Sci-Fi Queen Ellen Dubin Is The Zemon Of The Night

From doting mother to zombie demon in Dead Before Dawn

By , Contributor

Wanstrom & Associates

Devon Bostick and Ellen Dubin on the set of Dead Before Dawn

Over the past few years, vampires have become the supernatural nasty de jour with feature film and TV audiences, but there are other equally terrifying creatures that are working their way up the popularity ladder. Take zombies, for example. Unlike vampires, they are able to roam freely in the daytime as well as at night and are not such picky eaters. They will gobble up just about anyone in sight, or turn their hapless victim into one of their own kind if the mood strikes them 

In Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, filming is underway on Wango Films’ fast-paced adventure comedy Dead Before Dawn. In it, a group of college kids accidentally unleash an evil curse that causes people to kill themselves and turn into zombie demons a.k.a. zemons.

Dead Before Dawn is being shot entirely in Stereoscopic 3D, making it the first full-length, live-action, 100% Canadian 3D feature. It also boasts an all-star cast lead by Devon Bostick (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and includes Martha MacIsaac (Superbad), Brandon Jay McLaren (The Killing), Brittany Allen (The Rocker), Kevin McDonald (The Kids in the Hall), Kyle Schmid (A History of Violence) and Rossif Sutherland (High Life) as well as Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) and Ellen Dubin (Napoleon Dynamite).  

A seasoned pro in the genre, Dubin has worked on numerous science fiction and fantasy projects for the big as well as small screens and was delighted to take on yet another such role.

“My character of Beverly Galloway in Dead Before Dawn is a very sweet, nurturing and overprotective mother of the male lead Casper (Bostick),” says Dubin. “She is definitely one of those women who treats her son like a baby but truly loves him with all her heart and only wants the best for him. Beverly is an old-fashioned mother not only in the way she deals with Casper, but also in her clothes -- cute little pink cutoff pants, a flowery blouse, pink floral-patterned sweater and a string of pearls -- and house décor. Beverly still has a rotary phone. In direct contrast to this is her turn as a part-demon, part-zombie or zemon, where Beverly becomes an evil, vindictive character. Bye-bye prim and proper,” jokes the actress.

“Most people might think the challenge for an actor is to play the wild zemon, but not me. I prefer edgier, ‘out there’ roles, so having to sit on my emotions and be more reserved as Beverly was the hardest thing for me. I had to censor some of my actions and behave more like a Leave it to Beaver-type of mother as opposed to a no-holds barred one. So I had to be more conservative than I usually am, but that for me is the beauty of acting. Physically, the toughest part for me was wearing the contact lenses as a zemon. I’m not a contact lens person, so when I transform as the zemon, the special effects [SFX] make-up team had to insert the lenses into my eyes. They were itchy and dry, but, boy, oh, boy, does it look spooky.”

Along with co-producing as well as acting in Dead Before Dawn, Wango Films’ April Mullen also directed the movie. Dubin gives top marks to Mullen’s work behind the camera. “I was so thrilled to find out that I’d be working with a woman,” she says, ‘and to add to that excitement was the fact that she’s a fellow actor. So April comes from that insightful perspective when she gives direction. She is kind, considerate and supportive, which helps create an environment where you feel like you can do your best work. I love that April asks for your input and then works with you to find your character.


“She also assembled a great crew to work with and the atmosphere on-set was a relaxed one mixed with hard work - the ideal combo platter. I’m very impressed with April and her partner, Tim Doltron, both of whom are real go-getters. They are producing, writing and acting and getting their projects made, which is a real feat in this crazy business of ours. I admire people who march to their own drumbeat.”

Dubin gives similar kudos to her fellow castmates. “Most of my scenes were with the amazing Devon Bostick, who is an imaginative, unique and fabulous actor,” says the actress. “I loved watching his [acting] choices and how he ran with them. Devon has a terrific eye and makes wonderful suggestions. We work very well together; there’s a great balance between his off-the-wall, offbeat character and my very straightlaced mother. Devon really cares about the work, but he loves to have fun as well. He likes to dive into his role and works from his instincts, which is very similar to the way I work.

“The rest of the cast are energetic and fully committed to making this project the best it can be. It’s a real team effort, which is evident from the way everyone helps one another out and the incredible energy on-set. I would love to work with any of these actors again in the future.”

Keeping the Stereoscopic 3D process in mind while in front of the camera provided the cast with a great learning experience.  “I am not that well-versed in the technological aspects of this type of filming, but it is very much like green screen work,” explains Dubin. “There were focus and movement adjustments that the actors had to make to enhance the 3D effect. For example, sometimes during scenes we would look right down the lens of the camera to make images funnier and more distorted.

“The monitor was set up and the camera crew would have to wear those special 3D glasses in order to watch the playback. If not, the image would be all blurry. The lighting was different, too, with almost a greener tinge to the set-up. I was fascinated by the process and can’t wait to see the finished product.”

Looking at her previous roles, how does Dubin feel her Dead Before Dawn character differs from those she has played in the past? “I’ve been very fortunate to have had such a wide variety of roles in the sci-fi genre,” she notes, “from the over-the-top aggressive cannibal Giggerota the Wicked in Lexx to the passionate journalist Jeri Slate in The Collector to the sexy sword-fighting immortal in Highlander: The Raven. Beverly is more proper than these characters and approached from a real loving mother point of view. The more intensely she loves her son in this movie, the funnier the comedy will be.

“So she is a very true to life character and one that you could see in any movie or TV show. However, when I transform into the zemon, that’s a new look for me, and wow, what a look. I’ve played wild characters before, but this one is a little different. No words, just noises that I invented, and I also got to create a new type of movement playing a zemon. That’s another aspect that sets this character apart from the others I’ve played. I have never done a zombie film before, either, or played a half-zombie, half-demon - all zemon! I do seem to be the queen of the unusual, though, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love that,” says the actress with a smile.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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