My acting debut in Bloodshots (a 48-hour horror film festival) is today!
Flat on my back in bed, my eyes are wide open; the clock beams 4:45 a.m., 15 minutes before my buzzer.
Intense energy flows through my body.
I turn the coffee maker on. Into the bathroom I go. Silently, I test numerous ‘deathly afraid’ and ‘dying’ expressions in the mirror (must not wake the rest of the building tenants). Coffee’s ready. After chugging a cup and a quick shower I loop my hair into a messy ponytail and skip out the front door.
No use wasting time feminizing myself today.
Within a couple hours I will be covered in sticky homemade blood (corn syrup, food coloring) from head to toe. My body is free from anxiety. A sign from the Universe I am meant to be an actor.
Corey, my neighbour, waits in front of his video store for me.
“Morning,” I sing.
“Morning, we have to pick up coffee,” he says.
Corey struck a deal with JJ Beans (Vancouver coffeehouse). They support independent films by donating coffee and in return they get … good karma (or maybe coffee promotion at Corey’s video store?).
We load the coffee into the car and he hands me a fresh cup. Corey drives.
I have no idea where we are going. The location is only 15 blocks from my apartment. The ‘boys’ swindled their friend into letting us use his apartment, an old brick building attached to a trendy restaurant called The Whip on Main Street.
When we arrive, the ‘boys’ are standing in a circle, some eating breakfast, others inhaling their morning cigarette and discussing the day’s events.
I feel though I am meeting with old friends.
The director, Scott, a 24-year-old, tall, focused and friendly guy joins us outside. Eventually we see our co-actors, the Barbie munchkins Erin and Stephanie, appear down the street.
Scott and his co-writer, Mike, gather the actors to explain the script.
They had written deep into the wee hours of the morning.
“Thanks for being on time. You are all amazing,” exaggerates Scott. He breaks the script down.
“Deep in the woods, a reclusive painter uses abnormal techniques to create his latest masterpiece. Unfortunately, any locals unlucky enough to view his work may also find themselves a part of it.”
The killer, played by Corey, is a psychotic artist that paints with he blood of his victims.
Through the corner of my eye I examine Corey.
The killer has an accomplice, another actor named Mike.
Mike’s character lures victims to the killer’s house, drugs them and hooks them up to a contraption that siphons blood from the body. The blood is transferred through tubes into the killer’s art studio ready for him to paint.
The thought of it! I don’t watch scary movies alone because days afterwards I struggle to rein in my wandering imagination. I was soon to learn, by contrast, the construction of a horror film is a deconstruction of my imaginative experience. I hope the opportunity arises in my career to play in a feature-length horror flick like Jamie Lee Curtis in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
“Sara!” Scott beckons his girlfriend.
“Yep?” says Sara.
“Can you get these lovely ladies wrapped in cellophane and ready for makeup?”
Sara jesters like a rap star.
The three of us trail her into the dilapidated 50-year-old brick building.
The hallways are narrow and painted an eerie hospital green. Everything is green. A crew member is taping cable to the floor. Sara leads us into a room cluttered with film equipment, clothing and random objects. “Get naked ladies,” Sara says.
My breath shortens and my heart flutters and begins to thump again. The Barbie Munchkins dress down to their undergarments and Sara begins to wrap the cellophane around their bodies. “We‘re all girls here … you have nothing I haven’t seen,” Sara says.
I get undressed sheepishly.
My heart beats violently.
After standing for two minutes holding my private parts, Sara applies the wrap to me.
Someone is at the door.
A voice I don’t recognize from behind the door yells, “You girls ready to be bloodified? I’m sending the makeup artist in!” The door opens a crack. Susie slips in.
“Hello,” says Susie with a sweet Kiwi accent and holding a paint-can of red-dyed corn syrup. She applies the homemade blood to the girl’s cellophane. Sara wraps me tighter and tighter. “I think we‘re done. How does it feel?” Sara asks. I try breathing in but am constrained by the wrap squeezing me like a snake’s death grip.
“It’s a little snug,” I say.
“It should loosen. It will stretch with your body,” she says.
The truth is cellophane doesn’t stretch. In fact it shrinks. A half hour passes and the cellophane has become a one-piece transparent strait jacket. It’s my turn for blood. The red goop should cover some of my private areas. Thank goodness. Susie begins to spread the blood and gasps, “Oh my gosh!”
“What?” I exclaim.
Sara comes to inspect. “Holy mother…!” She exclaims. “Ashley, your arms are purple!” says Susie.
Now that she mentions it, my arms do feel quite cold.
The two of them pull at the body suit to release the pressure. Much better. After minutes of their tearing at the death-grip-suit, my arms begin to regain colour. Sara runs to see when Scott will need us.
More time is spent waiting than acting on movie sets.
“Hold tight ladies. It’s going to be a little while,” says Sara.
Two hours pass. I’ve probably lost a pound or two.
Scott approaches us.
“One of you is going to be killed off immediately.” The three of us look at each other for a volunteer.
Silence. Stillness. Nobody wants to die within the first 30 seconds of an eight-minute film, however, the thought of escaping the body suit is appealing.
I feel the two large cups of coffee summoning my bladder.
“OK, what do I have to do?” I squeak.
“You, miss, are going to be a masterpiece…”
Ashley Hunking grew up in Teslin. She is now a freelance writer and actor who lives in Vancouver.