Filmmaker Brian Pulido Celebrates the Horror of Phoenix in The Graves | News | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona


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...
Share this:
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.

He'd gone from two major metropolitan cities to a state littered with abandoned mines, ghost towns, and endless breadths of dark desert. Vulture Mine made the perfect setting for The Graves; the place is just as creepy as its fictional counterpart, with just as much death in its story but without the bloodthirsty nut jobs. He's already set his sights on the old Arizona mining towns of Jerome and Bisbee for future horror flicks.

"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."

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.'"

"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.

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."

The beginning of The Graves shows the sisters running around Phoenix with a video camera, trying to memorialize their last days together before Megan takes a job in New York. They stop at Atomic Comics on Country Club Drive in Mesa and hold up their favorite comics. Megan, of course, holds up an issue of Lady Death. There's a quick scene in the Halo body-piercing shop on Central, then they cut to The Sets in Tempe. In this scene, Pulido has a cameo as the guy who introduces local horror-punk band Calabrese.

Pulido directed the band's "Voices of the Dead" video and asked Calabrese to perform a song in The Graves. The film's soundtrack also includes music from Tucson band The Mission Creeps, and Phoenix rockers Sixstitch.

"I wanted people to get a sense of what I loved and adored about the Valley," Pulido says. "I wanted to kind of reflect what I'm into — I dig going over to Midnite Movie Mamacita [at Chandler Cinemas] and seeing a crazy film, and I'll go buy some comics, and I dig the Valley music scene. There's a lot to be said about it, and I thought that by showing my love and excitement for it in the movie, that people will get to see a little bit of a chunk."

Once the Graves sisters hit the road, they stop at a place called Screamer's Diner, a real diner off the U.S. 60 in Wickenburg that serves up old-style floats and burgers. There, the sisters have a run-in with some strange townspeople, including a beady-eyed waitress named Darlene (Amanda Wyss), who suggests they check out the Skull City Mine down the road for "a real scream."

A lot of things happen after the sisters arrive at the mine for a tour, including murders and a metaphysical twist. Suffice it to say, they'll need all their wits and strength to make it out of the mining town alive.

"A story's a fine meal," Pulido says. "You need an entrée, you need some vegetables, right? So I knew a couple things: I knew that I was going to deal with themes I've dealt with before, which is strong women — whether they are coming on to their power or contain their power — and I knew I wanted to write really freaky bad guys."

Brian Pulido calls his wife, Fransisca, his muse. She has been a partner in all his creative projects, including The Graves, for which she served as executive in charge of production and production designer. She's an upbeat woman who's constantly working multiple projects but says she can still "make a gourmet meal in stiletto heels and chains."

Fransisca says the day she met Brian, St. Patrick's Day 1988, was fraught with crappy weather, floating tires, and bad '80s fashion.

They were filming a movie in Fransisca's home state of Connecticut, a "post-apocalyptic spaghetti Western" called Death Collector. Fransisca was doing makeup and hair, and Brian was the assistant director. The first day of shooting, they were filming a love scene at a tire farm, and it rained heavily.

"We were standing in the mud, sinking, and the water was rising so much that tires were floating in the background," Brian says.

Brian introduced himself to Fransisca and right away, she says, she was hearing strange voices in her head. "Here comes this metal guy — now, mind you, I'm more of a New Wave/punk chick, and I had my Madonna hair going and the little skirt, and I wouldn't date you unless you were blond and from Europe," Fransisca says.

"So a heavy metal guy would totally not be in my thoughts, but he walks up and . . . I shook his hand, and the loudest voice I ever heard in my life came right in the back of my head and said, 'This is the man you're going to spend the rest of your life with.'"

The two dated for three years before tying the knot with a Justice of the Peace in upstate New York in 1991. Their one-night honeymoon was like a scene out of a comedy film. They'd booked a room at a lodge in the Poconos because it had a heart-shaped tub, and they were ready to celebrate their wedding night when they began to suspect they were at a swinger lodge.

"We didn't know, and we have nothing against swingers, but it was like, 'Hey, this is our wedding night,'" Brian says. "And everybody's like, 'Hey, do you mind if we sit at the table with you?' I was like, 'What's going on in this place? Everybody's vibing on us.' And then we realized what everybody was doing, and that's why they had all these heart-shaped pools and people hanging out."

Brian did achieve his goal that evening, which was to pile bubbles on his head. "I got in the tub that night and I was able to pile bubbles on my head at least Marge Simpson-size," he says with a grin. "You gotta have your priorities on your wedding night, and mine was to see how high I could pile the bubbles."

"Brian's the king of the child-people," Fransisca says.

