Luckily, the Hagans agreed to let Pulido shoot a movie at Vulture Mine. It wouldn't be the first — the 1980 movie Nightkill was filmed there, wherein Jaclyn Smith's character throws her husband down a mineshaft. People die in Pulido's film, too, but in much more creative, supernatural ways.

"When I got the permission to go and shoot there, I started writing up a storm," Pulido says. "I started asking myself about this location. Why is it always windy? Why are there always the sound of flies? I also knew that in this movie I wanted to touch on so many different story structures I liked — survival, horror, chase. I like zombie movies, I like serial killers, I like slashers, so it was like, 'How do I put that all in there and make it full and not confusing to the audience and so makes it sense?'"

Once the script was finished, Pulido teamed up with Brian and Dean Ronalds, the Valley filmmakers now running Ronalds Brothers Productions in Los Angeles. Together, they procured enough accredited investors to finance a low-budget film and nab a solid cast of local and national actors.

Tony Todd plays Reverend Stockton in The Graves.
courtesy of Mischief Maker Screen Partners LLC
Tony Todd plays Reverend Stockton in The Graves.
Bill Moseley plays Caleb in The Graves.
courtesy of Mischief Maker Screen Partners LLC
Bill Moseley plays Caleb in The Graves.

Pulido and his crew headed out to Vulture Mine to begin production on The Graves in May 2008. Their goal was to create a nightmarish horror-suspense flick that would give audiences the creeps. But Vulture Mine had a few nightmares and creeps in store for them, too.

The first challenge for the cast and crew of The Graves was, simply, that they were in the middle of nowhere. The hotel was a half-hour drive from the mine, and there was no electricity or running water on-site, so they had to haul everything in on trucks and trailers and run off a generator. The shooting schedule was tough: 18 days, 12 hours a day.

The weather provided its own drama. On the second day of shooting, temperatures were in the 50s and it was overcast. On day seven, it was 107 degrees. On day 10, it hailed. But Pulido says the fickle weather "always worked to our advantage. If we were shooting a scene and it was moody outside, it just helped our lighting."

Audio was a bigger issue. The day it hailed, they were shooting a scene inside a tent with a tin roof on top. And the wind wouldn't stop blowing. "It looked like we had wind machines, because the girls' hair was always blowing," Pulido says. "We have the end credit that says, 'Wind machine: Vulture City mine.' It wasn't good for sound, but it was really good for picture."

Rumor had it that a cult lived a couple of miles from the set, and strange things started happening almost right away.

"Weird stuff happened at night," Pulido says. "We were sleeping, but we had security, and we usually had a production person there as well. And apparently, someone walked onto the set with a rifle."

The police came and stayed with the crew all night, but the shotgun-toting figure was never found.

That incident scared the crew, but that was nothing compared to the eerie things that happened at the entrance to the mine. That was the only place on the set where people could get cell-phone service, so crewmembers often went there at night to check voicemails.

Location manager Mike Tank says that one night he went to the mine entrance to make a call. "When I opened the door and went to get back in the car, I felt this tingling on my shoulder," Tank says. "And then it felt like somebody shoved me, really hard, right back down into my car."

Producer Brian Ronalds also had a strange incident at the spot one night. "I'm sitting there, and I locked my truck doors, and all of a sudden, the locks came open again," Ronalds says. "Then I saw that my passenger door had popped open."

Meanwhile, at the old schoolhouse where there are rumored to be mass graves of children who died of a plague, unit production manager Mark DuFour was on a golf cart, trying to make a call. He glanced in the rearview mirror and saw someone walking up behind the cart. When he turned around, nobody was there.

While some people suspect supernatural meddling on the set, others think there might have been a human element, too. "Across from the mine is this commune that doesn't use water or electricity," Ronalds says. "We came in one morning, and somebody had written 'Go home' on the wall in our fake blood."

Tank laughs nervously now when he thinks about the shoot. "It was definitely a prime spot to shoot a horror film."

Pulido's been happy with the reception for The Graves thus far — it was chosen to screen at the Motor City Comic Con in May, and at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors festivals in L.A. in mid-April and in NYC in June. International horror film magazine Fangoria has previewed and praised The Graves extensively in the past two months (50 hits so far on their Web site search engine), calling it "an intense, action-packed mind-bender of a horror flick." Pulido says they've recently procured a distributor, and he expects the film to see a national release this fall.

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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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