Exclusive Set Report and Photo Gallery from H.M. Coakley's Hollaback - Dread Central
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Exclusive Set Report and Photo Gallery from H.M. Coakley’s Hollaback

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Stepping onto the set of writer/director H.M. Coakley’s horror whodunit Hollaback last year on December 18th, the first few things that became readily apparent were the blood trail which serpentined across the wood flooring of the 130-year-old Los Angeles Antebellum mansion (doubling for the deep South) and the flick’s ‘token white chick,’ who came in the form of actress Allison Kyler. The third was the abundance of enthusiasm for the production which was mirrored by cast and crew alike.

Arriving to set on day eleven of fifteen and greeted by Hollaback associate producer and casting director Venk Modur, we conducted the majority of our hushed interviews against the aural backdrop of screams and whimpering as writer and director Coakley led his cast through the film’s scripted carnage.

It is a sequel,” said Modur of Hollaback, which serves as a follow-up to filmmaker Coakley’s 2006 feature Holla (review here), which the latter produced alongside his wife, Camille Irons Coakley. Distributed by Lionsgate, Holla stars Shelli Boone as “Monica St. John,” an actress who, after being forced to institutionalize her homicidal twin sister, “Veronica”, finds her friends dropping off like flies during their vacation to a ski resort. Described as an urban mash-up of Scream and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the film went on to secure high October ratings on BET and continues to scare them up there each Halloween season.

Set in Florida, Hollaback picks up six years after the events in Holla. Monica (played in the sequel by The House Bunny actress Kiely Williams) has gone through numerous surgical procedures in order to hide her true identity given her lingering paranoia over the murders perpetrated by her deceased, psychotic sibling. Now a vocalist for the band Rhapsody and engaged to “Robbie” (actor Trae Ireland), she and a new group of friends decide to stage her wedding at a sprawling plantation outside of Miami. When they arrive, however, all bets are off, and as the body count begins to mount, so do the questions. Has Veronica come back to finish the job?

It does have some of the elements and ideas from the original film,” explained Modur of Hollaback, “but we’ve added elements that will gear this towards a mass audience, and that’s what we’d like to have – a cult following like The Evil Dead and things like that because the script is really funny. The way people die in it is also funny, with less clothes than they started with, which is always a good thing.

Executive produced by Lanre Idewu (who also appears) and produced by Camille Irons Coakley, Hollaback’s remaining and ethnically diverse cast is comprised of Vanessa Bell Calloway (Cheaper By the Dozen), Akeem Smith (“Teen Wolf”), Laila Odom, Gregory Michael Cipes (“True Blood”), prolific voice actress Masasa Moyo, Crystal Hoang (Blood Effects), Randy Clark (The Vortex), newcomers Perry L. Brown, Jose Antonio, Cyann Ribeiro and David Heard, Brazilian model Gabriela Dias, the returning Shelli Boone and the previously mentioned Allison Kyler of Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 fame, among others.

Of the cast, “I think they are amazing,” Modur stated of the ensemble from the roof of the location (we’d retreated there in an attempt to capture clear audio, given the shooting frenzy within). “They all have a great spirit about them and are all really excited about the project,” he continued. “In the casting process it was important to me that they all had great personalities and also what they could bring to their roles. I wanted them to help in breaking the film away from just being an ‘urban horror’ film. I mean, we had the script and the lines, but what could they bring to their roles in order to bring them to another place and to make it mainstream? So as I became involved as a co-producer and with me being a horror fanatic, whether its ‘funny/scary’ or just being ‘scary/scary’, with this I really think it’s slated to be a fun, campy horror film a la Friday the 13th . We want it to have those classic elements of a horror film but with a diverse cast. Movies like Candyman or The People Under the Stairs, they had a diverse cast, too, but also reached a broad audience, and that’s how I’d like this film to be.

Concerning the sex and gore quotient as scripted in Hollaback, “We wanted to amp them up,” offered Modur, conceding that Holla was a bit tame. “We are keeping the gore to a minimum, although I’d love to add a little bit more, but we kicked up the sexy parts 100% because we had none in the first one.

