Filmmaker Brian Pulido Celebrates the Horror of Phoenix in The Graves

On an intense night in the dead of summer, two pretty young women are shivering — tied up back-to-back in an old power station, sullied with sweat, blood, and dirt. The wind howls wildly outside, where a group of deranged, small-town folk waits in the dark for them to be killed.

There has already been death in this godforsaken place. Outsiders who come to this desolate desert town don't get the charming old mine tour they pay for. Instead, they get sickles in their sides and claw hammers to their heads, and then the bodies mysteriously disappear.

Anytime somebody dies here, there's a horrible buzzing sound — like a huge mass of flies and bees swarming the ears. There's something else, too — a booming, screeching sound that resembles a horde of demons gorging on each other. This is the sound the women restrained inside the power station hear. It warns that death — and maybe something far worse — is coming for them.

What is that wicked retching sound, and how will they make it out alive?

Only Brian Pulido knows for sure.

Brian Pulido has been in the horror business for years, but this is the first full-length horror feature film the comic book artist has created — as in, written, produced, and directed.

Shot on location at Vulture Mine in Wickenburg, The Graves bolsters Pulido's reputation for creating twisted characters and dizzying suspense scenes. The low-budget movie, created with help from six independent investors, will be coming soon to a theater near you (including Chandler Cinemas on May 2). Pulido expects the film to see a national release in the fall. In the meantime, he's promoting it at comic and horror conventions throughout the U.S. as a superhero/psychological suspense story.

What starts out for two sisters as a fun, impromptu tour of the "Skull City Mine" turns into the worst (and, perhaps, last) day of their lives, as they find themselves in a fierce fight for survival against both humans and the supernatural.

The town around the Skull City Mine is the fictional Unity, Arizona, home to lots of extremely creepy people, like a lady with teeth that look like rotten corn kernels who introduces herself as "Mama," a large, commanding preacher whose steely glare makes people cough up their coffee, and a guy who wears a pig nose and snorts. The whole thing smells funny — not in a "ha ha" way, but in a roadkill-rotting-in-the-sun way.

Turns out, the whole town's a crazy cult, obsessed with feeding a supernatural, sinister legacy, and the Skull City Mine is a death trap. There are chase scenes, action scenes, psychological interrogations, and a twist at the end. But as packed as the plot is, the cinematography in The Graves capitalizes on the darkness and desolation of the Arizona desert. The day scenes capture raggedy tumbleweeds rolling across the rocky ground under mottled blue-gray skies, with dust clouds swirling around the dirt like a mist. At night, the blackness is so deep that nothing casts a shadow. Things just suddenly materialize — things with knives.

Although his celluloid dreams (or nightmares) are just beginning, Brian Pulido's well known in the world of comic books. Originally from New Jersey, Pulido moved to Phoenix in 1994 after establishing his cred as a comic book writer. He sometimes is spotted by Phoenix comic geeks who want to talk to him, which is what happened in January at Chandler Cinemas, where he went to see the première of Repo! The Genetic Opera. He kept changing his seat because people recognized him.

When he was 30, Pulido created a psychotic, teenage zombie who had the power to draw pictures of things and make them happen. He became the namesake of Pulido's early '90s Evil Ernie comic series, which was immensely popular — the first issue sold almost 67,000 copies, and signed back issues sell for about $40 each on eBay.

Evil Ernie's girlfriend was a sexy, sadistic goth goddess named Lady Death, who shared his appetite for destruction and eventually persuaded him to blow up the entire universe. The series ended there, and then Pulido gave Lady Death her own comic.

In the Lady Death comic series, Pulido reintroduces Lady Death as a violent anti-hero in shiny black leather who had once been a mortal girl named Hope. Hope renounces her humanity to save her mother's soul, which has been stolen by Lucifer. She leads an unsuccessful uprising against him in Hell, and he curses her to never return to Earth as long as there is life there. So she makes it her goal to kill everything.

Evil Ernie had sold well, but Lady Death really prospered. It was published for 13 years and adapted in 2004 into an animated movie by AD Vision Films. Pulido says that during just one month in 1995, he sold $980,000 worth of Lady Death merchandise. His success allowed him to move from New York City to Los Angeles and, then, to Arizona, where he tapped a new vein of inspiration.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea

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