33 Days Dead, and it has been in production for six years2. The movie is “about three good ol’ boys. They go on a fishin’ trip, and they come back from their fishin’ trip to find out that the world is in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.”3.

Film school thoughts

This series should be required viewing in film school. The title would be changed from Town of the Living Dead to At Least You’re Not These Guys. After six years of shooting, it’s impressive that these people have even one complete shot in the can4. They are completely unprepared for every aspect of filming5.

TotLD’s cast range from the self-aware6 to the completely and utterly delusional7 They can’t even agree on how far they are into production: Tina, the producer/usurper of John’s directorial powers, insists they are ¾ of the way through and nearly done; John doesn’t think they’ve even reached the halfway point and are far from done. This is why school exists, folks: whether you’re going for a PhD in astrophysics or learning how to repair A/C units, school is important because it teaches valuable and useable skills for specific jobs. I bet the first year of this production was pointless because John didn’t figure out that you’ve got to take the lens cap off AND record if you want footage later. Film school could’ve saved these guys about 5 years and 8 months of struggling8.

Stop digging; we’ve struck gold

After shooting for six hours in a parking lot and still not getting the zombie kill shot they want, it’s finally decided that their one dummy’s head will be filled with fake blood, the actors in a truck will run over the dummy’s head, and then they’ll call it a day. Tina stands to the side and throws the dummy under the truck while John stands on the other side of the truck filming. When the dummy head is crushed, it sprays all of its contents on John9. But John ain’t havin’ none of that, y’all. He is livid at the actor, Gary, driving the truck10 and tears the truck door open, trying to get his hands on Gary. John is subdued by Tina, who insists that the blood splatter was not intentional and that it doesn’t matter as much as the fact that John got that great shot. “I didn’t get the shot!” John yells back in anger. It’s difficult to decide which is funnier: the ineptitude of everyone involved with this movie or John’s Hulk rage at getting dirty. Either way, it’s comedy gold.

Bless your heart

I’m not fully convinced that the lead actor, Bryan, isn’t a plant from Syfy. He claims to suffer from an anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for him to be in front of the camera, yet he is the most natural on camera out of everyone on this show. He does seem to show some poor acting whenever he’s trying to convey an oncoming anxiety episode, so maybe he should go back and take a few more improv classes before his next reality show. The best part of about him, though? He turned down work on The Walking Dead to make this indie film! Of course, he eventually admits that it was only as extra work on TWD, but as he put it: “Still! The Walking Dead!” Not sure you made the right move, buddy, but bless your heart, you’re trying.

Best quotes

[Discussing Terry, head of special effects11]

Chase: Terry is not the first gay person I’ve ever worked with on set. I’ve worked in the the-ate-er and a lot of thespians are that—you know… gay.12

 

[As they prep a stunt shot where a real truck is going to barrel toward a high school girl]

Chase: “Has she signed a waiver?”

John: “We called her mama. It’s okay.”

 

Recruited Zombie Extra: Take me to your leader!

Tina: Zombie movie, not aliens.

 

Laura13: No laughing, zombies. Think of dead puppies. Think of your dead mother.14.

  1. I refuse to call them filmmakers. Just because you know how to make Rice Krispies Treats doesn’t make you a gourmet chef  
  2. The latest reason they shut down production: the lead actress, who is also the producer’s daughter, got pregnant.  
  3. Summary courtesy of the writer/director, John. With pitching skills like this, it’s easy to see why he’s struggling in his job as a salesperson at RadioShack  
  4. They don’t back up their footage, they don’t get shooting permits, they can’t even keep extras from walking off set out of boredom, etc.  
  5. I truly don’t think that they plan anything before arriving on set other than having “zombies do stuff” scrawled on a piece of paper they call a script  
  6. Bryan, the lead actor, states, “No wonder it’s taken us six years to shoot this. After six years, John still doesn’t know how to set up a damn shot!”  
  7. John defends his inability to be a director by claiming, “I’m sure Robert Rodriquez takes six hours to set up a shot. It’s gotta be perfect.” And I’m sure the president takes six hours to sign his name. It’s gotta be perfect.  
  8. or just taught them that a viable indie horror movie needs to rely more on atmosphere rather than FX shots because special effects make up and stunts take years upon years of training to successfully pull off not to mention how crazy expensive they are if you want realism.  
  9. The blood that has bathed him is the most realistic special effect in this entire show so far.  
  10. who is also his brother. Nepotism ain’t just for them fancy folk in Hollywood.  
  11. meaning, he’s the only one doing special effects  
  12. He knows the word “thespian” but doesn’t know how to pronounce “theater?” Way to keep me on my toes, Chase.  
  13. Tina’s assistant/zombie instructor/epitome of walking theater nerd cliché  
  14. WTF is wrong with you, Laura?! Take it down about 8 notches. You’re in a home movie. Not even a glorified home movie, an actual home movie.  

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About Becca Marshall 36 Articles

Becca has been writing about film and television since convincing her junior high English teacher that comparing and contrasting the film and stage versions of Romero and Juliet was a good idea for a term research paper. After getting her BA in English and film studies, she doubled down on liberal arts and got an MA in television, radio, and film from Syracuse University. Becca is incredibly proud to be an Aggie and entertains her non-Texan friends with Southern colloquialisms. Her hobbies include watching Golden Girls and her interests include all things zombies – she’s simple, not basic. Email: becca@whatelseison.tv