Comic horror film unites family
By Timothy Gillis
SABATTUS – It was a scary scene recently on Mountain Road in Sabattus when Bill McLean and his clan engaged in combat with more than 100 zombies. No real blood was spilled, of course. He was filming scenes for his upcoming film “How to Kill a Zombie,” a comic horror work he calls a “zombedy.” For the film, McLean teams up with his son, Ben, 18, who came up with the idea, story, characters, and wrote the script, his first.
“It’s a father and son story,” Bill said. “The father doesn’t know how to raise a son; he knows how to raise a soldier. So there’s some strife there. Then they are in the middle of a zombie outbreak.”
While it’s Ben’s first foray into scriptwriting, the skill is all in the family, and Bill has been at it for nearly twenty years. Freight Train Films, his company, has won several local film awards.
“The last film we shot was “Scooter McGruder,” a family comedy about a forty-year-old guy who wakes up one day and decides to grow up,” McLean said. “And everything goes against him.” The film won “Best Feature” at the L/A Film Festival in 2011. (That’s the Lewiston/Auburn version, not Los Angeles.)
In 2012, McLean acted in and did some “stunt photography” in “You Can’t Kill Stephen King,” which also was entered into the L/A festival and won “Best Feature Film.”
At the Phoenix Short Film Festival, he won “Best in Show” and “Best Production” for “She-feast,” a black comedy about cannibal women who eat men.
“Basically, it’s a slasher sexploitation film,” said McLean, who is listed on the IMDB website, albeit incorrectly.
“There’s another Bill McLean. When I started acting, they put my first three films on his credits, so it was kind of a pain,” he says. “But we got it sorted out. Search for Bill Steven McLean to find me.”
After the zombie film, McLean says he is in the works to do a feature length film for Freight train films and John Seymore of Seymore films and The Maine Studios
McLean has been acting professionally for eighteen years.
“I grew up in Poland, went to school there, graduated 8th grade, and went Walton Middle School for 9th grade and then to Edward Little, where I graduated in 1986,” he said.
He started acting in 1991in a film called “Shadow Glories” about a female kick boxer.
“It was released in forty-five theaters in New England, the largest independent film of its day, “ he said. “I had a speaking part, played a referee. I had three minutes of screen time, but for your first film that’s not bad. After that, I got phone calls from everyone. I was in six films without ever going to an audition.”
After the early success, McLean said he “started chasing it, going to auditions.”
In 2007, he began making his own films, and has looked to his family for more than moral support. He peoples his cast and crew with them.
Not only is he the producer for “How to Kill a Zombie” and his son the writer, they play the father-son roles in the film. And his wife, Tiffany McLean, is the director.
“The cast has thirteen characters,” Bill said. “Kind of perfect for a zombie movie.”
They are training over a hundred people how to be a zombie for our film, in Sabattus under the month’s first full moon.
Mclean and his wife, who will have been married for twenty-five years this November, have five children, Abbie, 20, Ben, 18, Chelsea, 16, Meagan, 14, and Mikey, 12.
Ben said his script has a “variety of genre – slapstick comedy, horror comedy,” whereas earlier films from Freight Train were “black horror” with no comedy at all, “a psychological scary horror flick with a story.”
Either way, they film has to have a plot, he maintains. “Everything we do has to have a story or we won’t do it,” Ben said.
In the film, Bill is playing the father, Mack Stone, and Ben is playing the son, Jesse.
Bill said not all of his family members are thrilled with the family business.
“The kids like to do some film but not others. Meagan and her friends are going to be zombie extras; Mikey wanted nothing to do with it,” he said.
The McLeans live in Monmouth, and the kids go to Monmouth academy. Ben played football for the team that went undefeated in regular season last year. Meagan and Mikey are homeschooled until they want to go to high school, Bill said.
I asked the son if there were ever any difficulties working so closely with his parents, any familial discord.
“Not at all. It’s never tense on the set. They have always been extremely professional. I’ve been on some movie sets where people did have falling outs, but never ours,” Ben said.
When asked where he got the idea for the script, Ben said “that was easy. Have you ever watched Batman? You know: ‘You become what you fear.’ That gave me the idea. I wouldn’t want to be a zombie, so this is one way to face those fears.”
The filming of “How to Kill a Zombie” is going on right now, and the film is due to be released next year.