Lancaster Castle catches zombie film fever

Zombies on the charge in a scene from the film. Photo by Zak Chowdhury.
Zombies on the charge in a scene from the film. Photo by Zak Chowdhury.

Exploding cars, fleets of tanks, helicopters and ambulances, and hundreds of zombies on the rampage, some with the kind of spectacular martial arts skills Jackie Chan would be proud of.

It certainly seems like Lancaster film maker Chee Keong Cheung’s latest project is his most ambitious yet.

Chee Keong Cheung on set. Photo by Simon Webb.

Chee Keong Cheung on set. Photo by Simon Webb.

And when the shooting of ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ came to Lancaster recently, the entire city caught zombie fever.

More than 100 people turned up at Lancaster Castle in a response to Chee’s appeal for extras.

They assembled at the prison, eager to be transformed into zombies and for a chance to appear in a film.

Chee has been overwhelmed by the response, which has been echoed at shoots around the country.

“We had so many people from all walks of life; accountants, lawyers, doctors, families, all ages from eight to 75, on our shoots in Lancaster, Preston, Rugby and Stockport,” he said.

“There were about 450 people in total from more than 1,000 who applied and we’re still getting emails now.

“I think it’s the fascination of being a zombie and being in a film.

“When you make a film it’s a long process and there’s a lot of waiting around but the positivity of the people who came was phenomenal and they’re still sending us messages saying what a great experience it was.

“We filmed a prison break out sequence. The castle location was great. It had so much character.”

Chee, 34, is co-writer, director and producer on the film, which he says will fuse two genres with a huge following - zombie horror and martial arts.

He is tight lipped about how much the film has cost and indeed on much of the cast.

But one thing is certain, Chee intends for ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ to be his most successful film to date.

“As a director and producer, the intention is this film is the one that elevates me to the next level,” he said.

“I want to make it different to other zombie films by including martial arts. Like when Danny Boyle made 28 Days Later, it was a new take on the genre.

“The overwhelming response from extras and the success of films like The Walking Dead shows there is a great love for the genre.

“We’re now on a big talent search for martial artists and free runners. We’re scouring the country and will be visiting wrestling and martial arts clubs.”

Chee is working on the film alongside his friend Mark Strange from Leyland, martial arts expert and action film performer, who worked with Chee on his previous films Bodyguard: A New Beginning, and Underground, which starred Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf, Death in Paradise).

Also involved in the project is Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Carlos Gallardo, who co-produced Desperado and Once Upon A Time in Mexico, which starred Antonio Banderas.

“Carlos is bringing a bit of Hollywood to the north,” said Chee.

“Having he and Kevin champion the film is a really strong endorsement.”

Chee, whose family runs the Golden Dragon restaurant in Lancaster, was 16 when he started making films. Armed with his parents’ home video camera and a vivid imagination, he would recruit fellow students and teachers at Lancaster Royal Grammar School to feature in the ‘shorts’ and screen them in the hall at lunchtime.

On leaving school he went on to study film production at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham.

Next on Chee’s agenda is filming the next section of ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, which is due for a late 2015/early 2016 release.

“There will be a lot of travelling, costing and location scouting, and of course the talent search.

“We still want to hear from anyone who wants to be involved, whether it’s as an extra, or helping with catering and transportation, or make-up.

“I think when the film comes out, people will be surprised by what they see.”

Chee also thanked Francesca Lewis at Lancaster Castle, and Lucie Carrington who helped co-ordinate the Lancaster ‘zombies’.

*If you are interested in being involved in ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ please email Chee at .