As Denver music rises the echelon of being considered a nationally recognized “scene,” here at Mile High Cinema we’re certainly asking, what about film? Aside from a few outcroppings of local talent that float off to the coasts, there’s difficulty categorizing a film scene that is definably Denver. Instead we have the promise of filmmakers, like Kristine Hipps, Patrick Mann and Duane Brown of Paper Cat Films, experimenting in the cinematic territory of Horror that Denverites seem to gravitate towards.
Paper Cat Films certainly made its mark on the Denver Film Scene with their annual stage/film hybrid of “Night of the Living Dead” at that bastion of localized independent fare, the Bug Theater. To kick off this month’s horror-centric mood, Hipps and Mann premiered their locally produced horror-comedy, “You’re Not Getting Out Alive” at the Bug. They filmed a majority of the scenes utilizing the Bug Theatre, proving you can write, shoot, edit and screen films right in Denver’s neighborhoods effectively and inventively.
“You’re Not Getting Out Alive” uses a classic Horror set-up, a’ la novelist Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” with a theatrical twist. Christie’s novel introduced the premise of a group of people invited to an isolated place by a mysterious individual and killed off one-by-one in a gruesome manner. The screenplay, co-wrote by Hipps and Mann, takes the premise of a group of actors trapped at a rural playhouse, cast by a mysterious-eccentric playwright, and killed off in theatrical ways.
The premise is ripe for tension, horrific acts and the inherently over-the-top acting so desired for horror comedies. Does Paper Cat Films pull it off? While the film isn’t going to be blogged about by horror aficionados as groundbreaking genre work, I don’t think that’s what Paper Cat Films set off to do. It’s my own down fall that I approach screenings expecting films to alter my perceptions of what cinema can evoke. After reeling the film back into context, I saw a cleverly crafted screenplay in the hands of filmmakers and actors who had a good time filming within limited, yet creative resources.
Hipps said, “We used all local actors and crew, save for flying in Director of Photography Gary Otte from LA, but he used to live in Denver. The exterior shots of the theater are actually the Evergreen Playhouse and the “lodge” was the home of Kristin Keating, who played the owner of the lodge. The cabin interior was one of the cottages up at Chautauqua Park in Boulder — all locations were used by permission, of course.”
The actors in the film are humorously introduced as they audition for roles in a cannabis-fueled playwright’s alternate history on how Weed won the Civil War called “Southern Greens.” I asked Hipps whether these auditions were based on experience and if the killer is in some imparting a lessons to actors, much like a slasher imparts celibacy on horny teenagers. She replied, “Patrick Mann and I have both worked in live theater for years, the “lessons” were totally intentional, conglomerations of experiences we’ve had in the past with actors, directors, stage managers, etc., and we had a ball writing this film because of our past theatrical experiences.”
With local, low-budget films such as this, certain production values can be easily excused by the limited resources available to independent filmmakers in Denver. There were a few scenes where the sound was so distorted that lines were completely lost, which is detrimental to a dialogue heavy script. Hipps responded, “Yep, the sound is painful in places… we plan to do some Foley work on it with the actors, and clean up the sound in general before going forward with seeking distribution or festivals. That was a general note from a lot of folks. We did the sound editing on headphones in a crowded editing bay at Denver Open Media, which wasn’t ideal…”
It was a lively night at the screening, with previews and trailers of other locally produced horror films. Paper Cat films can certainly gather a crowd and it will be interesting to see how the production team utilizes the Bug Theater to foster Denver’s taste for horror. Originally published on Mile High Cinema.