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A festive spirit infuses the cast and crew of the film Realms of Blood. After all, there's a near-decapitation planned for later tonight. The tony Coral Springs home in which they've gathered is the location for the final scenes of Painkiller, one of four separate stories that constitute Realms. It's just past 8 p.m. on this Tuesday in early September, and they're waiting for the cameraman to arrive from Miami.
In a nutshell, Painkiller is the story of a soldier whose face was disfigured after being doused with chemicals during the Gulf War. He returns home to his wife, whom he kills in a mad fury after she shuns him. His madness becomes final as everyone he meets begins to look like his wife, and he is obliged to murder them too.
The madman -- named Painkiller for his gruesome admonition to victims to "feel my pain" -- is played by Bob Glazier, a balding, wiry, 57-year-old with a cherubic smile. At this moment, he and makeup artist Gina-Marie Rooney are in the bathroom, where she is doing her best to eradicate that pleasant visage.
Painkiller's prey this night, Nick Colameo, jokes around in the kitchen with producer/actor Jon Fish. Colameo, a Bronx native, is tall, with skull-short hair. Tattoos run the length of his arms, and inch- diameter rings dangle from his nose, ears, and left brow. He is not made up; in fact, more often than not, Colameo gets a "makedown" for his roles. Fish is a Shakespearean-trained actor with clean-cut good looks and perfect teeth.
Director Robert Massetti and others lug furniture around and set up lighting and reflectors. The 38-year-old filmmaker is dark-haired and stocky, with a full oval face. Clean-shaven tonight, he at times sports a pointy goatee. In several publicity stills, he's been photographed using "monster lighting," which is a beam cast upward that creates disquieting facial shadows. In those shots, Massetti looks like someone you might cross the street to avoid a face-to-face. The technique was a staple back in the days of classic horror films that starred the likes of Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.
The cameraman arrives and starts to set up. Massetti kills time explaining the action for this segment of the movie, then concludes: "Painkiller is a roller coaster of emotions. When Nick finds his girlfriend dead on the lawn, it's a very touching scene." And shortly thereafter, the grief-stricken fellow will get his neck snapped.
Massetti is at the directorial helm of South Florida-based Fear Film, a fledgling production company whose written mission is to create "thrilling, cadaverous, hypnotic, independent entertainment pieces that spread FEAR throughout the world and beyond." Massetti and business partner, Fish, are vying for a space in the quickly burgeoning domain of "no-budget" films. The field has exploded with the availability of low-cost digital movie cameras and the demand for more and more DVDs by teens and young adults. The fledging company has already risen slightly above the pack: In January, B-movie.com will distribute Fear Film's first release, called Phobias, which is a DVD compilation of two short films, When Shadows Lie Darkest and Blackout.
Glazier emerges from the bathroom looking quite hideous. His face and head are a crimson, blistering mess, and his eyes appear as menacing ivory orbs. He sneers and reveals discolored, jagged teeth. "These aren't makeup," he announces proudly, then clarifies: "I wear false teeth. These are an old pair that I beat on with a hammer and then drilled some holes in."
The following three hours are spent filming what will likely amount to fewer than five minutes on-screen. Dressed in a black topcoat, fedora, pants, and gloves, Glazier, who was a regular extra in Miami Vice and Bad Boys II, takes his spot behind a six-foot potted plant just inside the front door. One of his male victims lies dead in the center of the living room floor. Colameo is to run through the open door, see the body, pause, and then approach it slowly. In his demented state, Painkiller perceives the man as his wife. Thus, Massetti will separately film both Colameo and Jennifer Sgambati, who plays Painkiller's wife, entering the house, and then intercut both images during editing.
Colameo runs through the front door almost a dozen times before Massetti is satisfied, leading the actor to quip later, "This is a physical role."
"I want you to build your anger up," Massetti instructs Colameo for the scene in which he turns and stands face to face with Painkiller. "First shock, then walk slowly toward him. Just ad lib whatever comes to you." Colameo does as asked: "Who are you? Did you do this? Did you kill her?" After about a dozen takes, however, Colameo cracks up the cast by lobbing the question, "Did you kill her, dude?" It's clearly time to rein in the ad libs; he finally settles instead on the more appropriate direct address of "you sick, twisted fuck."
Later, Sgambati mimics Colameo's movement toward Painkiller, only now the deformed veteran imagines that his wife is glad to see him. Her improvised dialogue, however, also leads to comical anarchy on the set. "It's me, Mia," she coos to her boil-covered hubby. "I've come back to you. You look so good."