An enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Depot Theater Saturday evening to witness the premier of "Rabid Love," a new independent film.
"Two things you should know about independent films," Paul Porter, producer, director and actor in the movie told the audience before the screening. "We work on limited budgets and we stay and watch the credits."
With that, Porter returned to his seat, the lights dimmed and the scary music began.
"Rabid Love" is a loving return to the "fun" horror movies of the 1980s.
Set in 1984 in Hodgeman County, the story follows — as you may have guessed — a group of young people headed for a few days vacation in a cabin in the woods. You may have also guessed that they begin to die one by one. But you will not have guessed the causes of their deaths — and we're not going to give it away.
The film drew good response from the crowd, especially when a recognizable face or shooting location appeared.
Most of the people in the audience had helped with the film in one way or another — wardrobe, props, even an authentic 1984 sheriff's car — and the first-time-ever screening of the movie was the production company's way of thanking them.
Porter used to visit Hodgeman County as a youngster and when it came time to choose locations for his film, the houses, businesses and landscape around Hanston came to mind.
While doing Internet research, he bumped in to his long lost cousin, Lance Ziesch.
Ziesch, a graphic designer working for High Plains Journal, became production designer for the film, creating everything from political bumper stickers to beer bottle labels for the shooting.
Ziesch's search for authentic 1984 props took him into several abandoned homes and stores.
More than once, he was told "You can take anything you want, just don't bring it back."
"I called him one day and told him we'd need sheriff's badges and pistols," Porter said. "He said he had some from the period but there was a problem. The badges had the sheriff's name printed on them. So I said, I guess our sheriff has a name now, and the sheriff in the script became Francis Sinclair."
The movie managed to make Hodgeman County look like a heavily wooded vacation spot with a nice lake.
"Some of that was movie magic," Porter said, noting that you never saw a very wide shot of the cabin in the woods because it was actually in town and there was a street running in front of it.
The screening was preceded by a reception in the Depot lobby complete with a red carpet photo opportunity. Props and wardrobe used in the film were on display in the lobby and the sheriff's car was parked outside, also available for photos complete with flashing lights.
Page 2 of 2 - Mark Vierthaler, owner and writer of the web site Cocktails 365 and member of the Depot Theater Company, created a special cocktail for the screening. Called, the Rabid Love Bite, the concoction included gin, a white wine liqueur, grapefruit juice and a dash of bitters.
Popcorn and cookies were handed out at the reception.
Dinner was roast beef, scalloped potatoes and mixed vegetables followed by brownies and ice cream.
Porter and his production company, Rogue Taurus, will continue tweaking the movie, particularly fine tuning the editing and sound tracks. Then they will begin looking for a distributor.
In response to questions following the screening, Porter and his wife, Hayley Derryberry, who stars in the film, said they will probably take the movie to a few film festivals but they hope to sign a deal with a distributor who will get the movie on outlets like Netflix, iTunes and Amazon.
Will they be back to Hodgeman County?
"We have lots of ideas we'd like to film in Hodgeman County," Porter said. "Partly because people around here are not jaded to the process and still think of it as fun and exciting — that's not true everywhere."
Porter said even the Kansas weather cooperated for the most part.
"We only had to go to the storm shelter once," he said.