The Bad Movie Report

Making A Bad Movie:
My Personal Nightmare


The Big (Demo) Reel

"I don't want to call it Nightcrawlers. That sounds like a worm movie."

So said the director. Fair enough, I thought. I had since found out there was another story called "Nightcrawlers" (by Robert R. Macammon, I think), which had been dramatized on the revamp of the Twilight Zone series shown on CBS in the mid 80's. Only trouble was, it was left to me what to call the danged thing now.

However, the first thing I had to write was a Demo Reel. United wanted to make sure that we could actually do scary movie-type stuff, and gave us a thousand bucks to prove it. Roger didn't want to do anything from the script, but wanted a stand-alone sequence. I wrote a ten-minute scene centering around an old fortune teller and his client (in a requisite remote setting). During the tarot Smiler, again.card reading, the magician realizes the cards coming up are intended for him, and he hustles the woman out, unfortunately into the waiting maws of unseen (and therefore cost-efficient) beasties. He is then visited by a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat and fedora, with glowing red eyes. You'll recognize the coat-and-hat figure as one of my inspirational icons, Michael Whelan's painting Smiler. This was supposed to be the zombie, Alfie, possessed by the exiled god Yog-Kothag, much like a voodoo loa possesses a willing practitioner.

Roger had originally wanted the Entity (as I called him) to send out a writhing bolt of electricity (or something) that would race about the room, disentegrating everything in its path - an evolution of an effect he had pulled off quite well in The Jet Benny Show. This would have been too expensive in money and time, however, so we just decided to have the magician catch a bolt in the chest - only being saved by the big damn mystic amulet he wore.

The end was left hanging... we cut to the outside of the house, where the energy bolts are making all the windows flash like a cheap disco, and we hear the Entity laughing. Suddenly all sound cuts out, and the house goes dark. Fade to black.

Kayce GlassI was to play the magician, Ben Magnus, and another of our actor friends, Kayce Glass, played the woman. Kayce had a very easy touch with comedy, and we knew she could give the somewhat clichéd character a bit of its own life.

Location scouting found a nicely remote house in the nearby small town of Huffman. The owner had died recently, and we were Me.given permission to film there for one day. So we arose at the crack of dawn one Saturday, myself carrying along every piece of arcane decor I possess - practically everything you see in the reel is mine - and I started the day with a heaping helping of latex layered on by make-up man J.C. Matalon. The job took a couple of hours, if memory serves. Peanuts, in movie makeup time. The worst part of the whole thing was the makeup on my hands. If you have latex on your hands and touch anything before it is properly powdered and finished, it sticks and tears, like day-old chewing gum. This became especially odious a week later when we shot the closeups of my hands turning the cards, and any small amount of friction caused the latex to rip and me to sit with my hands under a dryer for another 20 minutes.

It was also during my makeup session that our generator caught fire. I missed out on that, luckily, so sorry - no amusing fire stories this week..

Shooting proceeded fairly smoothly, after that, if slowly (a motif which would dog us throughout). The plan was to shoot the reel more or less in order, a rarity and a luxury made possible through some careful writing (ahem). Anyone with a modicum of technical expertise... say, from watching TV... will notice that all the sound in Forever Evil (and The Jet Benny Show) is totally looped. All footage was shot without sound, with dialogue recorded on audio tape for later reference in re-recording under studio conditions. Roger felt this was the cheapest way to ensure total control over the audio. He was probably right.

Goodbye, Kayce.After the card reading scenes were shot, the sun was going down, which was somewhat fortunate, since it was time for Kayce to get munched. We continued doggedly on. I shot the scene where Ben packs his bags hurriedly...everything you see in the drawers and closets were the possessions of the deceased owner, it should be added. What had not considered was that when you have an actor with a thin coating of latex on his hands, and you use those hands to rifle a drawer filled with stuff, the latex loses, and loses quickly.

So. Another hand touch-up. (I still say it would have been faster to have had J.C. paint a bit on AAAAAA!  A huge jawa!  AAAAAAH!my hands, turning the torn, hanging latex into badly burned hands for the climactic fight, but that idea was poo-poo'ed.) I also found that the coat-and-hat zombie concept had been scotched in favor of a cloaked, hooded figure with glowing red eyes. Which is why, in the final version, Ben has it out with an enormous Jawa.

Zap.  Looks incredibly real, doesn't it?One of our last shots was me getting zapped with a lightning bolt. The bolt itself was animated later, of course, but that gorgeous starburst centered on my chest was produced by simply placing a slide projector bulb on my chest. And yes, it burned the living hell out of me. After nearly 24 hours of shooting, we were all exhausted and somebody forgot the plate that was supposed to be placed between the bulb and my skin. The subsequent close-ups of my pain-wracked face are quite real (acting!!!).

The sun was rising as we packed up. After editing and looping all the sound, United was quite impressed. So impressed they wanted the demo reel to be Owie owie!  Owie owie!  Owie owie owie!included in the finished picture. So impressed they upped our budget. We were given the green light to go ahead.

We proceeded onto a series of re-writes... well, no, there was actually only one re-write that I was involved in. These were conducted mainly with Roger at his apartment, but sometimes solo at my duplex, on a series of battered typewriters. All good writers have battered typewriters. You simply cannot write well on a shiny, gleaming new typewriter. (This dictum no longer holds true, thanks to the computer age; I haven't touched a typewriter in several years. I guess now you can't write on a non-dusty screen. Whatever.)

It was about this time that I came up with the new title for Nightcrawlers. I felt it fit perfectly (so, of course, I had to argue for it), and it continued my love of one-word titles: Nemesis.

I finished my re-writes... the inclusion of the demo reel into the continuity of the story actually gave me an opportunity to combine several scenes into one, saving an oodle of screentime. Roger had an informal read-through, for timing purposes. Guess what? The script was almost three and a half hours long. Like I said before, a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. The name Nemesis was starting to seem more and more appropriate.


Big Black Nemesis! Parthenogenesis!
No One Moves A Muscle As The Dead Come Home!