CONNEAUT LAKE —
The Blue Streak could get blood-streaked as a murderous plot to boost ticket sales unfolds in Fright Land Amusement Park, or as local residents know it, Conneaut Lake Park.
The difference is, this scene will debut in the world premiere of the locally shot, indie slasher film “Scream Park,” saving the park’s Board of Trustees the trouble of hiring killers to dispatch park employees in a grisly publicity stunt, as occurs in the film.
We assume the park directors wouldn’t resort to hack and slash anyhow, given Board President Jack Moyers’ observation of the crew as “very professional and accommodating.”
Nevertheless, what better time and place to probe such a notoriously interesting concept, asks Juanita Hampton, Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director.
“Anything that brings notoriety to our area is fabulous,” she said. “People like to go where movies are filmed and screenings could reach out to Erie and Pittsburgh. It’s a wonderful venture for the park.”
Pittsburgh seems like a prime location, given the fact it plays hometown to the film’s first-time director/producer, Cary Hill, whose vision to see his gory enterprise from start to finish led him on a venture of his own.
“I’d never been to Conneaut Lake Park before, but I knew where it was,” he said, noting original plans to film in Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park before finding it beyond the production’s small budget. “It worked out really well. Conneaut Lake has a great park and it worked out beautifully for the movie.”
Hill’s production, under the company he founded called Proto Media LLC, followed the lead of Dimension Film’s 2009 post-apocalyptic drama “The Road,” which filmed at locations around northwestern Pennsylvania, including Conneaut Lake Park.
“That was an honor for Conneaut Lake and the park,” said Hampton. “‘Scream Park’ could continue to bring in other producers and filmmakers. Someone may want to try another film here.”
Having spent winter 2011 making agreements with park owners, park directors made arrangements with Hill to keep the world premiere local.
“We just thought it would be nice to premiere the film locally,” said Moyers, who is excited to attend the show and is hoping it will draw crowds from as far away as Erie. “It allows the area to see some local revenues,” he said.
While the park was originally booked to screen its own horror feature, the debut screening was moved to The Movies at Meadville because weather conditions could be unpredictable on Halloween.
“The park is tailor-made for horror,” said Hill. “We’re so happy we could get a screening. And on Halloween night at that.”
That’s right; as if the Halloween season alone wasn’t perfect enough for the film’s theatrical release, the premiere is set for Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. with a possible second screening at 9 p.m.
“The viewing should be very good for the area,” said Hampton. “Only more good can come of it. Very seldom do you get to see a movie shot right in your own back yard.”
The Meadville screening is of a film at approximately 95 percent completion. Some polish and post-production cleanup has yet to be done.
Hill hopes to release a completed DVD by late November.
“The final target time is around Thanksgiving,” he said. “We have pre-orders available on our web site and we’ve got a stack already from people waiting for the official release.”
Far be it for “Scream Park’s” director to forget those who helped him reach his new height. Hill plans on reserving DVD copies for the proprietors of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, online fundraising platforms whose web sites were utilized to more-than-anticipated success by the low-budget production.
The Pittsburgh Film Office also acted as an instrumental agent for the production, having supplied Hill with the means to compile a cast of mostly Pittsburgh theater and independent movie actors to create “the great American horror film.”
The Steel City also helped supply one of the movie’s main superstars: Doug Bradley, who, among a comprehensive list of horror roles in a variety of media, is most remembered for playing Pinhead in the “Hellraiser” series.
“I had met Doug at a horror convention in Texas and it was rumored that he was moving to Pittsburgh,” said Hill, recalling his conversation with the English acting star, who confirmed his suspicions. “He read the script, he liked it and he came by the University of Pittsburgh where we filmed his scene.”
Bradley plays maniacal park owner Mr. Hyde, who hires two backwoods Appalachian men to butcher his employees during their end-of-season party to create a media buzz, even planning to sell souvenirs and base rides on the gruesome murders.
“When Bradley gets into character it’s fantastic and frightening to watch,” said Hill. “Working with him was a blast.”
A shot-in-the-dark Facebook message to another of Hill’s icons led to him acquiring the talents of Kevin “Ogre” Ogilvie, seasoned horror actor and almost 30-year frontman of 1980s industrial band Skinny Puppy.
Ogilvie, also impressed with the script, signed on to play Iggy, one of the killers.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Hill. “I knew that for this debut I wanted to do a horror film, and what better way to do so than a glorious homage to the greatest decade of slasher films.”
You can go
“Scream Park,” an independently produced horror film shot at Conneaut Lake Park, has its premiere screening at The Movies at Meadville on Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. For more information, visit screamparkmovie.com or call The Movies at Meadville, 11185 Perry Highway, at 333-2727.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.