Battle of the Bone

On-set of Northern Ireland's first martial arts zombie movie

'How many people can say they went into work in the morning to a great location, got wheeled about in a wheelchair and got stabbed to death a couple of times?' asks actor John Gallagher. 'I've always wanted to be in a zombie movie.'

In the abandoned wing of the Downshire psychiatric hospital, cast and crew are filming the closing scenes for Northern Ireland’s first martial arts zombie movie, Battle of the Bone.

Set in Belfast on the 12th of July, Battle of the Bone follows the desperate plight of two gangs of sectarian rioters unceremoniously interrupted by a zombie mob and forced to fight shoulder to shoulder for their own survival. The group behind the project, Yellow Fever Productions, made the film on a budget of £10,000. Director George Clarke recalls getting the project off the ground.

'I had a full on meeting with [Northern Irish Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure] Edwin Poots about the lack of support and trying to get some funding, and you know, you basically should have talked to the wall. There was definitely no support there. At the start of the film, it might say ‘Not funded by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission''.

Assistant Director Johnny Kirk adds: 'We can’t stand here and say we’ve had help from government bodies. But we’ve proved a point that with all the talent we have, we can do our own thing.' Yellow Fever Productions, therefore, was set up to do a lot more than just make ‘the mother of all troubles movies.’

'One of our missions with Yellow Fever has been to give fresh talent a chance, anyone that has been knocked back or hasn’t written the right script, we want to be the company to help them.'

Battle of the Bone is just the beginning for Clarke and Kirk, with a gruesome sequel already in the works. The Slash My Father Wore, a K9 zombie flick - is to be set in Stormont.

'If our next production goes ahead, everyone who worked on Battle of the Bone will be involved, they’ll be the primary crew and we’ll step back and take more of a director's role. It’ll be more intense and chilling than the first outing I think, and the message in it is probably going be more controversial.'

After the final day's filming at the Downshire hospital, the directors get ready to bury themselves in post-production. Kirk's final thoughts are, 'If we can stay private we probably will. We can only see what happens in July when the movie comes out in general release.'

Allan Preston