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Military Veterans Take On Zombies In 'Range 15'


A new zombie movie opens tonight at the GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. And even within the zombie genre, "Range 15" is different because it was made by veterans. The cast includes professional actors like William Shatner, but most of the characters are played by retired military, including amputees and highly-decorated vets. And as NPR's Elizabeth Blair tells us, it's a comedy.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The movie "Range 15" is definitely not "Saving Private Ryan." It's more of a slapstick "Walking Dead," with gun battles, bloody zombies and vets getting drunk together.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Every person in the military says, the day I get out, I'm going to party like it's the end of the world.

BLAIR: There are cameos by war heroes, like Alek Skarlatos, the Army national guardsman who helped foil a terrorist attack on a Paris train.


ALEK SKARLATOS: (As himself) All right, so no [expletive], there I was on this train to Paris.

BLAIR: To raise money to make the film, a group of veterans ran an online Indiegogo campaign. In their video pitch, the vets complain that Hollywood almost never gets them right. the vets complained that Hollywood almost never gets them right.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "Con Air," "Jarhead," "Greenzone," "The Hurt Locker."

BLAIR: West Point grad Nick Palmisciano co-wrote, produced and stars in "Range 15." He served for six years as an infantry officer.

NICK PALMISCIANO: I spent - most of my deployment time was at the Balkans, Kosovo.

BLAIR: He says movie portrayals are so limited audiences don't see vets as regular people.

PALMISCIANO: The only touch points they have are the broken vet or the serious vet, and vets become unapproachable.

BLAIR: He says peoples never see what a wicked sense of humor they have. And the humor in "Range 15" is dark. Nothing is off-limits. Sergeant Mary Dague is in the movie. She was a bomb technician who lost both of her arms in Iraq. In one scene, a general throws her a set of keys.


MARY DAGUE: (As herself) Hey, Danny, do you have the barracks keys?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Coming in hot.

DAGUE: (As herself) What the [expletive]?

DAGUE: It happens all the time. Actually, my husband tried to throw me something last night (laughter).

BLAIR: Dague says vets understand the need to make light of tragedy.

DAGUE: Especially those of us who've been severely injured. I mean, this is a fact of our life, so it becomes a way of coping with it. And then, after a while, it just becomes part of our culture, I guess. Like, to us, it's everyday humor. To the outside world, you know, it's very dark (laughter).

BLAIR: Dague says the process of making "Range 15" was both terrifying and glorious because the movie is made by veterans, for veterans, so they had to get it right, even if it's a tongue-in-cheek zombie movie. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 26, 2016 at 11:00 PM CDT
Previous versions of this story incorrectly said Marcus Luttrell received the Medal of Honor. He actually received the Navy Cross.
Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.