Cheap Kills

A digital camera, a demented dream, lots of fake blood, and almost no money: That's Fear Film

"'You look so good'?" howls the soundman.

The death of Colameo's character is filmed last. Painkiller is to grab Colameo's head and rotate it 180 degrees. In other words, he'll be gazing down on his own back. This effect will be achieved, in part, by the high-tech trick of Colameo wearing his T-shirt backward. The rest will come from quick edits and Colameo's willingness to live with a stiff neck for the next week. "I just hold Nick's head, and then he twists fast when he's ready," Glazier explains. "That way, I won't hurt him by chance."

As Massetti discusses the scene with Glazier, the actor suggests a dark one-liner for the madman: "Don't turn your back on me while I'm killing you." Still, Glazier notes, tonight's murder doesn't come close to a scene shot a few weeks earlier during which Painkiller yanks someone's head off and throws it in a ditch.

Clockwise from bottom left: Actress Sheyenne Rivers plays dead during the filming of Realms of Blood. Bob Glazier smashed up his old dentures for  the role of Painkiller. Jennifer Sgambati plays Painkiller's wife until he, umm, terminates the marriage. Nick Colameo started out as a production assistant for Fear Films but now portrays anyone from psycho to nerd.
Colby Katz
Clockwise from bottom left: Actress Sheyenne Rivers plays dead during the filming of Realms of Blood. Bob Glazier smashed up his old dentures for the role of Painkiller. Jennifer Sgambati plays Painkiller's wife until he, umm, terminates the marriage. Nick Colameo started out as a production assistant for Fear Films but now portrays anyone from psycho to nerd.
Fear Film partners Jon Fish (left) and Robert Massetti are hoping their first two no-budget shorts will lead to a breakout.
Colby Katz
Fear Film partners Jon Fish (left) and Robert Massetti are hoping their first two no-budget shorts will lead to a breakout.


Given its cinematic history, South Florida is an apt home for Fear Film. Herschell Gordon Lewis, the so-called Godfather of Gore, moved from Chicago to Miami in the early 1960s and made a plethora of bloodstained films. In 1963, he shot the proto-slasher Blood Feast, a no-budget reel that involved a caterer collecting body parts to offer up to an evil Egyptian spirit, leading to buckets-o'-blood and innards. Blood, along with 2000 Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red, remains an influence on horror films to this day.

"He started the whole thing with Blood Feast and Gore Gore Girls," says 35-year-old Tim Ritter, a low-budget filmmaker who got his start in Palm Beach County. "He was doing the no-budget gore films with 35mm film and throwing them into the drive-ins. He inspired quite a few of us."

While still in high school in 1984, Ritter directed and edited a feature-length Super 8 film called Day of the Reaper. He self-distributed it to video wholesalers, catching the first wave of the budding direct-to-video market. He subsequently wrote and directed the first installment of the Truth or Dare? movie series, which introduced the indomitable and bloodthirsty Coppermasked Madman. Ritter moved to Kentucky in 1997, where he continues to make low-budget films and just published his first novel, The Hammer Will Fall.

"There's so much talent down here in South Florida -- and Florida in general," Massetti says. "I think Florida could be another California but hopefully not the same ideals, maybe an independent community. This is really a great place to film: warm, lots of sun."

Fear Film stakes out a claim somewhere between the genres of shock gore and suspense/thrillers. "A lot of filmmakers at this level, especially the horror genre, are trying to get recognized with extreme gore or doing something that's never been done before," Massetti says. Eric Stanze of St. Louis is perhaps the best known of this breed of shock-gore directors. For example, Stanze's film Scrapbook is the depiction of a serial killer torturing and raping a young woman; at one point, he sodomizes her with a wine bottle until she bleeds.

"I like good gore in a movie but only for a good reason," Massetti declares. "We're trying to set ourselves apart by making movies with good stories that are character-driven, that can actually scare you and make you think."

When Shadows Lie Darkest is minimally bloody but long on moody atmosphere and a growing sense of madness. (Don't fret, you bloodthirsty kids: among the film's jolts is an adz plunged into a man's chest.) The lead character, Fish, experiences a series of nightmares involving grisly murders. He begins recounting the episodes to a faceless psychiatrist... or is the shadow-shrouded shrink part of the nightmares? Dean the Bug Guy, portrayed convincingly by Colameo, is a misogynist who might be real or might represent the evil within the lead character. The 26-minute film's quick edits and recurring symbolism (e.g., a dying insect and ceiling fan blades) feed the anxiety.

Blackout has a more conventional narrative and at 45 minutes has more time to develop its main characters, played by Fish and Katharine Leis, an Orlando-based actress. Leis has apparently murdered her husband and is questioned by police, who then improbably release her for the time being. Fish befriends her, with obviously suspicious motives, and she subsequently pleads to spend the night at his house after her roommate kicks her out. Fish consents but warns her that he's been having some problems with the electricity at his house, and, well, she'd better have a flashlight handy.


Massetti's Deerfield Beach apartment building seems an unlikely venue for fear: It's a pink, two-story building west of I-95 that overlooks a tranquil golf course. Regardless, the two-bedroom flat is the ol' reliable for interior shooting. (The white-tiled living room floor -- and a fair amount of furniture -- was awash in fake blood for the making of Blackout.) And there are plenty of clues that a fright fan dwells within, most notably a man-sized, black-cloaked, toothsome creature suspended on a wall. "It was my Halloween costume last year, and it's just kind of stayed there since," Massetti blandly notes. There's nothing boastful or arrogant in Massetti's manner. In fact, at times while speaking, he comes across as downright bashful.

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