By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
A group of local actors and independent film crew have taken their love of film to the next level as they prepare to take audiences to The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks.
The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks is a psychological horror flick produced independently by area veteran filmmakers Arthur Collins, Amanda Baker and Mike Petrucci, with newcomers Eric Sopko and Alec Drake. Collins, Baker and Petrucci have worked for Schotten Film Works, a local production company responsible for films like “Dead Life” and “Bloodlock,” horror flicks which can be found in retail chains and on Netflix.
The film, which contains R-rated material, marks the directorial debut for Collins, whose past experiences have been operating the camera and acting.
“This film was shot in 24 hours. The scenes were loosely scripted, with much of the dialogue being left up to the actors. It was like playing cowboys and Indians as a kid. You knew what was going to happen in the end, but you just made it up as you went along until you got there,” Collins said.
The film also marks the acting debut of Amanda Baker in a leading role. She also has spent most of her time in the business off camera, working as a makeup and effects artist.
“I play a character named Liz,” said Baker. “She’s in a relationship with Alec’s character, Nathan. Liz is the weak kind of girl who gets infatuated with a guy and swept up in a bad crowd. She questions the terrible things Nathan and his friends are doing, but she follows along anyway.This is my first lead role and I really had a blast pouring my emotions into this character.”
The synopsis is one of terror and macabre. A group of young “low-lifes” decide to break into an older couple’s home and try to burglarize and terrorize them, all while catching the crime on camera. The plan backfires when they find the older couple to be far more twisted than expected, with the hunters quickly becoming the hunted.
“They plan to break in this house where they think it’s just some old slow people that they can mess with and get the better of, and they’re sadly mistaken,” said Collins.
Petrucci added that the a portion of the film’s concept was influenced by actual events from his experience in his career covering news for a local television station.
“It’s loosely based on a true story that happened around here,” said Petrucci. “There was this story that I covered for the news, and I always used to think about that case and think, ‘You know, what if it would have ended up just a little bit different? What if those people were able to get the ultimate revenge?’ Because it was terrible, and it was the kind of case that just sticks with you.”
The story centers around the characters of Nathan and Liz. Nathan is the protagonist, leading Liz and Ray, played by Eric Sopko, into the crime spree that ends with gruesome consequences and enough twists to knock the viewer from the edge of their seat.
Collins said the movie fuses elements of shock and horror from a range of styles and influences and uses unique camera techniques and perspectives to tell the story. The House on the Wrong Side of the Tracks was shot from a first-person perspective, similar to that of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, with a bulk of the story being improvised by the actors.
“We consider it a kind of cross between A Clockwork Orange and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, done in Blair Witch style,” said Collins. “The camera gets passed around depending on who is seeing what, which is a lot different from most movies where just one person is operating the camera.”
Drake weighed in on why he feels the movie will be a hit and connect among fans of the genre, and how fun it was to do the fast-paced, cut-throat production style.
“I think that people will really enjoy it,” said Drake. “It’s bursting with enthusiasm all the way through. It was a lot of fun to work on. I have a lot of improvisational experience but a 24-hour project like this, not so much. I’ve never done anything quite like this, but I think this project was pretty unique to begin with, so I don’t know if I’d ever have the opportunity to do something like this otherwise.”
Baker said the film’s use of the technique of leaving the most gruesome scenes up to the imagination of the audience gives it a more authentic appeal.
“It’s so much about how many special effects they can shove into a movie nowadays,” said Baker. “And how shocked they can make the viewer. Arthur didn’t visually show everything. There’s a scene with me behind a locked door, and you only get the insinuation of what could possibly be going on behind that locked door.”
The film was produced on a budget solely from the cast and crew themselves.
“I turned my house into the set for this movie,” said Collins. “Most of the scenes took place in my basement, but my whole house was used. There was also a fake corpse in the upstairs bathroom for a month that looked really nasty.”
Collins joked about having such odd and grotesque props throughout his home.
“I hoped that if any point in time I would have gotten broken into, it would have been during that time,” said Collins. “Just so they would warn others not to go there.”
The film is going to be officially released on November 10 at the Calvin Center for the Arts in Youngstown. A teaser trailer, which contains R-rated material, can be seen by clicking here.