Dread recently visited the set of filmmaker Tim Sullivan’s latest flick Chillerama and spent some time chatting with him, as well as the cast, regarding his rather gonzo segment of the horror-comedy anthology. Entitled “I Was A Teenage Werebear”, Sullivan’s spoof of 1960’s beach blanket flicks, among others, was then filming during the wee hours of November 5th in Sycamore Cove, a state beach just north of the exclusive enclave of Malibu.
“Let me tell you what’s going on,” Sullivan (the man behind the features 2001 Maniacs and 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, as well as the host of VH1’s recently-concluded reality series “Scream Queens 2”) communicated to us of the film, while rehearsing a dance number with a dozen or so actors decked out in luau garb, as waves crashed on the beach just yards away. “It’s me and filmmakers Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City, “Look”) and Adam Green (Hatchet 2, Frozen) just having fun! We would be doing this if we were just kids in high school.”
As for the flick’s omnibus narrative, Sullivan stated of Chillerama, “It takes place at an old school drive-in in Southern California where a dusk ‘till dawn monster movie marathon is taking place. Each one of the segments will be one of the mini-movies which comprise the anthology. They are all homages to a different genre. Adam Green is presenting a satire of the Universal horror films with the segment “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, with Joel David Moore (Avatar) as ‘Hitler’ and Kane Hodder as ‘Meshugannah.’ Adam Rifkin is spoofing 1950’s science fiction movies (with the segment) “Wadzilla,” which is about a virility experiment that goes horribly awry, and this impotent schlep – played by Adam – shoots a radioactive load that gets bigger and bigger and heads to New York for a nefarious adventure. This is not a politically correct film!”
Concerning Joe Lynch, “he presents an homage to 80’s zombie flicks,” continued the filmmaker, “and I’m going all the way out, so I’m doing “I Was A Teenage Werebear”, which is a spoof of Rebel Without a Cause meets Grease meets Twilight, and takes place in 1962. It’s a musical with five rock ‘n roll numbers. It’s about a closeted kid who meets these other closeted kids, who when aroused turn into leather daddy werebears. So yes, it’s definitely out there!”
For those unfamiliar with the term ‘leather daddy,’ in the gay community such refers to a dominant homosexual man who favors leather garb and BDSM practices, and who likes to position himself as a father figure to his sexual partners (visually, think Judas Priest’s Rob Halford). As for the ‘bear’ in ‘werebear,’ the term ‘bear’ connotes a gay male who generally displays significant amounts of body hair and who projects a hyper-masculine image. Combine the two, and add in the element of a werewolf-like visage, and you’ll get an idea of the creatures which the closeted kids transform into (Robert Pendergraft provides the practical effects, although we have to keep those photos under wraps for now).
Produced by Andrew Mysko, Cory Neal and Jason Miller and starring Sean Paul Lockhart as ‘Ricky’, Anton Troy as ‘Talon’, Lin Shaye as ‘Nurse Maleva’ and Gabby West (the latter the winner of “Scream Queens 2” and Saw 3D actress) as ‘Peggy Lou,’ “I Was A Teenage Werebear”, regardless of its tongue-in-cheek approach to the narrative, has seemed to garner an occasional raised eyebrow, given its partially gay theme. Case in point: I was surprised to find, particularly in the generally accepting clime of So-Cal, that one of the park rangers responsible for looking after the permitted production attempted to have it shut down due to the film’s subject matter.
Stated actor Parrish Randall, who plays the character of ‘Superintendent Ackerman’, “That ranger elected himself the moral majority crusader and was going through Tim’s script and dissecting it and pointing out segments that he approved of and disapproved of and stated that if we didn’t make concessions in certain arenas, that ‘by god’ he was going to shut us down. Luckily enough, though, for the last two days there was a shift change, and we got a new park ranger by the name of Martin, who’s been really film-friendly and who’s worked with us on every level. So hat’s off to Martin! But it was frightening. It’s 2010, and everyone is aware of gay-bullying, which is featured (in “I Was A Teenage Werebear”); yet, we experienced it first-hand during this production.”
While it may be a horror-comedy, “I Was A Teenage Werebear” does intend to communicate a certain topical sub-text (a historical staple of horror filmmaking, from Frankenstein’s examination of Victorian society’s unease with the then-burgeoning advent of medical science to Godzilla’s none too subtle metaphor as lizard-as-atomic bomb), and actor Randall similarly commented, “It is a film with a message. I think it’s great that the horror genre is one that can actually both entertain and convey, which in this case it is to convey acceptance and to embrace who you are, and to not to be ashamed.”
