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Imagine a group of teenagers coming together to make a bona fide zombie horror movie! Not just any teenagers… kids considered to be bottom of the pile: autistic, marginalised, neuro diverse or broken by a modern world they don’t fit into so well. Imagine that!


Well, Colchester based Underdog Crew Studios is doing just that. Led my multi award winning filmmaker, DB Morgan, the crew are currently working on ‘Day 13’ – a zombie apocalypse survival movie. Deep, profound and truly terrifying... utilising the creative energy of a zombie flick to continue empowering, fixing, and in several cases saving the lives of some of the city of Colchester's most damaged teenagers.


“And that’s a wrap!” DB Morgan calls, to rapturous applause, whoops and cheers from a crew of around seventeen people. The crew begin striking down the indoor post apocalyptic set and the clean-up team set about cleaning up the considerable amount of ‘brain matter’ splattered so lovingly across the studio walls. It’s 8pm on Sunday the seventeenth of December and the crew are, again, revelling in the triumph of another turbo charged film shoot... the Underdog Crew way.


Some may think that letting a group of marginalised, at-risk and neuro diverse teenagers loose on a horror film set is not the best example to set. After all, one of the biggest cheers of the weekend came when they successfully exploded the head of a freshly turned zombie! DB tends to disagree, as do many other world renowned lovers of the horror genre. And BTW... all  'Underdog Crew: after Dark' film project members are over 16!

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And the budget? ZERO! Professional actors are donating their time to support the project. One-to-one acting mentorship, stunts and screen combat training, professional special effects makeup and more all on offer to our members as part of the project. Behind the camera… an extensive boots-on-the-ground education in ‘resources filmmaking’: direction, camera, lighting, sound recording; through to post production, foley recording and sound design. The full development process, encompassing everything from scheduling to on-set catering.


It’s a true labour of love from those who understand the transformative magical power the Underdog Crew has on its young members. These words from a parent or two say it all…


“I have seen my teenager transform from a boy who struggled and had little to no confidence and self esteem, to a young man who has rediscovered himself. I’ve got my son back.” Charlene B.


“My withdrawn child has gone from self harm and suicidal thoughts to dreams of a career in the creative arts in just a matter of months. Thankyou so much.” D.C.


It’s all part of the Underdog Crew’s professional training programme. Behind the camera, proud project Cinematographer and part of the crew since 2020, Joseph Allison (26).  Calm, measured and revelling in his elevation from UCS Creative Director to D-O-P on his first feature film. His team are made up from current crew members, Noah (16), Assunta (17) and Krystian (16), all current, or pending, film students at Colchester Institute’s film and media programme. The leading lady is Calleigh Plant, aged just 16 and a crew member since summer 2023… now acting alongside Underdog Crew ambassador and professional actress Charlene Aldridge, together with other esteemed British actors who will be joining the cast over the forthcoming months.


The film is being be shot locally in Colchester, a few scenes here and there, with completion expected in July. ‘Day 13’ will be released onto VOD platforms with the aim of all proceeds going back into the not-for-profit community interest company. Powered only by grant funding any income will boost the studio’s ability to continue harnessing the power of professional film to instil positivity, wellbeing and ambition in marginalised young adults.


If you would like to get involved in any capacity then please reach out to DB at


A recent article in The Guardian states: “Video nasties” was the term once used for films deemed unsuitable because of their gratuitous blood, violence and sheer determination to terrify. Forty years ago, in a more protective era, many were banned from general release in case they did lasting harm. The counter argument – that a dose of pure horror can offer catharsis in times of trouble, or even heal wounds – was not audible above the moral panic. So why now, after such a grim period of national trauma and anxiety, are so many of the stories being told on screen so scary? And why do millions of viewers clamour for more?


We’ll get back to this fascinating article in a bit.

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WARNING: Contains graphic scenes, gory horror, profanity and unsettling audio unsuitable for minors or those who are easily offended.

‘Day 13’ is yet another production coming out of Colchester based Underdog Crew Studios: a youth empowerment project that specialises in professional filmmaking to help promote and boost the emotional wellbeing in marginalised young adults. Yes, it’s a horror movie. Yes, it’s pretty visceral and yes, it has exploding heads and its fair share of profanity.


A project specifically devised to immerse the over sixteen film students, ‘Day 13’ is a classic zombie apocalypse story told through thirteen episodic parts – from the day of the outbreak to the day it all ‘ends’ and every glorious opportunity for horror themed entertainment in between. Project Director, DB Morgan, tells us: “Alongside the studio’s more youth orientated projects, like the ongoing teen mental health drama, ‘The Slip’, some of our older members wanted, maybe even needed, something a little more exhilarating to grab their attention. Something to fuel the inner fire that needs constant stoking, in an age where often the only craved stimulation comes from energy drinks, video games and darker, or criminal, pursuits - the ones that we exist to steer our vulnerable young members away from.”  

The film project begins at the end on day thirteen, with mother, Jagger, and her daughter, Morgan, holed up in a locked compound, fighting to stay alive as the viral outbreak consumes the UK. Each further episode dips back and forward between days one and thirteen as the duo navigate the zombie apocalypse as it pans out in real time, much in the same traumatic manner as Rick and Karl Grimes in ‘The Walking Dead’.


