Local horror filmmakers deliver blood, guts, hyuks

Local horror filmmakers deliver blood, guts, hyuks

Courtesy of Bobby Keller

The forecast is partly bloody with a chance of gore for John Kasper, star of Bobby Keller's DIY horror flick, "Deatherman."

Bill Thomas, A&E Editor

Two savage murderers are be on the loose in NEPA. One hungers for flesh. The other, vengeance. Both are the creations of local filmmakers with small budgets but big passions for horror, not to mention a whole lot of independent do-it-yourself ambition.

Earlier this year, Bobby Keller, of Scranton, finished “Deatherman,” which was originally supposed to premiere this past weekend at the Horror Factory Film Festival in New Jersey, only for the event to be canceled at the last minute due to concerns over Hurricane Sandy.

It’s ironic turn of events, given that the film tells the story of a local TV weatherman who is murdered by a vicious-ambitious fellow meteorologist eyeing his spot, only to return from the grave seeking bloody retribution.

Yes, Keller knows it’s a silly story. That, he said, is the whole point.

“I wanted the movie to feel like something a ten-year-old might make, lots of bad acting and horrible special effects,” he said. “If a kid stole his dad’s camcorder and tried to make a movie, I wanted it to look worse than that.”

The intention, Keller explained, was to recreate the artless aesthetic of shot-on-video horror-comedies of the 1980s, a la “Black Devil Doll from Hell” and “Video Violence,” which Keller feels fall squarely into the “so bad it’s good” category.

Blending a lifelong love of horror with his own firsthand experience in comedy – in addition to performing stand-up, he briefly had his own sketch comedy show on Electric City Television – Keller was well-prepared to capture the half-satiric trash-cinema spirit he sought to recreate, even going so far as to shoot the movie on old-school VHS tape.

One thing Keller wasn’t prepared for, though, was actually making a good movie.

“The movie came out better than I tried,” Keller said with a chuckle. “I tried to make it a lot worse than it is, so in a sense I guess I failed. I think it’s very enjoyable. Everyone I’ve shown it to so far has liked it.”

In keeping with the movie’s retro inspiration, “Deatherman” is available on VHS at deatherman.storenvy.com. The decision to release the movie on tape was influenced not just by Keller’s own affectionate nostalgia for the antique format, but also by the unsung aesthetic qualities that it possesses.

“Aside from 35mm, the best way to watch a horror movie is on VHS,” he said. “I just watched ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2’ on DVD and I remember it being so much scarier on VHS. Freddy Krueger was harder to see because of how bad the quality was. Everything was kind of murky and grimy. It had this dark, seedy feel to it that worked for horror. When they remastered it, he just looked like Robert DeNiro with pizza on his face.”

Now, with “Deatherman” under his belt, Keller is considering what comes next. He’s already planning the first of many hopeful “Deatherman” sequels and is also hard at work on a script he’s been tweaking for years called “Beelzebub Gets a Valentine.”

Meanwhile, fellow NEPA horror-junkie and independent filmmaker Shawn Allen (aka “Shawn Goremonger”), of Frackville, is putting the finishing touches on his own mini-magnum opus, “Cannibal Nightmare.”

A self-described “cheesy gore/schlock flick,” “Cannibal Nightmare” is about an alien entity that comes to Earth and takes over the body of an unsuspecting woman, turning her into cannibalistic killing machine. Allan has been working on the project for much of 2012. Due to have its premiere in April 2013, “Cannibal Nightmare” will be released on DVD by fledgling New York-based distributor Titan Video,  along with another under-construction Allen original entitled “Hunted 2: Deep Woods Dismemberment.”

For now, Allen is hard at work. Like Keller, Allen’s current projects mark his first foray into feature-length filmmaking. Also like Keller, Allen is no stranger to the world of no-rules, no-budget horror cinema. He traces his fascination with the macabre back to a seminal screening of Tobe Hooper’s original “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” when he was just 5 years old.

Fast-forward to 2002: At the age of 26, Allen began churning out shorter tongue-in-cheek terror tales of his own, an outgrowth of his interests in creative writing and special makeup effects.

“After years of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself – all I did was skateboard every day – I was looking for something else to do and I realized the one thing I always really, really wanted to do was make movies. So I decided to just start doing it.”

Looking to take his filmmaking to the next level, Allen formed Goremonger Media Inc. in 2010 (info about current and future projects can be found at goremongermedia.wordpress.com). Trying to juggle his artistic passion with a personal life has been proven no easy task for Allen, and progress is often slow. Regardless, Allen remains undeterred.

“Horror,” he said simply, “is my life.”

Pondering just what it is about the genre that appeals to him, the easygoing filmmaker noted that violent horror films have a lot in common with his other great love, equally violent death-metal music. Both, Allen said, offer audiences a cathartic experience wherein they can safely vent their pent-up aggressions in a harmless, even therapeutic way.

“It’s all a release, really. People think that a lot of horror fans and death-metal fans are crazy and off-the-wall, but that’s not often the case. Most of the ones I know tend to be really nice people, really laidback,” he said.

“That’s a little different from what people might expect, I guess.”