As for FX artist Kenneth Nolls, who’s providing the production’s purported minimal splatter, “This guy literally came to me and laid out how he would do every gag to the detail, but the thing that sold me on him is that this is the first horror movie I’ve ever worked on in any aspect, and I was like, ‘How do you know when someone dies what it’s supposed to look like?’ And Kenneth said, ‘Well, because I go to the coroner’s office and I hang out there.’ And I was like, ‘You are so kick-ass, you are hired!’ And he really knows what he’s doing.

That’s where I do all of my research!” said Nolls, who was at the time prepping for gags involving an arrow in the head and a cranial beat-down involving a rock. “It makes it so much easier when you see what the injuries actually look like in real life in order to be able to translate them onto film. I’m going as realistic as possible, and I know our director is not too much into gore, but I’ve been given the green light to make it somewhat gory. If Venk had his way, I’d have intestines hanging out of everyone. Later on we do have a scene where a girl gets shot in the head, though, and that’s going to look very realistic.

Stepping onto the roof, actress Kyler (who in the last year or so has amassed quite a few feature genre roles, from Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 to the upcoming Hallow Pointe, Manson Rising and more) arrived blood-spattered from a previous take and stated of her place in Hollaback, “It’s an ensemble cast. The whole premise is that they are going away for their wedding, and I am the wedding planner who is coordinating all of the events and booking the space and making everyone happy… well, except for all of the killings.

Affecting spot-on the lilt of a Southern belle, “I also get to have an accent in this film, did I tell you that?” Kyler added.

Allison came into the audition, and she stood out the most,” stated producer Camille Coakley of the actress’ casting. “She has such effervescence to her. It’s that sweetness that could turn really shitty later. I mean, she’s an interesting story. She does back-up singing and dancing for Motley Crue so she’s an interesting story, and that interesting story comes off in her vibe, and she’s got great vibes.

As children of the crew ran about upstairs waging pitched battles with Transformers figures and below a pack of feral cats ducked in and out of the bowels of the building, I caught up with director Coakley for a pause in his orchestration of this sea of activity, who stated of directing Hollaback, “It’s been challenging. You know, it’s the usual deal. Not enough money, not enough time and not enough experience, but we are getting through it. The cast and crew have been great, and I feel really blessed to have them. They are all working really hard, and we’ve really gelled. It really is a big cast so that’s saying a lot.

We did up the sex in this one,” Coakley, who was shooting Hollaback on 5D, mirrored of producer Modur’s statement. “The bloggers just killed me for that on Holla and just nailed me because there was basically no nudity at all in the first one, and they ripped me on the gore and the red herrings and suspense. So this time there’s mad herrings and quite a bit of nudity. I’m not a big gore guy, though. I’m more ‘old school’. Just enough to sell it instead of tons of blood gushing out of guts, even though that’s what Venk would like. But it is more ‘old school’. I’ve been building the suspense and the scares, and then you see the aftermath. I like to build that level of suspense into a scene because I think that initial scare is what gets people more than the gore. The gore is kind of like the candy after a meal. I think the meal is more lasting.

For more be sure to visit Hollaback on Facebook.

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Dread Central UK Enjoys a Box of IT

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One of the best things about writing for Dread Central is the cool gifts companies send us in exchange for covering their releases.

With Stephen King’s It now being available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, Warner Bros. were kind enough to send me an It-themed gift box absolutely free of charge. I collected this beautiful piece of merchandise from Organic Marketing’s London headquarters, and it is quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Inside this beautiful box were four Pennywise-themed cupcakes, a Pennywise Vinyl Pop figure in its original packaging, a laminated flyer, and of course, a copy of the film on Blu-ray. As you can see from the images below, a red balloon, just like the one held by Pennywise in the film, was attached to the box, although I’m sorry to say that it has now been burst (and I’m keeping the remains).

It, which now has the honor of being the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time, was directed by Andy Muschietti and stars Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard. With the film now being available on home video in the UK, you shouldn’t waste any time ordering your copy, especially since we gave it a perfect score in our review.

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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