My roommate is a zombie. The news arrived by e-mail with a link to a movie trailer—I don’t recall if it was Zombie Farm, Zombie Nation, or Zombie Ninja Gangbangers. Only that my college buddy Jed had, by the evidence of the trailer and a quick Google search, built a prolific career, and a cult following, as a B-movie horror actor who excelled at playing zombies.
This came as a shock—Jed studied English—but not an enormous one. You never expect the guy next to you in critical theory to go on to a career in the undead, of course. But Jed was always a little different. When we lived in Colorado after college, he passed up buying a bed and slept in a pile of dirty laundry. And he looked the part. He’s tall—about 6 foot 3—but he has an extremely small head (which he shaves) and tightly bunched features, all of which lends him a brontosaural aspect that seems like an occupational plus. He isn’t one of those moaning, arthritic, really-bad-movie zombies, either. He’s freaky as hell.
Watch highlights from Jed Rowen’s B-movie oeuvre
Jed is also a kind and gentle soul, and when I tracked him down to inquire about his unusual line of work, he invited me to join him at Horrorfest, an annual Denver confab of gore fans, where he is a regular celebrity guest. To prepare, I immersed myself in the Jed Rowen (his professional name) oeuvre, which extends beyond zombie films to include those about other supernatural killers (Attack of the Virgin Mummies, Werewolf in a Women’s Prison) as well as the merely psychotic or deranged (Driller, Axegrinder).
Low-budget horror doesn’t aim for white-knuckled fear so much as a kind of grisly camp; buxom “scream queens” who manage to get killed in various states of undress are a genre staple. But the main focus is the killer, who usually gets it in the end. Jed has been shot, stabbed, clubbed, axed, macheted, devoured by a wolf (actually, a “she-wolf”), and another time bludgeoned to death by a giant crayon, and has had his arm torn off by a stripper. It’s not for everyone.