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July 6th, 2005

Gothkill, a nightmare in progress

by John Coakley

When I first spoke with JJ Connelly last May, “Gothkill,” his first feature length film, was still in the planning stages. Now, filming is almost done, post-production should commence this summer, and screenings will hopefully be given this summer. Along the way there have been financial setbacks, visions lost and regained, and a lot of fake blood and gasoline light. Writer-director Connelly, actor-pyrotechnician Flambeaux, make-up artist-actor Tom “The Misfit” Velez, and assistant director-actor Anastasia Andino all spilled their guts to me on a chilly Sunday in March.

You may have noticed a lot of hyphens just now. People often play many different roles on the set of an independent film, and these guys wouldn’t have it any other way. They know all too well what it’s like to do things more professionally’ because the original producer brought in a top-heavy crew full of seasoned vets who were annoyingly eager to share their expertise with the first-time director. “There were so many people that we had all kinds of communication problems,” Connelly said. “It got to the point where it not only ran us out of money but ran us into debt.” This became all too clear when the producer suddenly revealed that seventeen thousand dollars was needed just to finish that day’s shooting. As a result, he left the production and took the meddlesome deadweight with him, leaving a core group of determined artists-and canvases. Velez’s painterly instincts would take over when things got too serious: “I would do whatever possible to lighten the mood, so I just splattered blood on people.”

That playful attitude has helped to establish a growing buzz. “Gothkill” tells the story of a priest-turned-serial killer named Nick Dread who preys on New York’s goth and fetish scenes. The line between the story and everyday life was intentionally blurred after the first day of shooting. “We had people walking around with their eyes gouged out, blood dripping from their throats,” Connelly said, “and most of the cast left the set with their make-up and costumes still on and went out to the bars and clubs.”

Flambeaux-yes, that is his whole name-plays the lead role of Nick Dread, but in real life he is the leader of the famed P-cult, a performance troupe that mixes fetish club hedonism with combustible showmanship. They have a huge following and Flambeaux’s involvement can only help the project’s chances of being seen.

Horror movies rarely benefit from too much gloss and sheen. Computer generated images provide most of the scares in today’s mainstream supernatural thrillers,’ but can any of them compare to low-budget classics like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Halloween?” Not likely. That’s because the right use of natural light and visual misdirection can make everyday settings seem menacing in a way that computer trickery and explosions never could. That is one reason why “Gothkill” looks so promising. They went to ridiculous lengths to get just the right shadows. According to Andino, “It got very grassroots&I was dousing this rope (surrounding the set) with gasoline just to light an execution scene.” Connelly was impressed: “It actually looks better than if it had been a big production-just light stuff on fire, you know?” Exactly. This is going to be a good one, folks. We’ll keep you posted on future screenings; in the meantime check out: www.gothkill.com

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