Zombie apocalypse hits Jones County
People in Jones County are used to bridge closings, but usually those closings are caused by repair work, not the living dead. During the last week of February, some residents were stopped at an Ovett bridge so that it could be cleared of zombies. Those lucky or unlucky few, depending on your perspective, witnessed a zombie massacre at the hands of filmmaker Blair Kelly, the owner and producer of a movie franchise called “Splatterverse.”
Kelly, who attended Northeast Jones High School and is from Ovett, is working on the first of a series of 16 films in the Splatterverse which he created. The first film, titled “Splat,” features Kelly as the main character, a marine named “Jerry,” who finds himself smack dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.
The 41-year-old Kelly, who works as an EMT, wrote his first full-length script at age 15.
“It was a superhero flick,” he said.
It took a quarter century for Kelly to get back into the business. “A couple of years ago, I joined a film group on Facebook,” he said. “I started keeping an eye out for casting calls. Because of social media, you no longer have to live in L.A. or New York in order to be in a movie.”
Kelly’s 16 “Splatterverse” movies, which will all stand as independent movies but are linked in one way or another, include 12 zombie flicks, two police dramas and two war movies. And if he gets that far, Kelly says they will all culminate in a “super duper battle royale of good versus evil.”
The first scene of the first movie, “Splat,” was shot on that bridge in Ovett with the help of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, who agreed to stop traffic for the filming. Kelly, who is adamant that he wants to only use Mississippi-based actors, production staff and locations, has plans to shoot the rest of the movie in Jones County, including an upcoming zombie killing scene in downtown Laurel.
When asked how he got into zombies, Kelly said, “Growing up, I lived in the middle of nowhere and it was always scary. When I saw the 1990s remake of the ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ I thought that it was the greatest thing ever. I’m not into paranormal or torture films, but I’ve seen ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’ hundreds of times.
Surprisingly, Kelly isn’t into the long-running TV show, “The Walking Dead.”
“I loved the first season, but the show stopped being about the zombies after that, so I stopped watching it.”
Kelly hopes to have “Splat” finished in time for Halloween, but that will depend on a lot of factors, as his actors and crew come from all over Mississippi.
“Some drive from the coast, others are from Brandon, Meridian, all over,” he said
After completion, Kelly hopes the movie will find a home on social media or Amazon with the ultimate goal of having it picked up by a large distribution company, but he knows that’s a long shot.
“It’s a crapshoot, but even if we don’t make any money, we will probably do a couple more in the series,” he said.
Kelly admits that he is having to make the movie on a shoestring budget. “There aren’t bad movies, just bad budgets. It takes money to feed 20 people, which is not an easy task with zero budget.”
Kelly said that he has spent about $900 of his own money on the project and had one investor give him $500. He set up a gofundme account that can be accessed online by going to gofundme.com/splatterverse, to help get the rest of the movie made.
Even though the movie has only filmed one scene, Kelly has already had to face some critics. Once word got out about the scene on the bridge, some local residents took to Facebook to slam him for bringing bad publicity to their small community. Glenda Mills wrote, “Just more dirt in our small little town. We’ve already got a bad rep. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Christian/family friendly movie … instead of throwing dead people off a bridge.”
Winnie Scarbrough added, “This is sad … they should make one abut the good people in Ovett.”
Kelly’s reaction to the criticism is, “It’s just a movie. There’s no basis for anyone to get angry … it’s not like I’m making a documentary about Ovett.”
Finally, when asked where he would go if Jones County ever experienced a real zombie apocalypse, Kelly said, “That’s top secret, but I’ll tell you where not to go. Don’t go to a freaking mall. Logistically, malls are the least safe place you could go, and don’t go to a hospital, where they have tons of sick people who are probably already turning into zombies. Go to a place that doesn’t have a lot of doors or windows.”
Now, there is some advice that everyone can use.