"So what's this movie about?" "I'll bet it's a Paranormal Activity rip-off" "Can someone tell me what dis is about?"
All of these are quotes from our Facebook page from fans wanting to know more about the plot of "Six Degrees." Let me start by answering those three above:
1. It's a horror film starring Corey Feldman about a supernatural entity that uses a building as its central focus.
2. Get over Paranormal Activity, folks. Paranormal Activity is not the be all to end all of horror and there are lots of horror films out there besides this hyped up, over rated gimmick series of films. So no, it has nothing to do with Paranormal Activity. It does not have a shaky cam/found footage gimmick and it doesn't run 90 minutes with 5 minutes worth of jolts.
3. It's "this" not "dis".
Paranormal Activity is the big screen version of one of those Internet "Boo!" gags where you get lulled into watching something calm and then a loud, scary image pops up to scare the B'Jesus out of you.
So what's it all about?
We set out to make a scary movie. Above all we set out to make a great movie. That means a solid story, excellent acting and a serious respect for horror audiences. We could have gone the easy route and made a slasher film or torture porn film. Torture porn gets its name from films like Hostel or even the latter Saw movies which the plots basically revolved around victims (mostly female) getting naked and tortured and eventually killed in a variety of gruesome ways.
While these films have their audiences and if that's what you like, great, we did not want to make that kind of film. We had a budget to consider as well. Psycho slasher/dead teen films are up there with zombie films for low budget filmmaking: they are easy to make. You can argue all you want, but that's the bottom line.
The zombie film has one plot: survivors must survive. That's it.
Add a bunch of extras in varying states of decay and there ya go. The higher the budget the better the decay. Otherwise most low budget zombie flicks are a lot of extras in pancake makeup, contacts and costume store bought latex wounds drooling syrup and stage blood in ripped clothing. They're easy.
We wanted to go for something different. Notice we don't say original because really nothing is original. There are only a handful of plots out there and everything is just a variation on those plots and themes. We also knew that horror has become stagnant. Aside from the torture porn style of something like the Human Centipede films, which use the sideshow geek horror, the genre has been damaged by tepid, 'tween' PG-13 horror.
"Six" director, producer & star, Joe Raffa behind the Scarlet-X camera onset. "Six Degrees" is the first feature film ever to use the brand new Scarlet camera.
My first concern as a screenwriter and producer was finding a director. After meeting Joe Raffa through a Facebook message, and seeing his first feature film, the teenage drama, You'll Know My Name, (Reviewed HERE) WWW.YOULLKNOWMYNAME.COM I knew I had to work with this up and coming bright filmmaking star. The question was, did he know horror? He was 21 and face it, most likely his version of horror was growing up with I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream and Halloween H20 as the faces of the genre. There was a good chance this kid knew nothing of the classics, whether from the glory days of Universal's Monsters (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Creature From the Black Lagoon) or great legends like the original 1960 Psycho, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, or anything that wasn't a remake.
The "Six" screenwriter with one of the denizens of the Hotel of Horror
Raffa read the script and felt it was something he wanted to direct. I was heartened when he gave his vision for a certain murder in the film and how the third act should resemble an actual walk-through of the Hotel of Horror as if it were truly open without the crappy "shaky camera" style footage. His quiet demeanor and his penchant for listening before speaking made me feel very confident he could pull the job off.
The Hotel of Horror from the road as she stands over the town of Saylorsburg
We chose a horror because, as we said above, of all the genres, it is the easiest and yields the best chance of getting a financier a return on their investment. The risk was trying to do something different. We set out to make something that would be truly scary but also good. We also did not want the same old slasher/torture porn style film or a film that got all caught up in idolizing other horror films like the Scream series. You won't find dumb blondes getting naked and sliced up in showers or screaming half-clothed females fleeing psycho killers and falling down every 20 seconds.
Six Degrees is not a misogynistic bloodbath or a "beautiful stereotypes get together to be picked off one by one" kind of film. There are no redneck hillbillies run amok and there are certainly no waves of zombies.
There are no moments where the audience will go: "Ah ha! They copied that scene in Halloween!" or blatantly lift dialogue from other horror films to "pay tribute" to the genre. While there are nods and tips of the hat we wanted the film to never enter the satire route either. This would be a straight up horror film, focusing on good characters and having a good story. It would also not be a tepid "family horror" film.
We are quite happy to tell those who can't stand truly scary films or "TEAM WHATEVER" t-shirt wearing mothers to stay home and skip this film. And if that offends you, you're not a real horror fan.
Nicole Cinaglia as June in one of the opening scenes of Six Degrees of Hell
Six Degrees of Hell focuses on June, a girl who in essence has had a supernatural stalker her entire life. The Hotel of Horror serves as the centerpiece for paranormal activity and once June and the building connect, literally all hell breaks loose. June is smart, she does not get naked, she makes good choices and she is a fighter and independent woman. There is a reason why she is a target for this entity and she inadvertently brings five others into its crosshairs, fulfilling the "six degrees of separation" theory (Find out what that is HERE).
Kyle Patrick Brennan as ghost hunter, Erik Sanborn in Six Degrees of Hell
This is why in our TRAILER, the possessed Jeff Wilde says, "there are only six degrees of separation from Hell, Erik" To which Erik Sanborn replies, "And June's the sixth..." We find a number of people have pulled into this supernatural perfect storm and all find themselves connected to the Hotel of Horror.
The idea for the film came to me back in 1998 when I paid to walk through the Hotel when it was under different owners. The rooms were mocked up with actors and in one room they had a guy tied to the table screaming. He was screaming to the patrons that passed through, "This is real! They're gonna kill me for real!" And I thought, "what if he was telling the truth? What if they really were gonna kill him?" I mean, how would we know? There's fake blood everywhere. We all think everything is fake. It's an almost perfect place to commit a murder right out in the open and everyone thinks it's part of the show they paid for.
That poor bastard screaming: "This is real!" in a scene from Six Degrees of Hell
I added some actual supernatural incidences including an inspiration from an event in Stroudsburg in the early 1980's that involved the local police and made national headlines. I took local ghost stories and urban legends for fuel and spun them all together around June's character and the Hotel of Horror.
We deliver the scares for sure. We have reanimated dead (not zombies, there's a difference), possession, several brutal effects and a hoard of monsters, clowns and freaks ready to tear apart anyone who walks through that hotel. The film stylistically resembles the classic Hammer Films of the 1960's. These were studios that gave the Chris Lee Dracula movies with such greats as Peter Cushing and Vincent Price along for the ride.
I sat with award winning director of photography, Charlie Anderson and went over my vision for the film and how I wanted it to look. When I invoked the Hammer films he was brutally honest, and in a "uh oh" kind of moment he admitted that had no idea of what I meant. But he would learn and he delivered the look perfectly.
DP Charlie Anderson (right) looks at a scene with director Joe Raffa and the film's screenwriter and a victim while onset of Six Degrees of Hell
Would the story work? Horror fans are constantly posting on our Facebook to be served something different. The weak performances of remakes like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th and a number of horror films seems to say they are sincere. However I have seen a number of fresh films die bad deaths at the boxoffice because audiences claimed "they weren't like other horror films." So it's a genuine Catch-22.
Bogus claims by films to be "scarier than The Exorcist" mean nothing. You won't see such ballyhoo on the posters for Six Degrees. However we know we are delivering a high quality film, with top production values and solid acting. We give our audience what they paid to see but we also give a strong story that is directed tightly. We plan on scaring, but we also want to entertain above all.
Our next entry will focus on casting and how the faces of Six Degrees came on board to match the script.