November 7, 2011 at 10:23am
HARRY TCHINSKI SHOOTS GRIMISES RISING IN BLACK LAKE ASYLUM >>>
When I saw the big white ambulance with "Pierce County Asylum" engraved on its side, I knew I was close. Director Harry Tchinski had asked me to visit the closed set of his newest horror feature, Grimises Rising, buried somewhere deep in the bowels of Tacoma's Freighthouse Square. If you've walked through its multiple levels of seemingly endless hallways then you know its size, and I had only an inkling as to which entrance (FHS has lots) would get me on set. But like a gleaming arrow, the spooky vehicle pointed me in the right direction.
I knocked on a door painted crimson (REDRUM, my mind whispered), and after a few moments Tchinski stepped outside.
You might already know Tchinski; maybe you screamed, shuddered, squeezed your eyes shut during his last cinematic slaughterhouse, Spaceship Terror, which played last month at the Tacoma Film Festival. Tchinski still can't get over how the film made TFF's lineup.
"(Terror) doesn't fit their criteria to me," he says, "so I was kind of surprised by that." But Tchinski credits TFF for sparking buzz for the movie to other fests.
Director Harry Tchinski, left, looks over the script with actor Logan Littlefield.
We walked through the 12,000 square-foot space known as Black Lake Asylum, a haunted house that weaves its way across the Square's bottom floor, and the main site for Tchinski's new project. Grimises Rising centers on your typical group of hapless young people who enter a haunted house without realizing the grisly exhibits are far from fake. Cast and crew have taken over the Asylum since mid-October, shooting scenes largely on weekdays when closed to the public.
Tchinski originally anticipated constructing all-new sets for his script. Then he met Clark Clark (yes, Clark Clark), Asylum operator since 2009. He quickly saw the benefits of welcoming the filmmaker into his house for shooting purposes.
"(The movie) immortalizes the haunt," Clark tells me. "It not only advertises us ... it (also) expands our connections."
Chelsey Tillich as Vicky the vampire in Grimises Rising.
Actress Ronee Collins sees Clark's participation as just another example of Tacoma's openness to artists. She says, "I've found that a lot of businesses are actually quite arts-friendly."
Tchinski has assembled a team of people from both near and far to realize his bloody vision. I spoke with a few while kids in ghostly robes and gory makeup quietly floated past. Jareth Hixon Dixon, a 19-year-old from Seattle, plays Dave in the film, and sees Rising as "a great learning experience because this (acting) is what I want to do."
Even when in great physical torment, actor Jareth Hixon's hair looks great.
As seen in Spaceship Terror, Tchinski creates characters that both conform to and bend established horror film rules. While Logan Littlefield describes his role as Shawn as "your generic smartass comic relief," Collins notes the nuances behind her part, Joanna. "She's really pure and innocent, but (once things go awry) she's strong. ... It's very fun to play."
Most independent sets exude a mellow vibe, none of that Hollywood ego-clashing. Rising is no different. The project has also managed to unite enthusiastic beginners like Collins, Hixon and Littlefield with experienced craftspeople, including cinematographer Ken Rowe. A faculty member at the Art Institute of Seattle (and one of Littlefield's professors), Rowe has worked behind the camera for more than 30 years. He relishes the chance to use his talents outside the classroom.
"This is my first feature in a really long time, and I'm enjoying the hell out of it," says Rowe.
I catch makeup maestro Doug Hudson as he finishes attaching some hellish horns to actor Stephen Lestat. Hudson has an impressive resume: Outbreak and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to name just two of his former projects. After surviving Tinseltown, what could he possibly find challenging on this modest Tacoma shoot?
Spying Tchinski nearby, Hudson yells, "The director!"
This director has his helpers working rapidly. He projects Rising will wrap shooting in three weeks. Then it goes into post-production, which Tchinski confidently claims should take only two months. So in 2012 we can expect a wild ride of a film made with plenty of heart.
"I can tell you one thing," Littlefield tells me. "There won't be anybody disappointed about the body count."
Off duty rules.
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