Everybody loves a good zombie movie. Ever since the 1930s, we've had an obsession with the undead on our screens, and so it only makes sense that the UK YouTube scene should have its very own zombie epic. Thanks to Hazel Hayes, star and creator of the Unnecessary Otter series, we now have Super Brainy Zombies, a grizzly, chewy look into what happens when YouTubers get bitten.
For this filmmaker, battling the undead really is a mixture of work and play. The child who wanted to be "everything" when she grew up is now doing exactly that - whether it's singing or acting, directing or writing, Hazel seems to be living several dreams at once. "Which is possibly why acting appeals to me so much," she tells me, "because you can be anything and everything, but never for long enough to get bored of it."
Super Brainy Zombies first saw life back in June in a video with WOTO and since then has been gathering pace, from groaning and stumbling to full-on charging, thirsting for brains and filming locations. It's no easy task fundraising and organising a workable cast and crew for such a dramatically different and more demanding project, Hazel admits, and yet it happened in the end. "When an opportunity like this presents itself, one that might not come along again, you jump on it and you make a zombie film - like the fool that you are."
On the set of Super Brainy Zombies
With the majority of those involved in the film's production able to waver their fee, and with more than seventy people working on the film in total alongside many more financial backers, Hazel's first fully-fledged moment in the Director's chair was now a possibility. "I had this wonderful, experienced cast and crew there, ready to make something awesome."
The story follows the unfortunate events that befall an amateur film crew of YouTube stars when a zombie apocalypse interrupts a shoot in the woods. Soon, the numbers of survivors start to dwindle and the tale becomes one of morality and the 'truth' behind the on-screen personalities of some of YouTube's most beloved. "There's a very tongue-in-cheek attitude to YouTubers and how people used to sharing so much of their lives online would react to a situation like a zombie apocalypse, and we used a lot of devices to make sure that the fact that they are YouTubers is at the forefront all the time. It's what makes this film different to other zombie films."
Hazel and Benjamin Cook in Super Brainy Zombies
Whether it's the lighting, the set construction or simply the title sequence, everything on screen bursts with the sort of professionalism and creativity that illuminates the talent behind this project. "I had a very specific idea of how the film should look and when I put together the visual notes, I found myself leaning towards directors like David Fincher, Alfonso Cuarón and Sam Mendes for inspiration, particularly on the colour palette and use of light."
There's no arguing that the 70s was the decade that defined the zombie. It all kicked off in the '30s with White Zombie but it wasn't until forty years later that cinema audiences finally knew what the zombie movie was really meant to be, with George A. Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead introducing the decade of the undead to come. Super Brainy Zombies is undeniably influenced by those early years and, as Hazel explains, it certainly holds its own as a film unlike anything YouTube audiences have seen before. "We added a lot of grain to the end product as it lends a very 70's horror vibe. Plus there's the fact that YouTube videos are generally very bright and colourful and I wanted to make it more filmic and less like your average YouTube video."
"I was once quoted as saying I wanted to be a Barbie doll when I grew up. Thank God I got over that phase..."
So, would Hazel dive back into the zombie genre again? "You know what? Never say never." Though, for the self-professed lover of sci-fi and the mythological undead, perhaps for now zombies can have the break that they never had the first time that they died. "I'm like that kid in Matilda who's forced to eat an entire chocolate cake and you wonder if he'll ever eat chocolate again. Well, that's my relationship with zombies at the moment. I think we both just need some space."
Alongside the full film, there are two behind-the-scenes videos also now available to watch on Hazel's channel, and a whole range of Super Brainy Zombie merchandise for all your bloody-curdling desires. Now sit back, relax and watch Chris Kendall eat a banana like no other before him. Oh and zombies. So, so many zombies.