Zombies snack on "Memory Lane"

Jeff Bobo • Nov 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Halloween 2008 at Otis and Kathy Eldridge’s “Memory Lane” near Rogersville will forever be remembered as Bloody Friday because it’s the day the zombies came to dine.

Well, one zombie came to dine on Friday, but more are expected to arrive in the coming days. Zombies have a tendency to multiply exponentially.

Every Memorial Day weekend the Eldridges open up the 1950s memorabilia village they’ve built in their back yard in central Hawkins County to about 800 classic cars and 10,000 of their closest friends for one of the area’s biggest festivals of the year.

But on Friday, the asphalt of Memory Lane flowed red with fake blood as the first of many zombies to be born from the film “Broken Springs” gnawed its way into unsuspecting victims.

“Broken Springs” writer/director/producer Neeley Lawson met the Eldridges exactly one week ago today, and they became fast friends. They agreed that several buildings and attractions at Memory Lane would make perfect locations for scenes in Lawson’s film.

Most notably Lawson will make use of the Memory Lane moonshine still, which is central to the entire plot of the movie. Things move quickly in the world of independent films, and day one of shooting was Wednesday.

Most of the action filmed at Memory Lane on Halloween took place in a 1950s model single-wide mobile home in the “Eldridge Motor Court” high on a hill overlooking Memory Lane.

That’s where “Jimmy” — already evil in life — becomes even more unpleasant in death. Jimmy’s transformation and subsequent messy altercation with shady “Cop No. 1” took about half a day to shoot.

It was trick-or-treat for real. Squirting blood, dismemberment and screams of agony heard only by the undead ears of a ravenous killer — and a high-dollar digital video camera.

It was also a crucial scene early in the film that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. When the shot was complete, Lawson said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I think it looked OK,” Lawson said. “We’ll see it tonight. I think it’s the coolest thing we’ve shot yet. Especially the set. The set looks awesome, and the effects look awesome, and there are good actors involved doing great.

“All we had to do was point the camera.”

A Gate City native, Lawson has been in California for the past 10 years directing and editing for TV. Now he’s taking a couple of months off from his day job to shoot this low-budget independent horror film he’s written.

In “Broken Springs” a batch of moonshine is distilled with toxic spring water, and anyone who takes a swig turns into a cannibal zombie.

As one might suspect, anyone bitten by a zombie turns into a zombie.

Eldridge said Friday that he read the script the night before and was impressed.

“I don’t know spit from Shinola, but I know what I like, and this is my kind of movie,” Eldridge said. “Lots of action. If he can get those words on film the way they’re written on the pages, I think this is going to be a pretty fun movie to watch. I’d watch it.”

And he’s not just saying that because he and his wife, Kathy, earned small roles in the movie. Actually it took a bit of arm twisting for Otis and Kathy to agree to play a farmer and his wife.

“I think I get to shoot the zombie when he attacks my wife while she’s hanging out clothes,” Eldridge said. “I don’t know, but we’re getting ready to find out. I think she’s hanging out clothes and don’t know this zombie is in the neighborhood.

“I think he comes through and tries to attack her, so I think I’m going to have to get the shotgun and put him out of his misery.”

The Eldridges’ scene was shot toward the end of the day, as the sun was beginning to fall. The Times-News reporter on set Friday had to leave before shooting was concluded, and it was unknown at press time whether the Eldridges survived the ordeal.

The only thing certain is that filming will continue for the next couple of days in Hawkins County before moving on to Gate City for most of the rest of November.

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