Exclusive Teaser, Stills: House of Heathens’ Canadian Chiller “STRAIGHT TO VIDEO: A B-MOVIE ODYSSEY”Movies/TV,News Lacey Paige
In correlation with FANGORIA’s prior coverage of Edmonton-based independent film collective the House of Heathens’ love letter to the long-lost beloved video store days of the ‘80s and ‘90s, FANGORIA has followed up with Head Heathens Cody Kenny and Timothy Rutherford in the wake of wrapping their upcoming Storyhive project STRAIGHT TO VIDEO: A B-MOVIE ODYSSEY.
STRAIGHT TO VIDEO is a continuation-of-sorts of the Heathens’ pending debut feature length film, THE LAST VIDEO STORE (read more on it here), which is currently stuck in development hell. The first installment in what Kennedy and Rutherford strive to transform into a full-blown web-series, STRAIGHT TO VIDEO follows jaded video store guru Kevin Martin (played by Martin himself, the owner and operator of Edmonton’s last surviving video rental store, The Lobby DVD Shop) as he gets sucked into different movies and genres, and must use his knowledge of genre tropes and weird cult cinema to fight his way back to the video store. Cinematic pandemonium ensues after Kevin attempts to burn down the shop in a dishearteningly symbolic depiction of the unfortunate obsolete nature of video stores, and the dwindling social relevance of an industry that once dominated the home entertainment media market.
“It was originally supposed to be in THE LAST VIDEO STORE movie,” Cody Kennedy explains. “It was going to be the finale of the movie where Kevin was going to go from movie to movie. It was something we really wanted to include but it seemed like it was too much for the feature. So when the web-series idea came along, we said, ‘Let’s make it a stand-alone piece of work because it’s a good concept to be able to hop around and do what we want to do with.’”
Going back to the very genesis of the project, THE LAST VIDEO STORE feature stemmed from a short film of the same title that was originally intended to be the pilot for a web-series.
“We wanted [the web-series] to embody all of these concepts in one package,” Tim Rutherford explains. “Then after going to the festivals, we said, ‘Well, let’s do a feature instead so we can come back here [to the festivals].’ Obviously [the feature] is still in development.”
Kennedy elaborates on the idea that turning the initial concept into a web-series was a good way for the Heathens to leave the video store, but also delve deeper into the back story of it after being there for so long. In a similar vein as Wes Craven’s SCREAM franchise, and subsequent quintessential examples of that unique self-referential genre flavor such as CABIN IN THE WOODS and RESOLUTION, the Heathens veered heavily into the realm of “meta” horror with STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.
“We felt like if Kevin was trapped in movies each episode, then we’d have more creative power to kind of throw a lot into it and [make it] really over the top and cheesy; but Kevin would be that grounding fourth wall, like he can act as the audience where he’s that person that can poke fun at the plot while it’s actually happening,” adds Kennedy. “So in a way, we’re able to homage and parody movies but we’re not stuck in that formula.”
The web-series angle really came full-circle when Kenny and Rutherford discovered Canadian broadcast company Telus’ Storyhive contest for Canadian content. Alongside a colorful roster of other independent Canadian filmmakers, the Heathens set out to try their hand at earning $10,000 to make their web-isode.
“Basically, Telus needs to give some money away to local artists as part of Canadian content,” Kennedy explains. “They had done a first round, which was all short films. We had a couple friends who participated in it and were able to get money. This one came up where they’re basically giving [participants] $10,000 to do a pilot episode for a web-series. The stipulation with Telus is that they don’t own your product. You still maintain. So for us it was perfect; we were able to make our pilot episode for a web-series. They would show it on their platforms but we could also do whatever we want with it. We could do our own thing; we would try to sell it somewhere else if we wanted to.”
As the web-isode concept restricted the Heathens to a mere five-minute-long episode, their primary objective was to hit the ground running with the idea, garner attention from a wider Canadian viewership via broadcast on Telus Optik TV, and take the complex, multi-faceted concept several steps further by extending it further into a longer-running version.
“We have the online version, like the YouTube version that Storyhive will have, and then we have an extended version that we will release later,” Kennedy adds. “It’s something that we would have done but instead of having to go to like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, we kind of got a kick-start locally for the funding, and then we can see where we can take it after that.”
As for how the Storyhive version and the extended version differ, the extended version will further the story of Kevin’s perilous adventures in the Canadian-centric THE BEAVERLAKE MASSACRE—a FRIDAY THE 13TH-inspired throwback to slasher movies of the ‘80s.
“We get a bit more out of the movie that Kevin falls into in the Storyhive version, Rutherford explains. “You’ll see it kind of cut when he falls into and lands in our own Canadian slasher rip off, THE BEAVERLAKE MASSACRE. In the extended version, he’ll actually experience that a little more, and get beat up a little more and get saved by the Final Girl, played by AMERICAN MARY’s Tristan Risk (pictured above).”
The Heathens have upped the volume on the vulgarity in the extended version, which contains more coarse language and a considerable increase in the gory stuff.
“The Storyhive [version] is rated PG. For [that version], one of the mandates of participating your property is that it had to be PG at the end of it, Rutherford says. “So…we condensed the episode into a PG, kind of safe version of it, and then we expanded on that and filmed our typical kind of unrated, blood & guts version…This is probably the one where we really kind of had fun with our level of making effects. We did a few really decent ones and then just kind of goofed around and had really silly looking dummies and really bad looking effects.”
Kennedy, Rutherford and Co. at the House of Heathens hope to develop STRAIGHT TO VIDEO into a complete web-series, with 20-minute episodes and a fully developed story. They anticipate this as a project that will take precedence over the completion of THE LAST VIDEO STORE, which they’re aiming to continue filming sometime in 2016 if creative expectations and financial requirements are met.
STRAIGHT TO VIDEO: A B-MOVIE ODYSSEY airs on Canada’s Telus Optik TV on March 16, 2015; you can see the teaser trailer and exclusive still gallery below. Learn more about the film on Facebook and Twitter, and you can check more House of Heathens short films on Vimeo.