(NOTE: I posted the story about my buddy, director Jeremy Benson's then in-production horror film "Shutter" on February 18, 2005. The hillbilly horror flick received an overseas DVD release. The lessons learned from this lead to his next film "Live Animals" receiving a domestic DVD release as well as US TV air-play. Jeremy's newest flick: "Girl in Woods" is being scored as we speak! Digging this article out of the archives is bittersweet as it brings back some great memories of working with the late John Still. His passing last year left a major void in the local Memphis film community.)
SHUTTER: A First Look at Jeremy Benson's Up-Coming Horror Film
submitted: 2005-02-18 Sound Engineer Mark Williams, Director of Photography Mark Volzer, Assistant Director Mary Otte and Director Jeremy Benson on location for SHUTTER.
Sound Engineer Mark Williams, Director of Photography Mark Volzer, Assistant Director Mary Otte and Director Jeremy Benson on location for SHUTTER.
"I could get used to this!" Jeremy Benson's face framed a huge grin. He had been on location in Grenada Mississippi for four days. It didn't matter that the temperature had been hovering around the freezing mark and drizzling rain was the norm. Jeremy Benson was half way through the first week of location shooting and he felt fine. Jeremy's fourth feature "Shutter," is a Southern gothic horror film in the tradition of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I showed up toward the end of this first week of location shooting to play a small role.
Three weeks earlier, Benson and his Centerpoint Films co-founder Mark Williams had made their final choices for the cast. The pair had received resumes and head shots from several Southern states. The cast assembled at the Madison Avenue Video and Post studio for a read through. I was happy to finally meet Memphis actor John Still. Mr. Still played the badguy in Craig Brewer's award-winning indie "The Poor and Hungry." Though I had some problems with the ending of Mr. Brewer's film, I loved John Still as the redneck crime boss. So did a lot of other critics. Many of these cast members were news faces to me. I would get to know them better on location.
Jeremy and Mark have built up a talented ensemble of actors and filmmakers in Memphis. "Shutter" would be the fourth film that features Rezia Massey. Mr. Massey and I played a very dysfunctional father and son in Benson's up-coming "The Smallest Oceans." Although I have a minor supporting role in "Shutter," Benson has given Rezia Massey yet another plum role in which to shine. DP Mark Volzer is also returning to shoot "Shutter." He replaced Benson's previous DP Rusty Herring half way through "The Smallest Oceans." Volzer's flexibility, creativity and incredibly steady 'hand-held' abilities have made him an important creative partner with Jeremy.
Actresses Jeannette Comans (Walk the Line) and Sarah Ewell are set to take their place among the ranks of horror movie scream queens. During the week of rainy shooting, Jeannette Comans showed an incredible amount of chutzpa. She spent most of the day and night with her shirt half off and covered in some very chilly movie blood. I was wearing two shirts, three pairs of socks and I was freezing to death. Ms. Comans took it like a seasoned pro. I will admit that her scanty attire did go some way toward taking the chill out of the air, but then again, regular readers know what a leach I am. "Shutter" revolves around two college coeds (Comans and Ewell) who travel home for Christmas break. The pair hooks up with the former boyfriend of one and end up having a very, very, very bad time in the backwoods of Tennessee. Dallas based actor Scott Fletcher plays the old boyfriend. Like Ms. Comans, he showed great enthusiasm as he was repeatedly put through the rigors of Jeremy's script.
Horror fans should anticipate "Shutter" later this year. Jeremy is a huge fan of old school horror films. If you prefer the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" over the remake, as well as the early work of Wes Craven, then you should appreciate this smart little shocker. Jeremy staged a weekend crash course in horror for the less gory aware members of his cast and crew. After 14 hours of Freddy, Jason, Michael, Leatherface and their offspring, everyone got the picture. The footage I've seen of "Shutter" delivers on all fronts. Sexy girls in peril, blood and more blood, suspenseful set-pieces and several great performances.
I tore through the script in less than an hour. "Shutter" promised to be a sharp, scary ride. Actor John Still pulled me aside and commented on Jeremy's script. He stated that he thought he would read a few pages and put it down. It grabbed him and didn't let go. "This is the best part I've ever been given!" I took that as high praise considering the role he played in "The Poor and Hungry."
I was a bit surprised when Jeremy and Mark jumped right into writing and making "Shutter." Mark Williams proposed the story idea to Jeremy who ran with it and banged out the first draft of the script in two weeks. Jeremy and Mark had just finished a long period of post-production on his powerful drama "The Smallest Oceans." That film has been accepted into one film festival and he is awaiting word on two more. Watch for an up-coming review by EI's Steven Wong. After a comedy and two dramas Jeremy is excited about working in his beloved horror genre. He has ideas for several more. Originally, Jeremy planned on shooting a ghost story he had written called "Craven Woods." That project will cost about four times as much as "Shutter" and is on hold while financing is being arranged.
It is Sunday night at midnight. I've only been on location for a day and a half. I realize that these young actors have had it rougher than me, but I'm tempted to gut one of them and crawl inside just to get warm. I's my turn to get bloody. I love this stuff. The blood is very cold. I now have even greater appreciation for Ms. Comans' moxie. I don't want to give away any of the shudders awaiting you in "Shutter" so I won't go any further into the plot. I will say once you see "Shutter," you'll think twice before heading into the woods.