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Zombie Jamboree

We were on the set of a movie being shot in Newbury, Vermont in 1986. It was about a small town full of zombies, and it was called Return to Salem’s Lot. It was a sequel to the film made from Stephen King’s second book Salem’s Lot. Sort of like Carrie visits Newbury. Newbury had a nice ring to it, horror wise. Anyway, it was directed by Larry Cohen, who was a kind of schlock auteur, which might explain how guys like Sam Fuller, the legendary Shock Corridor director, got in the cast. Shock meets schlock. Plus Tara Reid.

I was covering the shoot for a local paper, or trying for an extra part, or both. The usual hinterland hustle. It was exciting to make a zombie picture in Vermont that summer because the back to the land movement had stalled out and hippies were looking for the future. Zombies! Zombies could give a shit about wars and politics. Like Jim Thompson’s cops and robbers used to say, “I was already dead!”

A friend of mine was one of the producers. That’s him driving the movie cop car around and shooting the bird. I think he got a kick out of acting the badass cop because normally he didn’t have a whole lot of love for the police. He was a rebel with a cause kind of guy who was always sneaking off to communist countries and making documentaries about lefties fighting the system. This was his chance to try on the other shoe.

Remember it’s Morning in America, Reagan is President, the U.S. is involved in all sorts of counter revolutions and coups in Central America, invading Grenada, and backpackers are coming home saying we’re next, banana republic USA. A zombie cop flipping us the bird, how’s that for a glimpse of the future.

Sure enough it’s all true now with Border Patrol checkpoints 100 miles south of the Canadian border, arrests for “internal possession,” tasers, “reasonable search,” infrared license plate scanners, teenager harassment, cops shooting dogs, failure to respond to calls for help. Try to get on the force if you’re not a Iraqistan vet with PTSD on a psychotropic iv drip. It’s a zombieland jamboree.

So there you have it, the past looking at the future. See it now 23 years ago in Newbury, Vermont.

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