After we broke the news here that Aimee Lynn Chadwick has been cast as the lead in Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis, tons of news spread on the web that the movie is actually filming as we speak. Mike T. (and about 20 other people) dropped me a line with a story that was recently posted on CNN regarding the filming in Chernobyl, read on for the scoop…
You might have thought that Chernobyl was off-limits, closed to the outside world behind a rigidly patrolled exclusion zone since reactor No. 4 went into catastrophic meltdown April 26, 1986, spewing radiation to the four winds.
Not a bit of it. The reactor’s deadly core was buried in a concrete and steel sarcophagus, but the adjoining reactors carried on producing electricity until they were finally decommissioned a couple of years ago.
A rotating staff of some 6,000 specialists and technicians still work at Chernobyl’s scientific center. Hundreds of journalists, diplomats and tourists have been here in the past six years since the place was opened up to paying visitors, once safe areas away from the isolated and still highly radioactive “hot” zones were identified.
Some 40 documentaries have been shot within the vast controlled zone that rings Chernobyl and the nearby town of Pripyat.
Now, for the first time, a Hollywood feature film — the zombie movie “Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis” — has gained access to the infamous site.
Ukrainian-born producer Anatoly Fradis is proud — despite the obstacles and the cost. “Up to a couple of days before we began shooting, it was touch-and-go whether they would let us in, and I had to pay more than I had budgeted to secure the permission,” Fradis says, standing inside Chernobyl’s first checkpoint inside the zone.
He’s anxious to get started on two days of shooting on-location with director Ellory Elkayem and special effects zombie expert John Vulich of Optic Nerve Studios.
For a zombie movie, there’s an odd lack of gore-covered extras with vacant stares. A 1960s open-top, Russian-made Chaika limousine serves as a rock-steady rolling camera bed for 11 scheduled shots here.
Most of “Necropolis” — the fourth in a five-part series shooting back-to-back — is shooting at the Bucharest, Romania studios where “Cold Mountain” was made.
The zombie-free Chernobyl scenes are for the opening, in which a rogue ex-CIA agent is seen stealing the world’s last five canisters of Trioxyn gas, the lifeblood of the living dead.
“Chernobyl is very spooky and serves our purpose — we are shooting in all these abandoned towns and villages, with rusting equipment lying around everywhere,” Fradis says.
The sense of a post-apocalyptic world dawns as we follow the Chaika around the Chernobyl district.
Grass and shrubs sprout from holes in the sides of crumbling cottages. A graveyard for helicopters, fire trucks and other equipment used in the cleanup operation in 1986 stretches beside a road. In Pripyat, the deserted town that once housed the reactor’s work force and their families, children’s toys still litter the rubbish-strewn kindergarten, and fading Soviet slogans adorn the sides of gaunt concrete apartment blocks.
It’s an unsettling experience that should translate into a chilling opening sequence, perfect for a movie titled “Necropolis.”