The 35mm film projector that entertained moviegoers at the Muskoka Drive-In for decades has become a star in its own right after being featured in R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town, a movie where a projector turns its viewers into mindless monsters.
Soon after William Alexander bought the Muskoka Drive-In, he and his friend John Gillespie started Trimuse Entertainment to produce and distribute Canadian films. When Gillespie was approached to produce Zombie Town, he accepted and brought Alexander on board as the associate producer. The cast and crew filmed the movie in Sudbury last September, and audiences will get their first look on Sept. 1. Based on the book by R.L. Stine, known for Goosebumps, the family-friendly comedy-horror follows two teenagers who track down a horror director to save the town from the zombie-inducing forces of a cursed projector.
“For the film, I taught the lead actor Marlon on how to use the projector as he is supposed to be the projectionist in the story,” Alexander said. “Many of the props used in the cinema scenes for the movie also came from the Drive-In. Even the Muskoka Drive-In logo is at the end of the credits.”
Alexander said it was cool to have the projector so heavily featured in the movie. He spent several days on set tending to the projector and making sure it moved in unusual ways for the film.
Since comedy legends Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase were involved, Alexander decided to bring his daughters Elizabeth and Christine to set along with him. In addition to witnessing the stars in action, one of his daughters also got to make an appearance in the film.
“My oldest daughter Christine got asked to be a zombie in a scene that included Dan’s daughters, who were also playing zombies,” he said. “My daughter got made up as a zombie and worked through the night on the zombie party scene.”
Christine, a published author, also got writing tips from Aykroyd, who was humble and accommodating on set, Alexander said. He was interested in everyone he encountered and gave an amazing speech at the end of shooting.
Alexander filmed the speech and his footage is in the film’s credits. Chase was also fun to have on set, he said, often making the crew laugh when takes didn’t go as planned.
“Both are comedy royalty, and it was nice to see two veteran SNL stars reteamed again,” Alexander said. “Dan even stayed on set to feed Chevy his lines, even though normally the assistant director does that.”
In addition to Aykroyd and Chase, the film features Canadian actors and comedians Henry Czerny, Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch. Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe play the young leads. The soundtrack for the movie also includes music by Canadian singers Lawrence Gowan and Andy Kim.
Locals can see Zombie Town at the Muskoka Drive-In on Sept. 1, 2, 3 and 7. It comes with a chance to see the projector, which now has autographs from Chase and other members of the cast and crew.
“When we play the film here at the Muskoka Drive-In, we will have the actual projector in the snack bar lobby for people to get their picture taken with,” Alexander said. “Just don’t get too close; otherwise, you just might turn into a zombie.”
Visit the Muskoka Drive-In Facebook Page for updates.