The project is co-directed by DB Morgan and Joseph Allison (Underdog Crew Champion 2022. Graduating this year and passing his champion mantle on to sixteen-year-old Harrison Blackwood at this year’s annual awards ceremony.) Joseph now takes on his first full role as Cinematographer on ‘Day 13’ - alongside a core trio of Underdog Crew film student members: Assunta Jones, Noah Froude and Krystian Gregorczyk-Manuel - completing key behind the camera positions. In the lead role, Calleigh Plant performs alongside professional actress and stunt co-ordinator, Charlene Aldridge, whilst other studio members - like Jake Richardson-Fowles working on the ‘insane’ soundtrack – embroil themselves with other key production roles. This really is a pure Underdog production!

Let’s continue with the Guardian article…


“One of the appeals of horror right now has to be the immediacy with which it makes you feel something,” said Mark Bould, reader in film and literature at the University of the West of England. “For many people, the pandemic has been a numbing experience: locked down, socially distanced, trapped alone or trapped with families, constant peril and endless boredom, overwhelmed and powerless.”


The current horror boom in Britain began with films such as Howl, Attack the Block, Sightseers and Prevenge, and has been followed recently by critical hits such as Saint Maud and the haunting refugee nightmare, His House. But it is a trend that has perversely continued throughout the real horrors inflicted by Covid-19, reflecting a renewed appetite for shocking content. Last year, a Finnish study concluded that horror films can activate neural pathways in a way that little else that is predictable can, offering a taste of the genuine fear experience in a harmless and controlled environment, much like the pure adrenaline rush of theme park scare attractions or rollercoasters.


Danish academic Mathias Clasen, director of the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University, has even argued that watching horror “may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies”. Clasen and a colleague at the University of Chicago, Coltan Scrivner, followed this up with a study of 310 recruits who answered questions “used to assess their morbid curiosity, how prepared they felt for the pandemic, how they were feeling during the pandemic, and their movie preferences. Their results indicated that people who watched horror learn about their own fear responses and so are better able to regulate their emotions.”



Introducing Underdog Crew Studios ambassador, ‘Day 13’ Executive Producer, lead actress and stunt co-ordinator, Charlene Aldridge. Fresh from working alongside Cynthia Rothrock and Eric Roberts on the forthcoming ‘Fyre Rises’, Charlene packed her bags and headed to Colchester to spearhead the first chapter of ‘Day 13’.


Charlene tell us: “Working alongside the Underdog Crew kids is an awesome experience. I just wish something like this was here for me at that age. To see them growing in confidence and experience over just one weekend is mind blowing. There is so much talent on offer and all these kids need is for someone to believe in them and show them they can achieve whatever they want to in life if they channel it and believe.

Brimming with passion and pride towards her involvement in the Underdog Crew youth empowerment project, Charlene offers deeper insight. 

"From the first day I met DB Morgan, I knew he was a man that cared. Seeing how passionate about turning these kids lives around that come from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggle with their mental health that is either trauma related or living in an ever changing society. After getting to know these kids, a feeling was ignited in myself that I wanted to be part in helping this charity so I could also have a positive impact on the kids along with Dom and the rest of the team. To help these kids explore their passions without judgement. I myself, was one of these kids 20 years ago, who come from a dysfunctional background, misunderstood, unheard by those who were supposed to help you and forgotten and failed by the system, that left me with CPTSD into my adult life…. So if anyone understands how these kids feel… it’s me.


As ambassador for ‘The Underdog Crew’ I want to put my experiences to good use by helping these kids through their struggles alongside Dom and the team, with creativity. I found my calling in performing arts. It’s something I always wanted to do from a very young age but never had access to. Not only is it a passion, but it is my therapy. I love working with these kids because I see a bit of me in each of them and I want to give them a voice - a voice many from my generation could never use -  to help them nurture and embrace their passions so they can become the best versions of themselves, no matter where they come from, or how much money they have got.


These kids matter. They can be and do anything they are passionate about with the right guidance to help them stay focused and find the power and self belief in their abilities. All these kids want and need is to be heard, embraced and have the right support in their journeys, and Dom, myself and the UCS team are making it our mission, because we all get it.


One young lady in particular I have been working with, alongside Dom, is Calleigh. She aspires to have a career in acting. After getting to know her more working on “Day 13” she reminds me so much of myself at that age. Behind her struggles there is a gifted individual with some raw talent, but society has shunned her where she has not had the access to show what she can do, so it is inevitably going unnoticed. And that is not fair. That’s why I want to share my experience with her, pass on my own knowledge that you don’t need to be rich or go to drama school to get there. I want to help tool her up so she can thrive within the industry and to keep going no matter what, because she deserves to be heard… the same as every kid here. “Day 13” is the perfect start to reignite Calleigh’s passion and talent so she can learn and work with someone like me, who truly understands and gets it. Every kid here is amazing in their own way and deserve the best chance in life. #UnderdogCrew #Family."


Filming on ‘Day 13’ will continue throughout 2024 and The Underdog Crew are keen to find local sponsors and supporters to help them continue their journey into the apocalypse.


Read the full ‘therapeutic horror’ article in ‘The Guardian’ HERE.

Comments (2)

Dec 20, 2023

This was awesome to watch behind the scenes, so much has gone into this production and so much talent. Its a privilege to be able to watch and be part of this amazing crew #canteenmum to


Dom Morgan
Dom Morgan
Dec 20, 2023

Get involved in the conversation and share your zombie apocalypse ifdeas to become part of the 'Day 13' adventure. Peace and love, DB.

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