IF YOU EVER thought CERN would be a fun place to work you’d only be half right: The scientists who work there might be awesome, but the nuclear research center makes the perfect setting for a zombie apocalypse.
Forthcoming feature film Decay is set entirely at the Large Hadron Collider, with the massive lab serving as backdrop for a dire scenario in which zombies have been created by exposure to the recently discovered Higgs boson (so much for that whole “God Particle” thing). The concept evolved in 2010 after writer/director Luke Thompson, a Ph.D. physics student at the University of Manchester, was exploring the maintenance tunnels of the European Organization for Nuclear Research along with fellow student Hugo Day.
“The dark, creepy atmosphere got us thinking it would be a great location for a horror film,” Thompson said in an e-mail to Wired.
As with George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, which was filmed mostly in rural Pennsylvania and used inexpensive props to keep production costs low, Decay’s ghoulish tale came to life thanks to the DIY spirit of indie filmmakers determined to make a movie on the cheap.
Clara Nellist, another Ph.D. student at Manchester, had also envisioned CERN as a great location for a zombie film. But there was a problem: Nellist, who would become the movie’s assistant director and associate producer, and Thompson had never made films before. Neither had future “fight choreographer” and props guy Day.
Undaunted by their lack of experience, they borrowed digital SLR cameras, recruited 17 other people for their project, made a bunch of fake blood, dumpster-dived for props and invested about $3,225 of their own money in Decay. The movie, which took two years to complete, is slated to be released before the end of November as a free download.
In addition to the awesomeness that is physics students at CERN making a zombie movie and giving it away, the film might also prove educational.
“I don’t want to spoil the film, but we realized the theme and location also gave us a great chance to do some satirical commentary on various aspects of people’s perceptions of science,” Thompson said. “So there are some hidden depths to the film too, beyond us just having fun!”
That said, Decay does look like a hell of a lot of fun. Set in the underground tunnels of the Geneva research center, the flick follows what happens to a small group of students after a malfunction at the particle accelerator causes its maintenance crew to become zombified and hunt them down.
Will they live? Will they get eaten? Will they blind the walking dead with science and become heroes to physicists everywhere? Everyone will be able to find out in a few weeks.
The movie was filmed only in areas that are accessible to anyone working at CERN, and even though officials there didn’t endorse the project, Thompson said he got permission to release Decay. In a statement to Wired, the research center stressed that the movie wasn’t filmed in the sensitive LHC tunnels, but added, “The story is amusing and pure fiction, but shows how pure science can stimulate creativity.”
They teamed with a third Manchester graduate student, Clara Nellist, to bring their artistic vision to life. The premise of Decay is that the accelerator malfunctions, and the resulting radiation zombifies the poor unsuspecting maintenance crew, who then start hunting down the living physicists — who, one imagines, must have very tasty brains, indeed.
Decay is not officially endorsed by CERN (a disclaimer opens the trailer,
below), but the laboratory didn’t seem to mind a bunch of physics
students shooting gruesome scenes of zombie carnage in its maintenance
tunnels. And they gave the go ahead for the film’s free online release by the end of November.
That’s right, it will be a free download. As Thompson told Wired,
the objective was never about making tons of money. “The fact is that
it’s a no-budget indie and there’s no reason to expect we’d sell more
than a few hundred copies,” he explained. “So we’d rather our two years
of work was seen by more people by releasing it for free.”
Sure, the students did this for fun — they invested a few thousand dollars out of pocket, and borrowed digital SLR cameras and recruited volunteers as crew members — but it might also prove to be educational. “We realized the theme and location also gave us a great change to do some satirical commentary on various aspects of people’s perceptions of science,” Thomson told Wired. “So there are some hidden depths to the flm, too.”
Mostly, though, there are zombies craving big tasty scientist brains.