High school students turning into zombies. It’s not only a fair description of students with looming finals — it’s what viewers at the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven witnessed on the big screen last Thursday evening at the world premiere of Ian Chickering’s latest film, Last Night on Earth.
Mr. Chickering, the writer, director, producer and editor of the film, is a 17-year-old student at the Charter School. Last Night on Earth is his eighth film; he began making movies in the fifth grade, and he thinks it’s his best so far.
Part horror mystery, part action and with a definite air of CSI-meets-Dawn of the Dead, the movie took over nine months to create.
“I could have had a baby in that time,” Mr. Chickering said, but then quickly amended his comment because, in many ways, Last Night on Earth is his “baby.”
“I’m so proud of what he has created,” said Debbie Chickering, his mother. “It was a lot of time and a lot of work, and the whole crew really fought through it.”
By fighting through it, Mrs. Chickering was referring to the harsh weather conditions on the main filming day.
“It was about ten degrees outside,” estimated Mrs. Chickering. “Every time Olivia [Olenick], who played the prostitute, finished a scene, we rushed over to throw blankets on her.”
Ms. Olenick was one of many classmates who made up the cast of zombies, detectives and criminals.
“Working with Ian is really strange, but it’s always fun,” she said. “He would call me up, tell me to meet him somewhere, and soon enough I’d end up covered in [fake] blood.”
Filming these scenes drew some looks, to say the least. “One day I was walking to the bus stop from Ian’s house still wearing my costume,” Ms. Olenick said. “I spent five minutes trying to explain to one woman that I was actually fine, it was just for a movie. There was pure shock on her face.”
Ruth Oliveira, 17, played a forensic photographer and a zombie. “The costumes smelled like rotting basement,” she remembered. And the fake blood tasted like latex, she added. The make-up (something Mr. Chickering learned to do by watching YouTube tutorials), took half an hour per actor to put on and involved caking layer upon layer of blood pockets and concealer.
“We had to have the guts and gore in there,” Mr. Chickering said.
But the film wasn’t merely blood pools and loose brains.
“I like to focus on the human aspect of drama, even during a zombie apocalypse,” he said.
Last Night on Earth was inspired by a board game of the same name. According to Mr. Chickering, the game is a satisfying “self-contained parody” that provided a solid backbone for the film. Players are either heroes or zombies, and tackle certain prescribed scenarios that threaten to leave the small town of Woodinvale decimated by the undead if the heroes don’t pool their resources to halt the attack.
Mr. Chickering said his creative inspiration for movie-making is big-time horror maestro Darren Lynn Bousman, the writer and director of the Saw movie series. Mr. Bousman was born in a small Kansas suburb but later made it big in Hollywood, a path Mr. Chickering hopes to emulate once he graduates high school.
For now though, there is summer vacation and a job working at the Flying Horses. Every penny earned will be put toward his film school applications, which he will begin working on this fall.
And who knows, inspiration may strike this summer, too. After all, horses can be zombies too, can’t they?