Calling All Zombies: Parkersburg Film Team Remaking Cult Classic

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We've seen them rise from the grave.

We've seen them hunt for brains.

Now a small film production team in Parkersburg, W.Va., is preparing to show us the mystical side of the undead.

Parkersburg author and screenwriter Susan Sheppard is hoping to break the status quo with a remake of the 1932 cult classic White Zombie.

Set in Haiti, the original White Zombie followed a vacationing soon-to-be-married couple as they encountered a witch doctor (Bela Lugosi) who later used Voodoo to turn the woman into a zombie.

While Sheppard was a fan of the original film, she felt it was due for a retelling. Mostly known for her published poetry books, her love of the occult inspired her first foray into screenwriting.

"Writing the script was one of the easiest pieces of writing I’ve ever done," she said. "That may be because I was having fun with it and I had nothing I needed to prove."

For Sheppard, the best part of reimagining White Zombie was inventing a new or alternative point of view, not just creating gruesome scenes for shock value.

"My interest is really the occult and the supernatural…sadly lacking in some of these zombie flicks," she said. "And the supernatural is badly done in most horror movies, even the very best ones."

Sheppard emphasized that her remake will not be a typical zombie movie. Instead, she's exploring traditional African lore in which zombies are created when black magic and toxins poison a person into a coma.

"The most difficult part of the process of writing White Zombie was having to explain non-stop to everyone, 'These are not the Walking Dead zombies,'" she said. "This is not going to be a gore fest. There is enough of that out there. Our zombie movie is one that has smartened up a bit….much closer to the folklore surrounding zombies, which are Haitian with African roots."

As far as changes from the original film, Sheppard revealed that her script is 60 percent her own creation.

"I’ve created new characters and delved into the spiritual practices of Voodoo, or Vodun. Zombies come from Haitian Voodoo. You rarely see that in zombie movies."

Sheppard’s White Zombie is currently in its pre-production stage. She has teamed up with Little Hocking, Ohio, native Arthur Collins, who will serve as the film's director.

The two had known each other for years when Sheppard noticed Collins’ Facebook posts about directing indie horror films in Youngstown. On a whim, Sheppard sent Collins her script for White Zombie, hoping for feedback.

"I was expecting him to send me some advice to let me know where I went wrong," she recalled. "Arthur’s response was surprising. His email began as a critique, but then finally he wrote, 'You know, I want to make this movie!' That’s how it all began."

White Zombie will be the first film produced by Collins' company Ragnbone Productions. Although a few main roles have been cast, Collins and Sheppard need to fill many other parts before beginning production in May.

There will be an open casting call on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Dils Banquet and Meeting Center in Parkersburg. For more information, email Susan Sheppard at