‘Both beautiful and horrible’: Zombies come to Manchester in short film – but with a twist

Zombies are amongst us in Manchester in an apocalyptic short film which tackles a father-daughter relationship between the undead.

A Father’s Day takes us to a time when the dead have risen, where we meet a young girl, Abi, who is reunited with her father, George. The only problem is, they both zombies.

They retain the ability to think and feel however, and we follow them through their journey as they reconnect.  

Director Mat Johns told MM: “I think it’s quite interesting to try and tell a story that is beautiful and horrible at the same time.

BEAUTIFUL AND HORRIBLE: A Father’s Day tells the tale of father-and-daughter zombies

“Being able to give [the characters] who would usually be the losers in a zombie film the chance to be the emotional core of the story just seemed interesting to me.”

The director also stated that featuring a child is not something typically done within the genre, but admitted taking inspiration from cult TV series The Walking Dead.

There are several different influences that inspired Mat’s take of the genre film including Dawn of the Dead and Peter Jackson’s Braindead

“Back then it felt like there was still new things being done with it,” he explained.

“There was still new types of gags and interesting stories being told whereas through the 90s and the early noughties it felt like zombie movies really did become kind of a bad punch line.”

Through the filming, Mr Johns spent a lot of rehearsal time with the actors Hazel Gibson (Abi) and Garth Maunders (George) focusing on their movement as zombies.

“It was really great – it was a challenge,” he said.

“With everything else, we have done it before, we’ve had dialogue and there were ways of exposing people’s emotions.

A CHALLENGE: Playing a zombie is like acting ‘through misty glass’

“With zombies everything has to be done through misty glass.”

“We just had to work on mannerisms, vocalisations and body language and just be able to communicate ideas through this memory of what a person was then, and what they actually are now.”

The director’s dedication to creating this world has translated into the film, with help from an army of make-up artists and special effects team.

Mat said: “With A Father’s Day I would love the response to be kind of surprising for people and I’d like it to appeal to genre fans because we tried really hard with the makeup, the props and the effects.

“It also has this emotional element running through it so I really hope people who might otherwise go ‘no I’m not into zombie films’, would go ‘actually, this film had heart and it had some ideas’.”

The film has had a huge fan base from the beginning after using crowd funding to raise money.

The fans that gave donations received a number of rewards including elaborate sketches, posters and a visit to the set.

HEAD FOR THE HILLS: Mat would opt for a machete in a zombie attack

Producer Chris Lane said: “It’s been a long time that people have stuck with it and they’re rooting for it.

“It is quite nice to give these people insights into how the films made.

“I think everyone gets quite emotional because Matt’s got a habit of making quite emotional films that draw you in. I watched the cut so many times and it still gets me at the end.”

With the film being shot entirely in Manchester they are hoping to return here with screenings later in the year.

And after Mat admitted to reading a zombie survival guide and choosing a machete as his weapon of choice, it became clear that a lot of thought had gone into this.

“I’ve been prepared for a long time if a zombie apocalypse comes, which in some really macabre way I hope it does,” he said.

“My go bag is in the loft ready to leave the city and head for the hills.”

Images courtesy of Simon Webb, with thanks

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