"All these towns that were formed around mines usually had multiple owners who had ups and downs — committed suicide — and so there's kind of a dark, romantic quality to the desert," Pulido says. "A lot of horror stories are based on sins of the past, and just to set a story on these grounds that have so much boiling underneath them makes it interesting."

Hollywood may be the movie capital of the world, but Brian Pulido's determined to make Arizona a horror movie hub. He believes the state's a prime location for screamers, and he loves the culture and nightlife here. In addition to setting The Graves in the Arizona desert, the film also includes footage of businesses, bands, and clubs around the Valley.

"It's funny, but making a horror film is very personal to me, so if I can show my passion for things I love about the Valley and have that in the movie, it might give people some insight into that," he says. "I just want it to be rooted in Phoenix. It's important to me that it seems like these stories happen very specifically here, not that they could be anywhere else. They're here in the Valley, in Phoenix."

Parts of Vulture Mine, in Wickenburg
courtesy of Brian Pulido and Adam Goldfine
Parts of Vulture Mine, in Wickenburg
courtesy of Brian Pulido and Adam Goldfine

On a mild Monday evening in March, Brian Pulido's eating New York pizza at Grimaldi's in Scottsdale. "It's so good," he says. "It's all the oil."

As the smells of baking crust and tomato sauce drift through the air, Pulido says it's hard to find great pizza. He should know — he's an Italian guy from New Jersey. He grew up on pizza, along with other constants like comic books, horror movies, and heavy metal.

Pulido, 47, acts a lot younger than he is. He's still got a full head of kinky-curly hair, and maybe that's because he and his wife of 18 years, Fransisca, decided not to have children so they could pursue creative projects and maintain active social lives. "I don't want to grow up," Pulido says. "Kids look at me like, 'You're an adult who's still a kid,' and I'm like, 'Yes, I've prolonged it.'"

Comics have always been part of Pulido's life, and he has a big comic book collection. He credits comics for helping him to read better in his formative years. "I had a reading disability, initially," he says. "When I was in first grade, I got left back, and I really think it was through comics that I started to read more effectively."

Pulido gravitated toward monster comics like Werewolf by Night and Marvel superhero stories, like Spider-Man and Captain America. He says he's read the latter comic consistently since July 1974. 

But it wasn't until Pulido graduated from NYU film school in 1985 that he started writing comics himself. He wanted to be a film director, but instead found himself working as a first assistant director on commercials and music videos, and writing comics in his spare time. He vented his frustrations through Evil Ernie, who Pulido says was a "modern interpretation of the Frankenstein myth."

The artwork for Evil Ernie, created by the late Steven Hughes, brims with rotting green flesh, demonic white eyes, and macabre murders in bright red splashes. It's definitely a horror aesthetic, providing visuals as startling as the horror movies Pulido loves so much.

His love of horror films started with his mother, who was a big fan. Pulido says they'd watch movies like The Hideous Sun Demon and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman together. "It was a way for me to relate to her," he says. They also watched television shows like Chiller Theatre and Creature Feature, but the defining moment for Pulido was the first time he saw George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, at the ripe age of 7.

Romero's harrowing story of walking, sinew-dripping corpses who hunt human flesh instilled in Pulido a lifelong fascination with zombies. "Within a half-hour, the movie so thoroughly bugged us out," Pulido recalls. "We were excited, but we were freaked out at the same time. That solidified my love of the horror genre."

Growing up, Pulido was a fan of metal bands like Anthrax and Metallica, and he still is. He also loves death-metal band Lamb of God, and gave singer D. Randall Blythe a role in The Graves as a scarily soft-spoken psychopath named Deacon Luke. Pulido's passion for metal shows in his characters, particularly Evil Ernie, who sports ripped jeans, a leather jacket with buttons, and long, curly hair. When Pulido throws his hands up and makes a demonic, big-toothed Evil Ernie face, the resemblance between author and character is striking.

With his ghastly fanged grin, grey skin, and huge demon claws, Evil Ernie resembled Eddie, the mummified zombie mascot of metal band Iron Maiden — which was no accident.

"To me, it was a lot of stuff that was going on in my mind at the time," Pulido says. "That includes Eddie the Head, which is the Iron Maiden mascot, Axl Rose in the 'Welcome to the Jungle' video with the really big, bugged-out hair, and I'd gone to a Megadeth concert in New York City, and there was a ton of thrash kids. I had thrash hair at the time, too, and I was asking myself, 'What would scare people?' And I looked around and said, 'Us.'"

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Nice article but the pic shows that they still aren't making fake blood that LOOKS like the real stuff. Still looks like that sticky red-dyed stuff we used as kids on Halloween.

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