BY MICHELLE MEDFORD
Just call me Wes Craven; back in the day, I had a prolific career in horror movies. I wrote, directed and starred in slasher, psycho-thriller and paranormal movies, all the while paying homage to my personal favourites, shaking under the weight of my dad’s heavy 1980s camcorder, alongside my brilliant cast aged 6 to 14.
It all began one August day when my cousins, sister and I were making a huge, bristol-board birthday card for our grandma. When we finished our card, we sat on the living room floor trying to decide what to do next when someone proposed an ingenious idea, “Guys, wanna make a movie?” Sold! And what genre better to do on a zero-dollar budget than horror? Not to mention, having had hamburgers for lunch, we had ample ketchup on hand.
Without discussion, we knew our movie would be inspired by one of our favourites, Scream. Therefore, the premise was decided: There’s a murderer in the house and we each get picked off one by one. We titled it The Night to Kill, because obviously, we need “kill” in the title. Sans script, we began shooting.
I had to be the first to die because I was the best with the camera and needed to shoot the later, more intense scenes. We opened at a party, as I was heading to the pantry after my ominous first and only line, “I’m going to get some more chips.” I died off-screen, behind a closed door. My bodied reappeared in another room because the room I died in was too small to shoot in, though who catches these details, really. The cops arrived, played by two actresses, one of which was also a murderer, however, in subsequent scenes, we had creatively shot our murderers (yes, two–haven’t you seen Scream?) plotting their plans without ever revealing their faces, so no one knew about this double role but us (right?). Then, like I said, we each got picked off one by one, usually just after we opened a door behind which the murderer was hiding. Our murderers mysteriously disappeared from the last shot of the movie with that record-stop-record trick.
My career got interesting with The Night to Kill, Part 2, which was part sequel, part remake. This one was much more put together, although the plot was nearly the same (isn’t it always?). We opted for a script this time, which was either intently followed, in scenes which our actors were blatantly reading off it, or improvised. The cops were back (with Southern accents), some of us had costumes (sort of) and we even had a soundtrack (the Halloween theme played during our opening credits–just some friendly re-appropriation).
After screening our first two films to such renowned audiences as our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles (who seemed to deem our movies more comedies than horrors), we decided to venture into our first psycho-thriller, signified with less blood (we had run out of our blood make-up) and the murderer employing a neon-green cap gun rather than a butter knife or pink water gun. The title: Destined to Kill. I don’t remember too much about this one and the footage is mostly lost, but the ending was a complete cop out. After building suspense throughout, the entire cast died in one scene.
Soon afterward, it was my big acting debut. For the first time, I wasn’t going to die first. Well, actually I was, but only so I could come back as a ghost in Vengeance. This time, we had the basics down and were brimming with new ideas and a much more detailed script. For the newscast scene about my death, we shot an actual newscast on TV, on mute, voicing it over with our script and trying to match it as best we could the news reporter’s movements. However, we didn’t get much further with this movie. The last scene we shot had one of our actresses screaming in a hallway before we decided to take a break for the day (our previous movies were all shot in one day), assuming we’d return to it. We never did and our horror careers fizzled out.
Several years later, we revisited the idea. We considered a movie about a bed and breakfast, the owner of which also lived there and murdered his guests in his sleep. We sort of started a script, but we were teenagers with busy teenage lives and no one would commit.
I still look back on it as some of the most fun years of my life (for other reasons too, most of which involve the same group of cousins doing other ridiculous and ridiculously fun things) and some of the earliest inklings of what would become my obsession with horror.