Zombie flick filmed in Norwich makes local debut

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Dec. 13, 2011
Maria Morveli runs screaming through Franklin Square during the filming of zombie apocalypse movie, 'Steve Niles' Remains,' back in June. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Maria Morveli runs screaming through Franklin Square during the filming of zombie apocalypse movie, 'Steve Niles' Remains,' back in June. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Dr. Robert Liftig took a break this summer from his usual work as a college professor to be a zombie. He said he and his wife, Inez, jumped at the chance to be extras in the zombie movie, “Steve Niles’ Remains,” shot in Norwich last summer, because he’d been a lifelong fan of zombies.

“It’s the fuzzy line between reality and fantasy,” said Liftig, who teaches ethics at Fairfield University and who portrayed a man walking his dog when he’s attacked by the zombies. “In fact, I used [the concept] in my class last Friday,” he said.

Locals who turned out to play bit parts in “Remains” got the first chance to view the finished product last week when it was shown at Lisbon Landing’s O’Neil Cinema. The Dec. 6 premiere screening, which was an invitation-only event, was followed by four showings open to the public, including many locals who had been involved in the film’s production. The film, made for the Chiller Television science-fiction and horror network, will debut on the small screen Dec. 16 at 10 p.m.

The story, set in Reno, Nev., is set in motion by a misguided attempt to destroy the world’s nuclear weapons, which, inevitably, goes horribly wrong. Everyone in the vicinity of the resultant explosion is transformed into zombies, except for the handful of casino employees who happened to be protected from the blast. The film follows the efforts of the few “living” to fend off the undead and escape the claustrophobic city for some remaining bastion of civilization.

Franklin Square is probably the most prominently featured local site, as the living characters look down on the rapidly-deteriorating streetscape where blood-spattered zombies lurch and stagger, looking for fresh meat. That’s where Liftig’s character meets his horrifying fate.

Liftig spent some time after the movie chatting with Mercedes McCoy of Groton, who was a makeup and hair artist on the film. “You did a beautiful job. I did not believe how you guys paid attention to details,” Liftig told her.

Liftig’s daughter, Anya Liftig, agreed. “My parents enjoyed terrifying my sister and I with pictures of themselves,” she said.

McCoy said that she spent upwards of four or five hours a day on makeup during the days of shooting that involved large numbers of zombie characters. “I had a lot of assistants,” she said. She also worked on special effects and did make-up and hair for the film’s stars.

“It’s really cool to see how the scenes fit together,” said McCoy. “Everything’s backwards and upside down when you’re filming.”
Toula Coin, of Groton, watched the movie with McCoy, looking for her own name in the credits. She appears early on in the film, prior to the explosion, as a customer in the casino restaurant.

“It took six hours [of shooting] for six seconds” in the finished film, she said. “That’s usual movie stuff. It’s a lot of work.”

Downtown businesses, a parking garage and even the Norwich Senior Citizens’ “On The Go” bus appear prominently as part of the apocalyptic sets.

Coin said she was glad that producer Andrew Gernhard opted to return to his hometown to shoot so much of the film. “I think it’s great that he made the decision to shoot in Norwich and Mystic and keep it local,” she said.

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