Exclusive Set Report and Photo Gallery from H.M. Coakley's Hollaback
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.”