The Pulidos' large home in north Scottsdale has two sections: the main house, which Fransisca's decorated in neo-gothic, Osbournes style, and Brian's basement suite, which consists of three rooms. There's a theater called the Red Room — adorned with posters of horror movies, aliens, Japanese character Devil Man, and Captain America — and a "collector room" filled with markers of his own comic book career: sculptures and action figures of his comic book characters, and framed copies of the first issues of most of his comics. The bathroom houses several framed tarantulas and scorpions.

Pulido's office is surprisingly plain. His desk faces a blank wall, and the wall behind him has only a few family heirloom objects, like a couple of wooden ducks. "I like to create in a fairly blank slate," he says. "I like looking at plain stuff because usually, after a while, you just disappear anyway."

When the Pulidos get out of the house, they like to hike the mountains around Arizona and take road trips to weird places around the state. That was how they discovered Vulture Mine.

The history of Vulture Mine is filled with thievery, murder, and suicides. No one knows the exact number of people who have died there, but there are still bodies at the bottom of the mine. Many people believe the place is haunted — they say empty swings by the old schoolhouse move on their own, shadowy figures appear and then vanish in the open desert, and car doors unlock by themselves.

Getting to Vulture Mine requires getting on Grand Avenue and driving west for 75 minutes. Wandering through the town around the mine feels like walking into a post-apocalyptic surrealist painting — bathtubs, box springs, and scrap heaps of old cars sit half-buried in dust across the landscape. Massive buildings with crumbling stone walls and spider webs of orphaned electrical wires house artifacts of an industrial wasteland; visitors must sometimes navigate around piles of huge rusty orange pipes and bolts.

The town brims with sounds — the clanging of tin sheets partially detached from roofs banging against each other, the wind whistling through the brush, the occasional caw of a bird, the buzzing of flies. What you don't hear much is the sound of human voices. This is a lonely place, Vulture Mine: population zero.

Today, Vulture Mine is a rustic roadside attraction about 12 miles off U.S. 60 in Wickenburg, a place where visitors can wander the more than 30 dilapidated buildings on a self-guided tour. Caretakers Marty and Roma Hagan have run the place since 2003, but it's been in their family since 1972. Marty's always happy to chat about the mine with visitors while Roma does things like skin rattlesnakes for hat bands, but for the most part, visitors are on their own.

It's hard to believe now, but in its heyday, Vulture Mine was home to 5,000 people, including Jacob "Lost Dutchman" Waltz. And it was a prospecting boon, producing more than $200 million dollars in gold. Legend has it that in 1863, Henry Wickenburg picked up a rock to throw at his burro, and the rock was gold. So he founded Vulture Mine and worked it for about eight years before agreeing to sell the mine to Benjamin Phelps (of the Phelps Dodge family) for $85,000. "He was swindled out of it," Marty Hagan says. "They paid Henry 20, and he didn't see the rest of his money."

Hagan says that wasn't the only cheating at the mine. There's a place called the Glory Hole there, and it marks where seven miners died in 1923. "Two or three of them would go into this other area where they weren't supposed to be and start chipping away at the columns," Hagan says. "But the columns, being eight feet across . . . As they chipped them down to maybe four to three to two feet, they wouldn't hold the weight, so the mine collapsed on them. So they're still there. Why recover the bodies? They were stealing, and they had to bury them anyway, so leave them there."

Henry Wickenburg shot himself in the head on the bank of the Hassayampa River in 1905, but his home still stands (barely) near Vulture Mine. It's right next to the Hanging Tree, where 18 miners were hanged for stealing gold from the mine. Half the house has collapsed into a pile of bricks and timber, but the kitchen and living area remain intact. The only thing in the front room is a rickety white rocking chair and a rusty box spring bedframe. And there's a dead, mummified bird stuck between the windowpanes, its head somehow ripped off and lying at its feet.

The whole town feels creepy, so Brian Pulido, of course, fell in love with it after he and Fransisca took a couple of self-guided tours. In fact, Pulido loved the location so much that he wrote the entire script for The Graves around it.

"I think that, for a horror film in particular, having a very remote location that has a ton of character is key," Pulido says. "So as crazy as we were to go up and shoot there, I decided to set the movie there. I couldn't write this story and then go talk to the owners and make a deal, because if they said no, what would I have had?"

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.

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.

Even if The Graves is successful, Pulido still plans to write comics. "It's a great way to express a story and comes with a lot of freedom," he says.

In the meantime, he's working on a sequel, titled The Graves 2: Return to Skull City, which will be set in Jerome. "Jerome is so unique. Essentially, it's kind of tied to some freaky stuff," Pulido says. "I've never seen a town like that before in a movie. It's just so unique-looking, and I'd like to make use of that."

After all, Pulido says, Arizona is just "naturally frightening."

KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.