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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.

H.M. Coakley's Hollaback

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Sean Decker