With its shocks, gore and dashes of comedy, The Scarehouse is about to unleash its uncompromised terror on the rest of North America.
The Windsor-made film from director Gavin Michael Booth premiered Sunday night at Lakeshore Cinemas in five nearly sold out theatre rooms. Additional screenings will begin in Lakeshore and other select Canadian cities Oct. 10, with a video-on-demand release scheduled for Oct. 21 in the U.S.
The Scarehouse, written by Booth and his wife Sarah, is about two women who plot their revenge on six sorority sisters who betrayed them years earlier inside a haunted house.
“If they (the audience) were ever bullied in high school, especially as females, they will sort of root for our lead characters,” said Booth, originally from Amherstburg. “We call it Mean Girls meets Saw, but there’s a tone of Dexter where you’re following the killers’ points of view and their reasoning and their logic for what they’re executing that night.”
Distributed by D Films in Canada and NBC Universal in the U.S., the film was primarily shot over 22 days in August and September 2013 in an old Knights of Columbus building on Ouellette Avenue.
Additional flashback scenes shot in March, also in Windsor, are dispersed throughout the main action. Although he now lives in Toronto, Booth said he hopes to continue making films in Windsor as long as possible.
“This is how I started making movies. It’s the only way I know how to make movies, so going and filming anywhere else, it would be sad,” he said. “Here it’s like a big family and you don’t get that in a lot of big productions.”
Booth said he had the idea for the movie four or five years ago when he visited the annual Scarehouse Halloween attraction in Windsor and thought about how easily someone could trap someone inside the building.
As well, Booth said the film was inspired by slasher movies from the 1980s and it tried to use practical effects on its $273,000 budget wherever possible. Sometimes, those effects became all too real for the cast.
“The machine that I was attached to actually worked, so it was actually pulling the ropes in for the last takes of it and I had thoughts that I wasn’t coming out. That was real fear,” said Dani Barker, who portrays one of the tortured women.
All of the stunts were performed by the women in the film. Sarah, who also portrays one of the ringleaders, missed her mark during a stabbing scene with one of the victims played by Jennifer Miller.
“I missed the guard on her back,” Sarah said. “There wasn’t a blade on the knife, but it could still cut you, so I actually stabbed her in the back and then she was in so much pain that she kneed me in the face. That is the take that we used because it was awesome.”
While the film had sneak previews at other venues including the Montreal ComicCon in September, the Lakeshore event was its official world premiere. Producer Mike Carriere said there was no choice but to debut the movie in Essex County.
“There’s so much love that’s put into this,” said Carriere. “You can’t even put a dollar sign on it. It’s 100 per cent they (Windsor and Essex County residents) support us. They want to see us go out and follow our dreams and they want to make us have fun and just do what we love doing.”
The film was also shopped at the Cannes International Film Festival this year and is expected to see an international release in certain areas at the beginning of 2015.
The Scarehouse received an 18A rating in Ontario for brutal violence, coarse language and gory scenes.
Click here to watch the trailer for The Scarehouse.