Phenix City’s new tourism initiative is going to be a blast.
As cameras roll and hundreds watch from the amphitheater, a Cobra helicopter will swoop low over the Chattahoochee River July 4, firing missiles that appear to puncture two dams to be breached for whitewater rafting.
The stunt will be in a 2012 film titled “Zombie Dawn,” based partly on a popular online game.
The missiles will be duds: The dams will blow from explosives set by area Homeland Security agencies as a training exercise.
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Timing will be crucial, and for this spectacle there’s no better timing than Phenix City’s Independence Day “Thunder on the ’Coochie” festival.
The festival always has fireworks anyway, so why not combine the two?
What’s got local business boosters nearly wetting themselves is the movie’s star: Mel Gibson.
“He was welcomed there warmly when he was in ‘We Were Soldiers,’” said Gibson spokesman Tooby Ornott. “He wanted to come back.”
Playing the helicopter pilot, Gibson will be blowing the dams to stop a zombie outbreak originating in Seale, Ala.
“In the movie folks go to some folk-art festival down there and next thing you know, someone gets bit, and then it spreads,” said Ornott. “The zombies start coming up Highway 431, but they’re stopped in the bed of Uchee Creek, where they’re run down by all-terrain vehicles.”
But as creeks run into rivers, so do zombies.
“Next thing you know, the zombies are coming up the Chattahoochee, which except for the dam backwaters is nearly dry because Atlanta’s sucked up all the water,” Ornott added. “Mel plays a chopper pilot who blows the dams to drown the zombies.”
Flushed downstream, the zombies are eaten by alligators, creating zombie gators. “That’s the cliffhanger ending,” Ornott said. “We want a sequel.”
Combining the movie scene and annual festival was proposed by the nonprofit RiverRoad South -- though the partnership between the city and RiverRoad South was just announced Wednesday.
“We had no idea they’d be done this fast,” said Phenix City Mayor Coldan Sunny. “I mean, damn.”
Residents who want to watch will have to be at the amphitheater on time, wear the proper safety gear and assume their assigned positions.
“They’ll each get a helmet and set of shoulder pads, and as long as they stand perfectly still, no debris raining down from the explosion should injure them,” Ornott said. “Also they can’t move or they’ll ruin the aerial photo.”
Black Hawk helicopters hovering higher up will film the action below, and from that perspective contrasting colors on the spectators’ gear will spell out “USA” in red and blue on a white background. Posters of that will be sold later to fund future festivals.
That message won’t be part of the movie plot: “We can erase that digitally, in editing,” Ornott said, “unless you think that’s what you people would do during a zombie invasion.”