Death is a taboo subject in American culture. We try not to think about it. People don’t like to talk about it. And it’s definitely not normal to embrace death. Except for during Halloween, that is. For one month of the year, it is totally ordinary and mainstream to celebrate our fears with cartoonish skeletons, ghouls, ghosts, and zombies. Come November first, it’s less socially acceptable to display your rubber dead body props and plastic skull decorations. Coffin Crusin’ is about a small club of Carolinians that refuse to conform to cultural norms by not putting away their caskets for the other 11 months of the year.
The Carolina Coffin Cruisers is a group of hearse enthusiasts that have come together from all walks of life to bond over their common interest in attention-grabbing, gas-guzzling, corpse-carrying classic cars and their affection for the dark and twisted. Proud to be different, these macabre motorists challenge the perception that there is anything inherently wrong or sinister about driving a vehicle that has previously been used to transport the recently deceased to their final resting place.
Club members come from throughout the Carolinas to share their interests with the public. They meet up to convoy to events ranging from car shows and cruise-ins to zombie walks and “haunted” attractions. By engaging with the community, they hope to spread appreciation for the cars themselves and dispel misconceptions that their hobby has anything to do with devil worship or a lack of respect for the dead.
Coffin Cruisin’ is a 15 minute documentary profiling the club, learning how its individual members came to this niche subculture, and what they’ve gained by joining together as a group. The film reflects the clubs’ morbid sense of humor with a style that seeks to be as bold as the big body creepy Cadillacs it features and as loud as their engines. It’s a celebration, not only of classic cars and their drivers, but of individuality, personal freedom, and everything that embodies the spirit of Halloween, even if you celebrate it year round.
Producer, Director, Editor
Brenton is a filmmaker and multimedia producer from Gainesville, Florida. He studied television production and film at the University of Central Florida, earning a Bachelors’ Degree in Communications in 2006. He then worked in TV/video production for four years, shooting and editing (amongst other things) a monthly reality show for the local police department. Richardson joined the Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University with an interest in exploring culture and profiling people who are passionate about self-expression, personal freedom, and unexpected interests. These themes can be found in short films such as I’ll Be Seeing You: The Andrews Sister Tribute Show (co-directed by Sana Haq), about a group of young performers dedicated to carrying on the legacy of the popular singing group from the 1940s, and Always On (co-directed by Palmer Holton), which tells the story of a police detective who moonlights as a standup comedian. Brenton returned to Florida after graduation and is now on staff with the Strategic Communications and Marketing team at the University of Florida Office of Development & Alumni Affairs.
Director of Photography
Joe Cornelius is a filmmaker and educator from Morganton, North Carolina with a strong background in cinematography. He is a graduate of the film program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. His previous works include Over Home: Love Songs from Madison County (co-directed by Kim Dryden), a documentary about ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams and the tradition of Appalachian mountain music, Son of Lexington, about a Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Afghanistan, and Mike, a profile of a high-spirited, young man with Down Syndrome. Joe generously volunteered to collaborate on Coffin Cruisin’ and help shoot the film while balancing responsibilities on his own creative project. Joe earned his MFA in 2013 and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Digital Media Productions at Queens University of Charlotte. He is also an extremely passionate Demon Deacons fan. Go Deacs!
Carolina Coffin Cruisers
A North Carolina/South Carolina based hearse club and the group featured in Coffin Crusin’.
National Hearse and Ambulance Association
A haunt in Sawmills, NC where we had a great time filming and playing Undead Paintball.
Woods of Terror
A really cool haunt we visited in Greensboro, NC.
Downtown Salisbury Zombie Walk
A Zombie Walk in Salisbury, NC.
Get Dead Crew
The crew who was doing the zombie makeup at the Salisbury Zombie Walk.
Harley Davidson of Asheville
The site of the first annual southeastern regional meeting of the National Hearse and Ambulance Association.
Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands
I came across Waylon’s music searching through the Creative Commons and thought it sounded perfect for the film. I reached out to him to let him I wanted to use a few of his tracks and he was very supportive of the project. He even bought a hearse shortly after our initial communication. Waylon has a new band called Strange Lords.
Produced in conjunction with
The Documentary Film Program
Located in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Wake Forest University, the DFP offers graduate education in documentary storytelling and film production. Coffin Cruisin’ is produced in conjunction with the Documentary Film Program as Brenton Richardson’s creative thesis project for his Master of Fine Arts degree.