“If you want drugs, violence, suspense and lots of sexy people, this movie is for you,” says actress/producer Jennifer Blanc with a smile as she greets me on the set of The Victim – a new backwoods indie thriller that sports some heavy-duty subject matter and one helluva cast. Directed by Brock Morse, written by and starring genre icon Michael Biehn, the film boasts a gritty multi-character driven story of corrupt cops, strippers and backwoods folk – the kind where no one is innocent and nothing is black-and-white.
“This is Michael’s, Brock’s and my baby,” says Blanc, “I usually play lunatics and sidekicks, and now I actually get to be the heroine of the story. Danielle Harris and I play two best friends who are strippers in a bar who get into a really bad situation with a client and basically end up fighting for our lives.”
Upon my arrival at a cabin in Topanga Canyon, this set instantly feels different than any other set I’ve ever visited. The entire crew consists of less than 20 people, mostly all personal friends of each other. Everyone on set is wearing multiple hats, which is clearly demonstrated by Michael Biehn helping coach the actors through their various scenes. I’m escorted off the beaten path to a small ditch where my jaw instantly drops open at the scene in front of me. I feel like I’ve wandered onto the set of Bad Lieutenant, watching very unpleasant things unfold between Danielle Harris and a cop played by Ryan Honey that I won’t reveal here. Behind a monitor, Biehn screams direction at the top of his lungs: “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOUR DAUGHTER, RYAN?!?! HOW ARE YOU GONNA EXPLAIN THIS?!?!?”
“Michael uses different personal [psychological tricks] with each actor. He’s gotten a performance out of everyone. It’s INSANE!” says Blanc.
Biehn lets the scene unfold and calls cut. “Perfect!” he yells and everyone relaxes and starts to giggle. It’s clear everyone on set is having fun despite the morbid subject matter. Danielle Harris brushes herself off and climbs out of the ditch. “You guys owe me so big,” she jokes to Blanc, “The shit that I do for my girl friends, you have no idea. I wouldn’t do this for anyone else.”
Ryan Honey (who plays a corrupt cop alongside partner-in-crime Denny Kirkwood) follows close behind, and this writer instantly makes a comment about his epically awesome 80’s style mustache. “It’s all about the ‘stache!” says Honey, “I started looking at all these photos [of corrupt cops] and all these guys have ‘staches! My wife hates it.”
Looking half-crazed and dressed up in his backwoods hillbilly costume, Biehn is clearly a no-bullshit, take-no-prisoners artist, and he commands this set like a drill sergeant (one has to wonder if all those years working with James Cameron have rubbed off on him). It’s the perfect match for subject matter this dark, and the cast and crew agree. “I’ll tell ya what helps with the intensity of the scenes: Michael Biehn,” says Honey, “That guy is just a bundle of energy and it’s infectious. He’s pushed us from day one and it’s been successful.”
As someone who grew up quoting 80’s sci-fi action movies, Biehn is easily one of my all-time favorite actors, which makes this meeting extra intimidating. And while the man is every bit as intense in person, his funny, personable nature quickly shines through.
“[Kyle’s] been away from society because he’s been in trouble with the law before,” Biehn says of his character, “He wants to pull himself together, and he’s gone to his uncle’s cabin to quelch the inner demons that he has. He gets involved in the midst of this chaos that these girls have run into, and it all lands on his doorstep.” Biehn cites the recent wave of stylized hardcore French films like Xavier Gans’ Frontier(s) as an influence. “It has a serial killer backdrop to it,” Biehn continues, “Think about Taxi Driver. That’s how I want the [level of violence] to be. Rob Hall worked one special effect in the movie and did a brilliant job, but it’s not a blood and guts movie.”
“Michael wanted the violence to be real,” recounts Honey. “We did one take by a river bed where I have him in a chokehold and the stuntman was telling us all the things to do. And Michael goes, ‘Man, just choke me.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna choke you’ and he says, ‘No, no, I’ll tap you out.’ The stuntman warned us not to do it, and sure enough, when you watch the playback, Michael totally passed out and was out of it for awhile.” That’s pretty method.
As the production’s super brisk twelve-day shoot comes to a close (“We’re a day ahead, which is unheard of,” adds Blanc), the energy and devotion from the cast and crew still runs hot. With a maverick indie spirit, The Victim looks like the kind of violent and provocative psychological crime thriller that is all too rare in this day in age.
The Victim stars Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, Grindhouse), Ryan Honey (“ER,” Hallowed Ground), Jennifer Blanc (“Dark Angel,” “Party of Five”), Denny Kirkwood (Never Been Kissed, Groove), and genre favorite Danielle Harris (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Hatchet II).
Annie’s (Jennifer Blanc) life is in jeopardy after she’s witnessed the horrific rape and murder of her closest friend. Fleeing from two attackers (Ryan Honey, Denny Kirkwood), she stumbles across Kyle (Michael Biehn), a recluse living in the middle of the woods.
Kyle ﬁnds the stillness of the woods comforting. The ruggedly handsome loner stays far from civilization – that is – until a single knock on his door throws his solitary life into chaos.
Two worlds collide in this psychological thriller that will make you question your trust in mankind. WHO IS THE VICTIM?
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