Spencer Hawken prepares to turn Mercury Mall, Romford, into the set of a horror film - literally
18:00 29 June 2013
“We won’t have people getting their faces ripped off and their brains eaten, although there is a relatively high body count.”
Nothing to worry about, then.
Dad-of-three Spencer Hawken – who grew up in Harold Wood and now lives in Brentwood – is planning a night out in Romford like no other.
On the evening of July 15, the Mercury Mall will be transformed into the set of a horror film – quite literally – as crews and actors descend on the Mercury Gardens shopping centre to shoot Death Walks.
“When I first suggested filming it in Romford, people said: ‘You won’t need to use any makeup’,” the 40-year-old quipped.
It all started when Spencer, who had worked for Debenham’s, was made redundant last year.
Deciding to pursue a long-held interest in horror films, he signed himself up for some film-making courses at last year’s Raindance Festival – and by January he’d written a script.
But finding bigger studios unwilling to invest in an unknown, he turned to crowdsourcing – and was astonished by the response he received.
As well as the Mercury Mall agreeing to donate its space, other suppliers have gifted or loaned equipment for nothing.
And a staggering (or lurching) 1,400 people have applied to be extras in the film, ranging from students to a 93-year-old man – a veritable apocalypse.
“About 90 per cent of the people in this group are from Romford and they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts,” he said. “Considering it’s a horror film, there’s a real community spirit about this.”
If we read between the lines there could be some big names on board, too.
“There’s someone from the past and someone from the present who’s in the media spotlight,” Spencer hinted.
So what can we expect to see as Romford forays onto the big screen?
“I’d been writing horror film reviews for a decade,” explained Spencer, “but I’ve never anything that’s touched a nerve.
“That’s what I’m hoping to achieve.
“They don’t look or act like conventional zombies, and they certainly don’t move like conventional zombies. This is a thinking person’s zombie film.
“I’m trying to keep the plot close to my chest, but it starts with a group of people in a shopping centre at night. The cinema’s closing up and there are stores that have been open late and some security guards.
“Someone comes to the door and they’re concerned about the welfare of this lady.
“They bring her into the centre – and in doing so they unwittingly invite something else in.”
Of course, it’s all a bit of fun.
But if fiction should ever become reality, Spencer’s pretty sure we know how to handle ourselves.
“Should some sort of outbreak occur that creates zombie-like effects, I think the people of Romford would be fairly tough,” he said.
“They would certainly all team together and overthrow whatever it was.
“These aren’t people to mess about.”
Footage from Death Walks will be screened at Frightfest, which takes place in Leicester Square at the end of August.
And Spencer expects to take the full film on tour from January.
But it’ll definitely be appearing in Romford.
“It was made here – it should be seen here,” said Spencer.