As a former student at the Guernsey Grammar School I will admit that I had in the past considered the possibility of the school being over run with hordes of the undead… and I’m clearly not the only one as young local filmmaker, Jack De La Mare, brought this idea to life in his latest short film Zombey.
Before I share my thoughts on the film with you, I had a chance to speak to Jack, who has directed, produced and co-written four short films (and is working on his fifth) about Zombey making movies in Guernsey.
“I was born the year Jurassic Park came out and growing up, that’s all I watched,” Jack De La Mare said of his prime filmmaking influence, “It was watching the making of and seeing what the crew did to put such an epic together, and seeing [Steven] Spielberg working the set, that just made me excited and made me think, ‘I really want to make films’.”
Jack (left) on the set of Zombey
And so at the age of 14 Jack, and a group of friends, began work on what became Jack’s first short film, Prime Survival, a “fan film” (inspired by Steven Spielberg’s mid-90s masterpiece) that has gone on to be watched by more than 900,000 people on YouTube.
“It took us two years to make, so the continuity is awful,” explained Jack, “But it works and it has a narrative to it… just the fact we finished it is quite an achievement.”
While it is a little rough around the edges, with fully realized CGI dinosaurs and the use of boats and aircrafts Prime Survival is an impressive achievement for a teenager and his friends to put together.
Jack and the cast on the set
This has led on to a trilogy of horror films ranging in length from the seven-and-a-half-minute Isolated to the 44 minute Zombey, by way of the half hour long Six.
I asked Jack, why it was he had chosen to make horror films and why many new filmmakers seem to work in that genre: “Horror doesn’t need that much of a budget or a big name attached because, usually, you end up killing all the stars… also its just fun.”
And fun seemed to be what the cast were having if the backstage photos posted on DLM Productions Facebook page were anything to go by, as Jack and his crew took over the Grammar School, including some of its teachers, and gave it the Zombey treatment.
Zombies get made up backstage
Having assembled a cast of zombies Jack explained that while horror movies were often cheap Zombey had been his most expensive production yet: “We had to pay for blood – lots of blood – and special effects to make the gore look real.”
Special effects for Jack’s films have all come thanks to relationships made with budding effects makers online who add in digital elements once the film has been shot and Jack said that the internet and developments in technology had made filmmaking easier to get into: “Its easy and cheap to make films now – you don’t need to buy film stock and you can make a film with your phone.”
While Jack is currently studying Film Production in Bournemouth, he is also making another short movie over the summer and his four films to date, as well as other work including music videos, can be seen through the DLM Productions YouTube channel.
Ben Weldon in Zombey
So, onto the film itself.
While I could compare it directly to the likes of the Living Dead Trilogy, or Shaun of the Dead, and in places it certainly invites such comparison, this really has to be done with the knowledge that this was a film made for a couple of hundred pounds by some A-Level students in their spare time.
That’s not to say its bad by any means, however, as with all such projects there are some elements that work better than others.
What really impressed me about the film is Jack’s direction of the action which features variously fast cuts and comparatively full on sequences for a team clearly working without the aid of crash mats or stunt men.
Ben Weldon and Matthew Judge
This, alongside a knowing sense of humour, works well to present a rough, but, none-the-less enjoyable movie which will certainly appeal to horror movie fans like me, as it references many of the greats from George A. Romero and Edgar Wright to Sam Raimi and Steven Spielberg.
Certainly another step forward for this young director, Zombey, to me, shows that Jack De La Mare has a level of talent that, with the right team around him, could lead to some very interesting and good looking work in the future.