Vegas, baby! Even the city’s airport is a gaudy slice of neon depravity.
Everywhere you look are slot machines, even in the bathroom. I’m sorry, but I already have my hands around a one-armed bandit. Don’t need sirens and bells going off while I’m peeing. Anyway, it was around one in the afternoon, and Debi and I had just gotten to Sin City for our set visit to the new creature feature Dark Moon Rising, starring Max Ryan, Maria Conchita Alonso, Chris Mulkey, and Billy Drago; genre royalty extraordinaire Sid Haig and Lin Shaye; and newcomers Ginny Weirick and Chris Divecchio. From the second we were picked up from the airport, we knew there was going to be some mayhem afoot.
It was a two-hour ride out to the set in Beatty, Nevada. A little town nestled right between Death Valley and Area 51. If we got bored, we could always just kick back and watch the skies. Our driver, George, then threw us a curve ball. “You all have some good sturdy boots?” he asked. I look down; I’m wearing Vans and Deb’s rockin’ her slip-on skull tennies. This was a one-night stay. We didn’t bring any extra shoes. “No. Why?” I asked. “You didn’t get the memo about our rattlers? They’ll bite you right on the ankle if you’re not careful.” A mask of horror fell over our faces. What the fuck were we doing out here? “Ah, don’t worry about it”, says George. “Just stick to the paths where it’s lit, and you should be fine.” This first thing that ran through my head was the scene fromAn American Werewolf in London in which the two silly tourists were told to “stick to the moors”. Man, this was gonna be a long night.
After settling in at the hotel, we were whisked away to the set, which was an abandoned mining facility out literally in the middle of nowhere. After just five minutes there I knew why they had picked this location. This was turn-key filmmaking, man. All the structures still standing had a really burned out and violent look to them. Especially the pit where the final confrontation was being filmed. Imagine if you will the equivalent of a Brooklyn schoolyard in the worst neighborhood possible, about ten feet below the rest of the area, complete with burning garbage cans, broken glass, bullet-ridden debris, and graffiti. This was it. It was here. There was no set dressing. If that wasn’t enough, it was surrounded by what can only be described as the hollowed ruins of other buildings where other sequences were being filmed as we just stood there slack-jawed by the ghastly beauty of it all.
I’ve been on my fair share of independent movie sets. Not a single one of them was like this. This was the real deal complete with cranes, lighting rigs (take that AVP:R; at least we’ll be able to see what’s going on in Dark Moon Rising), and a pretty damned big crew. Everyone was hustling and working their collective asses off. Everywhere we looked there was activity. Things seemed to be running like clockwork, and we were soon to meet the reasons why — producer Julie Snider-Mennie and her husband, writer/director Dana Mennie. The project was this duo’s baby. They raised it from infancy into adulthood. Talking to them about the movie was something I’ll not soon forget. Their dedication, love, and want to please fans of the genre were near overwhelming, and their enthusiasm was infectious. It had spread throughout those assembled as well, and everyone was doing their best to give it their all from the crew to the cast. It was apparent no one present would be phoning anything in. They were out to make a movie, and a damned scary and exciting one at that.
Overall I was pretty impressed by what we saw, but let’s face it, man. I’m here for one reason, and one reason only: because this is a horror movie. No matter how good the fixings are, if the main course is half-baked, the whole meal is going to suck. It was time to pay the F/X trailer a visit. We were greeted immediately by George and Roulis Alahouzos of Alahouzos Studio of Make-up and Visual Effects, all the way from Greece. Yeah, that Greece. “Why come all this way for a gig out in the middle of nowhere?” I asked. “Because, man,” George said as he rolled up his own cigarette while smiling, “we love to do monster effects and make corpses. This will be our first exposure here so that American audiences can see what we can do.” He had me at monster effects and making corpses. To my relief I found out that the creature effects and the gore would all be physical instead of CGI. Thank the horror gods! You see, I hate CGI monsters. I’ll take a guy in a suit any day over that shit, and suits there were! Full blown monster suits. While no one was looking, I tried to get Debi to run away with one. She was having none of that, but shit, man, I had to try. Let me just say this without giving away too much: You guys are in for a treat. The film’s creature F/X look bad-fucking-ass. Better yet, there are two of them. Rivals if you will. By the film’s end you can expect a monster mash of epic proportions.
“Hey Steve! Come check this out!” George yelled from his trailer. Paydirt! Immediately I was greeted with severed heads and other graphic depictions of violence. It was all there. Everything I wanted to see. Mangled corpses, body parts, and buckets of blood. George and his brother cackled with wide-eyed maniacal glee as they showed Deb and I various things. I could have poked around for hours, but alas, it was time for everyone to get to work.
The sun had fallen, which means the cameras were to start rolling. The pit was mine for the night to do interviews in with the cast and crew. Julie introduced me to Austin Chavira. He was going to be my videographer, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Austin was eager and, better yet, helpful. Just like everyone else he had the film’s best interests at heart and wanted to capture everything he could. However, an ugly enemy had reared its head. Something I’d certainly never seen before. Down deep in the pit with the fires burning, we met our foe … nature! The entire night we were down there conducting interview after interview, we suffered through some of the most horrendous dust storms we’d ever seen. The combination of harsh wind and blowing sand was near unbelievable. Believe me when I tell you the sand will be another character in this film. People pay thousands to have such activity CGI’d into their films to add to the atmosphere. It was everywhere! Swirling about, getting in our eyes, our teeth. When we got out of there, we all looked like we’d just walked off the set of The Mummy. It was worth it though. In the coming weeks you can expect to see lots of video footage and coverage. We’re talking some pretty nifty exclusive stuff here!
By the time all was said and done, it was near five am. There was one last shot to get, and thankfully it was F/X heavy. Everyone was gathered around this building while the creature stalked its prey. The feeling on set was intense and burning with anticipation. It was time for the set-up. Someone was to get mangled this evening by the crazed brothers Alahouzos, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end our stay here. After a brief set-up we were all treated to a veritable geyser of blood as flesh and bone were separated before our eyes. Mennie yelled “Cut!” from behind his camera, and the entire set erupted into applause. It was a sight to behold! Gore had gotten on everyone except those who had been stationed far enough away. This? This has all the earmarks to be one winner of a genre film.
The sun was just peaking up over the hills by now, which meant the night and our set visit were over. We headed back to the hotel satisfied, surprised, and best of all, unbitten by rattlers. If Mennie and company can capture just ten percent of the electricity present on the set that night and get it on film, then we call all expect this Dark Moon to shine very bright. They’ve got a great cast and crew who aren’t afraid to get nuts and dirty, two badass monsters, and an effects team that take great pleasure in throwing around the red stuff. What more could you ask for?
I know … More coverage! Expect that soon. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to throw up the five pounds of sand I swallowed that night! Movie magic, I tell ya! Movie magic.
Big thanks to Sid, George, Carol, Austin, Dana, Julie, and the entire Dark Moon Rising cast and crew!
Photos by: Austin Chavira, Debi Moore, Julie Snider-Mennie, and Steve Barton.
Click on the teaser images below for more.
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