Windber Filmmaker’s Zombie Flick Creates a Buzz

Tribune Democrat Sept 12, 2014 by Justin Dennis

The past few weeks have been wild for Windber filmmaker Blair Murphy – also, very satisfying, he said.    His feature-length horror flick “Zombie Dream,” which debuted in May at the Silver Drive-In in Richland Township, has now been seen by thousands across the country.

Murphy, who owns Windber’s Grand Midway Hotel, made film festival appearances his main priority after the film wrapped – and he said he came away with much more buzz and exposure than he expected.

Earlier this week, his movie was awarded Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast at the Los Angeles Fear + Fantasy Film Festival in Burbank, California.

“I didn’t think we’d get one and then they called us out,” said an exhausted but frenetic Murphy.

Veronica Cartwright, of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” commended Murphy on stage – a surreal moment, he said.  “It was really incredible,” he said.

But Burbank’s Victory Theater was just the final stop on a whirlwind, cross-country film fest tour. Murphy and another “Zombie Dream” star made a scenic trek to show off their work: The Fright Night Film Festival in Louisville, Kentucky; the NYC Chain Film Festival in New York City’s Queens borough; and the White Sands International Film Festival in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“Zombie Dream” – which was in production for about three years with shoots all around Pennsylvania, including Cambria and Somerset counties – was shown three times at the White Sands festival, he said.  “One time, the audience was filled with eighth-graders, which I didn’t expect,” Murphy said – although the experience may have opened up a new target audience.  “It was fantastic – they were soaking up all the history within all the goofy horror stuff they’d really like because of their age.”

And there are more screenings in the pipeline: The Louisville International Festival of Film on Oct. 9-11; the New Orleans Comic and Entertainment Expo on Nov. 21-23; and an Erie festival happening Sept. 15, for which Murphy is still awaiting final confirmation.

It’s been the most critical and public exposure he’s had in quite some time, Murphy said. His 1990s vampire movie “Jugular Wine” could be found in Blockbuster stores across the country, he said.

“I won some awards for my student film, but I never really thought about award festivals,” he said. “I really like the horror genre but it’s not really prestigious. I wasn’t actually aware of how many film festivals champion (that genre).

“I’m really, really having fun,” Murphy said. “It’s like hitting the lottery this past week – it just keeps coming.”

Since his national appearances, Murphy said at least six or seven distributors have contacted him about obtaining rights to “Zombie Dream.” He said the Fear + Fantasy honor went a long way in taking his project to the next level.

“Just the word that Eric Roberts is in it and Stan Lee is in it is creating a lot of buzz and, for us, that’s super,” he said.  “It’s been a fantastic ride so far.”