2013 Academy Awards

12.14.12

The Anti-‘Zero Dark Thirty:’ The Osama bin Laden-Meets-Zombies Movie

A talk with the director of ‘Osombie,’ the outrageous new low-budget action-horror film featuring an undead al Qaeda chief rising from his watery grave.

What if Osama bin Laden really isn’t dead?

What if, during Operation Neptune Spear, bin Laden caught wind of the Navy SEALs closing in on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan—they made quite a ruckus after all, crashing a helicopter in his backyard—rushed up to his bedroom, and injected himself with a serum? Then, after his body was mysteriously buried at sea, what if he rose up from his watery grave to lead a clandestine army of zombies against U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

Such is the batshit-crazy plot of Osombie, a wild action-horror film now available on DVD/Blu-ray that provides a fun counterpunch to that other hunt-for-bin Laden film being released this holiday season, Zero Dark Thirty. According to the film’s director, John Lyde, his movie was finished in March, but the movie’s distributor, Arrowstorm, delayed the release to time it to coincide with Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-hopeful.

“Some friends of mine sell Airsoft gear and they made these targets called ‘Ozombie Targets,’ with Osama bin Laden as a zombie that you could shoot,” says Lyde. “They made this video on YouTube where they were at this shooting range and it said, ‘If you need to blow off some steam, shoot some Ozombie Targets!’ I loved the humor in it.”

Unlike Zero Dark Thirty, which closes with a lengthy half-hour sequence re-creating the raid on bin Laden’s compound and subsequent killing, Osombie opens with SEAL Team Six penetrating the Abbottabad fortress only to discover a zombie militia inside. The exteriors for the Abbottabad compound were obtained from a 3-D-modeling website; the interior scenes were shot in a steel plant about a mile away from the film’s production offices in Orem, Utah.

After bin Laden rises from the dead, we’re transported to the deserts of Afghanistan, where an elite team is disposing of zombie-terrorists with extreme prejudice (the striking blonde in the group is, it seems, a female ninja). The team crosses paths with Dusty (Eve Mauro), a yoga instructor searching for her kooky brother, a conspiracy theorist who doesn’t believe OBL is dead—and traveled all the way to Afghanistan to kill him. After Dusty and the team reconnect with her brother, the entire group goes out into the caves and discovers that OBL is amassing a huge army for the zombie apocalypse.

Lyde shot the film in just 12 days with an eight-person crew, with the Utah desert doubling for Afghanistan. The budget: less than $1 million.

“We were originally just going to shoot the movie with friends for fun, but then Arrowstorm liked the script, purchased it, and funded the project,” says Lyde. “It snowed on the last day of filming so it took us three hours to melt all the snow in the area we were filming, but that was the only speed bump.”

Aside from the zany plot, the film stretches the bounds of realism thanks to its bloody zombie kills. When shot by one of the warriors’ high-powered rifles, a zombie body literally explodes into hundreds of pieces.

“I wanted it to feel less realistic and more like a video game,” says Lyde.

Now that the zombies have overtaken vampires as the latest craze, with the hit AMC TV series The Walking Dead, along with this year’s films The Cabin in the Woods and Resident Evil: Retribution, and the laundry list of real-life “zombie” incidents in the news, including the infamous ”Miami face-eater” story, Lyde says there is a correlation between zombies and terrorists.

“Some people tend to look at terrorists as not human—or they dehumanize them—and zombies are the same way,” says Lyde. “They used to be people but once they become zombies, they’re no longer human, so people don’t care as much what happens to them. That’s why a lot of video games use zombies or terrorists as bad guys.”

For his next film, however, Lyde is going for … a lighter touch.

“We shot a Christmas movie with the same crew and the same cast right after Osombie,” he says, with a laugh. “It was really funny to go from killin’ zombies to a cheery Christmas movie for kids.”