"So this kind of mélange came together to form this kid who was basically a telepathically controlled undead," he continues. "It was kind of like everything I ever liked in a horror movie in Evil Ernie — spirit of rebellion, Night of the Living Dead with an undead teenage psychotic as the leader."

Malibu Graphics dug Evil Ernie and published Pulido's first comic in December 1991. The series had created a buzz by the time the publishing company dropped Pulido. "We were renegotiating the contract with the company, and I think I was too much of a pain in the ass," he says. "That's usually a recurring theme. I'm very demanding, and so they dropped us at the 11th hour."

So Pulido, who says he knew nothing about comic book publishing, borrowed $1,500 from his father to found Chaos! Comics. The following February, Pulido debuted the Lady Death comic series. He also put his own spin on Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street in comics for Avatar Press.

D. Randall Blythe
courtesy of Mischief Maker Screen Partners LLC
D. Randall Blythe
The Ronalds brothers with their hands on The Graves star Bill Moseley.
courtesy of Mischief Maker Screen Partners LLC
The Ronalds brothers with their hands on The Graves star Bill Moseley.

Chaos! Comics ultimately folded in 2002, but Pulido retained the rights to Lady Death, which was published by Avatar Press until 2007. In 2005, he co-founded the annual International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Tempe with Phoenix Film Festival president Chris LaMont. It's one of many things Pulido's done to carve his niche in Phoenix while drawing upon the Arizona landscapes that inspire him.

Pulido moved to Phoenix in 1994, after moving from New York City to Los Angeles. When the Northridge earthquake hit near his home, he decided he'd had enough of L.A.

"We actually drove around, and once when we had crossed the country, we were up north in Arizona, and you could see the sky for 365 degrees, and you could see a storm coming, you could see the sunset, you could see the last of the blue sky," Pulido says.

"Arizona's still — inside and outside Phoenix — got a romantic quality," he continues. "There's a feeling that it's still wide open, far enough from places like Washington, D.C., to where you still feel like there's a bit of individuality and choice. It's beautiful, too. Those are some of the things that attracted us to here."

Authors who write about where they live or where they're from — like Stephen King and his fictional towns in Maine, and Anne Rice and her New Orleans settings — inspire Pulido. "I try to look at myself as more of an author than anything, and say, 'Okay, what can I say about our area?'" Pulido says. "I'm totally fascinated that there's entire towns that just seem like they couldn't exist anywhere on Earth. The mine where we shot the movie The Graves — how can you explain to someone from Coney Island or Long Island that there's actually an abandoned mining town with 30 buildings, and you can navigate through the whole place yourself? And it's haunted."

"There aren't places like this except in the Southwest," he adds. "And it's real easy to see how it could be creepy for anybody. It's probably even creepy for Phoenicians, because Phoenicians may be urban . . . City people are typically freaked out by wide-open desert, night, dark."

And that makes Arizona the perfect setting for a horror movie.

Megan and Abby Graves are like a couple of goth geeks you might bump into over the Bad Kitty bags at Hot Topic. Megan's the older, protective sister who's not afraid to throw a punch, and Abby's what Pulido calls "the little one, the goth girl, who's more or less always been lazy and hiding in her sister's shadow and never really had to grow up."

"Going through our story, she does," he continues. "She has no choice. She realizes her inner ass-kicker, is what happens."

When it came time to fill the roles of the two lead characters, Pulido chose Clare Grant (Masters of Horror, Walk the Line) to play older sister Megan Graves, and Tucson native Jillian Murray (American High School, An American Carol) to play Abby Graves.

Grant actually lobbied for her role. She was a fan of Pulido's Lady Death comics and saw a lot of herself in Megan Graves. "The Megan Graves role has action combined with a passion for comics, which is something Megan and I share," Grant says. "Being an action hero is something I strive for, and I'm a huge comic book fan, so of course I was familiar with Brian's work and excited to be reading for his directorial debut."

Pulido says everybody had to audition for their roles with the exception of three giants of the horror movie genre — Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Bill Moseley (A Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses), and Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination). Todd, who plays the intimidating and intense Reverend Stockton, also knew Pulido from his comic book career and says he trusted him completely as a director.

"Usually, visual artists approach filmmaking in an innovative way. Brian did storyboards, and once he sent me pictures of Wickenburg, I was sold," Todd says. "It was very visually stimulating to me. They worked out shots weeks before the production, and when someone pays that much attention to detail, it's going to be good."

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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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