Aug. 29--Kerry Beyer doesn't like haunted houses.
That's understandable, especially around these parts. The Houston area has an abundance of popular complexes designed for maximum shrieking. Among the best is Screamworld, located in north Houston off Sam Houston Parkway. It includes a maze of maniacs, a skull cave, zombie graveyard and slaughterhouse -- where Beyer is currently stationed amid bloody fake pig carcasses and walls that look like they've been scratched at with fingernails.
"A haunted house, it's scary, man," Beyer says. "I can get creeped out in the dark pretty easily."
It's noon on a Saturday and, yes, still pretty terrifying. The room is dank, dark and sweaty, and the rush of cars on the nearby freeway only adds to the creep factor. But Beyer isn't here for weird kicks. He's at the helm of an intense scene on his third feature film, "Killing Mr. Right." Beyer is the film's writer, director, executive producer and male lead.
"It's really been a good time," he says. "This is not scary to me, making the movie. This is make-believe. I love creating an illusion for an audience. I do love a great scary movie when you're home by yourself and there's no one around. And after the movie, every sound creeps you out."
"Killing Mr. Right" revolves around Jessica (Elizabeth Jackson), a young woman who becomes a shut-in after escaping an unknown abductor. When her roommate brings home a fiance, Jessica is convinced he's the same man who terrorized her. And that's just the beginning. It veers from psychological thriller to horror before the final scene.
Jackson and co-star Michelle Jones are in the midst of a scene in the villain's lair. It's a casual, low-key set. Jackson, who's more like the best friend in a romantic comedy off screen, adjusts herself on a butcher table. Jones practices hanging from a meat hook. Makeup artist Chris White (also the head of makeup and effects for ScreamWorld) touches up a few cuts and bruises. Co-producer Kelly Byrns jokes with Jones as she reapplies blood.
"Y'all don't wanna touch me now," Jackson quips after running through a scene several times. "I'm kinda gross."
This is White's first film project and a dream come true of sorts. He worked at AstroWorld's haunted houses for six years until the park closed in 2005 and considers Halloween a year-round celebration.
"I've got Halloween decorations and toys all over the place. My shower curtain is bloody handprints," he says. "I kind of research crime scenes and dead bodies, just to see what it looks like naturally, and then try to mimic that. Any chance to gore somebody up is always fun for me."
Beyer works slowly, meticulously. When the camera starts rolling, the small crew snaps into focus. The slaughterhouse sequence is the most vivid, but much of the film was shot at Byrn's house in Cypress. An upcoming outdoor shoot in Tomball will bring filming to an end after roughly three weeks.
"Kerry always tells us, 'I want you to have fun,' " says Byrns, who also plays a deputy in the film. "We're working with a really small cast and crew, and they're all really dedicated. Even the actors are ready to grab a boom mic or strike a light or do whatever they need to do."
The film was shot on a "micro budget" and will be released next year via Beyer's Kerosene Films in a limited theatrical run, followed by DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-demand. (He used a similar rollout for 2009 slasher flick "Spirit Camp.") He also plans to take it to several horror conventions, always fertile ground for scrappy independent filmmakers. Beyer also recently completed "Deep Terror," a submarine action movie starring Eric Roberts.
Byrns and Beyer are well-versed in the horror genre. They're co-founders of Splatterfest, an annual competition that challenges filmmakers to write, shoot and edit a horror short in 54 hours. Filmmakers must incorporate a randomly drawn character, prop and line of dialogue into their film. (Competition weekend is Sept. 7-9, and the shorts will screen Oct. 2-6 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at Mason Park in Katy.)
"I don't wanna be just the horror guy. I wanna be more of an all-around filmmaker. But I will come back to the genre just because it's fun," Beyer says. "We're not making an Academy Award-winning picture here. We're just having a good time. But we're trying to make the best movies we can.
"It's a lot of work. All of us could be making more money somewhere else. But it's a love of the craft."
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