This is a Sullivan film, however, and upon re-joining us the director was quick to point out – as we accompanied him to set – that his splat-stick leanings are still in full effect.
“While we are shooting the Ticky-Tacky Luau,” said Sullivan over the play-back strains of “Do the Werebear (And Let the Werebear Do You)”, one of the five original 60’s style-surf songs Sullivan penned for the flick, “we are simultaneously shooting the shower-rape musical dance number known as “Plug Him Up” over there in the shower shack. Jason Miller is doing some of the werebear woodie impalements, so you might want to have a look!”
Sure enough, as Sullivan returned to directing the night-time luau sequence in which the entire class of Malibu High circa 1962 gathers on the beach to “Do the Werebear” (dance choreography and all) – only to be torn to pieces by the werebear quartet – second unit director Miller was shepherding merely yards away a direct homage to the shower scene from DePalma’s Carrie (although in this case the blood spewing was from a different orifice, and “Plug him up!” was indeed the accompanying line of chanted dialogue).
Actor Adam Robitel (who played ‘Lester’ in Sullivan’s Maniac films) emerged shivering from the shack doused in copious amounts of stage blood moments later, and sarcastically explained to Dread, “Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of being impaled by a werebear penis, which if you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing, I do suggest you run out and try to have it done to you.”
As for his character of ‘Butch’, Robitel chuckled, “He’s a bully who’s very homophobic, and the way he punishes gays is by raping them, so his logic is a little flawed.”
Sexual confusion is apparently the through-line of “I Was A Teenage Werebear”, and from what actress Gabby West told us, while seated in a wheelchair with bloodied head bandaging, the identity crisis affects the fairer gender of the film’s cast as well.
“She’s obsessed with the character of Ricky,” said West of her role, “and she’s the type of girl that always gets what she wants, and she can’t figure why Ricky doesn’t like her. She then comes to the realization that he’s into a guy, and then afterward she gets hit by a car and goes crazy – so tonight I’m drooling and dripping with blood and still trying to get him to like me. It’s been really funny and fun!”
Stated the actress of her career post “Scream Queens 2”, “I was cast in Fright Night (the remake), but unfortunately the role changed, and what they wanted me to do, I wasn’t willing to do. Being cast in Chillerama is amazing because I love Tim and I love working with him. Really, the exposure is amazing, and I would definitely say that Scream Queens has changed my life. Honestly, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do so actually experiencing it is so amazing, and I feel so blessed.”
“Honestly, I thought he was crazy,” lead actor Sean Paul Lockhart, who assumes the role of the James Dean-esque Ricky, stated of Sullivan’s script. “I thought he was crazy for taking on this ambitious project and for also pushing the envelope, and I guess I didn’t take it too seriously at first. But a couple of months went by, and I did a screen test and here I am. It’s been a whirlwind! I’m very grateful that Tim and the producers took a gamble and brought me on as the lead.”
As for what ultimately attracted him to the to role, “There’s so many different layers to this project, and with the recent rash of suicides due to gay bullying within the gay community, I think that regardless of the fact that it’s set in the 1960’s, there will be a certain topical nature (to the narrative). Tim is spot-on. He’s a visionary. And while some of the films he’s worked on might not necessarily be palatable for gay audiences, I think that this project will break barriers. The film’s bloody nature aside, I think a lot of people, gay or straight, will be able to relate to it.”
“It pokes fun at so many genres,” chimed in actor Anton Troy, who plays the Brando to Lockhart’s Dean, and who like other key cast members was required to record Sullivan’s Chillerama rock n’ roll numbers, had recently wrapped his recording session. “I think that the film will have a universal appeal because of its pop-culture savviness. It’s making fun of musicals, and 60’s beach films, and teenage angst films, and combines them all to make something I think which is really funny. We are having a great time!”
Before we departed the set, Dread asked Sullivan about the future of “Scream Queens”, and as to whether or not he’d be returning to reprise his role of host for a third season, to which he replied, “All I can say is that I am contracted for next season, and no one has told me that the next season isn’t happening, so we’ll see!”
Stay tuned for exclusive “Werebear” images soon, as well as more on Chillerama.
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