W ith Halloween quickly approaching, there are two things on everyone's mind: candy and scary movies.
There are people still making horror films in the style of the classic slasher movies from the glory days of "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween," and some are being produced right here in the Mahoning Valley.
Rick Fusselman is the founder of DSK Productions, an independent film company specializing in filming and producing horror comedies. Along with his wife, Jessica, and friends Jim Cibella and Rick Mackall, Fusselman started DSK Productions almost five years ago and have filmed and produced seven films.
"I have always enjoyed horror movies," said Fusselman, "and really got into them and started making them after I went to my first convention, Cinema Wasteland."
Another area production company is Eerie Frequency Entertainment, or EFE. EFE was started by Travis Bowen and Joe Mohn in 2003. It has done two full-length films so far, and is working on a third titled "Presque Isle."
"My passion for making movies comes from being a fan of Ed Wood, George Romero, Gene Roddenberry, Kevin Smith, and George Lucas," said Bowen.
Everyone associated with DSK Productions takes part in coming up with ideas and writing the scripts for the movies.
"Usually an idea for a movie begins with a general concept, and then ideas are thrown out expanding on that concept and shape it to fit a specific story," Fusselman said.
The film Fusselman and his crew are currently working on started like this: "Incest Bernie: The Legend of Blood Forest" was born from the basic idea of a classic slasher film with a serial killer loose in the woods.
"I come up with a general concept, and then we all sit around throwing out ideas and then we mold our ideas around the concept we have," Fusselman said.
EFE has, so far, shaped ideas for movies from other classic horror films. Its second film, "Shadows in the Woods," was made as an homage to 1950s horror filmmaker Ed Wood, who is known as being one of the worst filmmakers of all time.
Financing is not an easy task for DSK Productions. Most of the financial burden for production comes from Fusselman and his wife, as well as what they manage to make selling their prior works.
Going to horror film conventions is a great way to get their product out to the public because that is where to find their biggest fan base. Relying on profits from what they can sell at conventions is essential for Fusselman and DSK Productions because local businesses are reluctant to donate money to finance a local horror production.
Finding places to play his films is also difficult, Fusselman said.
"It's even harder to find a place in this area that will even play a local horror film. I have tried contacting bars and everything, but no one either has the equipment to show it or doesn't want to."
EFE has brought in many professional actors to star in their films, including Michael Sheard from "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones," Conrad Brooks from "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and Tim Burton's "Ed Wood," and Joe Estevez, who's Martin Sheen's brother. Bowen also uses regulars who appear in every film he makes.
"I have a lot of local people who act in my films. Many of them are friends now, and they're in everything I do," said Bowen.
Believe it or not, there are many locations in the Mahoning Valley that are good for shooting horror films.
"Good locations for films (include) the Comfort Inn in downtown Warren. That's one of my favorite places to film, and the hotel is said to be haunted," said Bowen. "I film lots of stuff in Bristol and around where I live in Warren."
Fusselman enjoys using some locations around his home as well for shooting his movies. He says the woods behind his house make a good location, but he is always looking for new places to spice up his movies. He said he would love to find an abandoned house to use or get permission to shoot at a campgrounds.
Independent movie makers are keeping the classic horror genre alive and Fusselman enjoys being a part of that, because he said commercial horror movies have become so typical and boring.
"With people like us, we're giving people something fresh and things they wouldn't ever expect to see, said Fusselman.
DSK Productions doesn't try to venture out and try other genres because Fusselman said they have established a sort of following making horror comedies and wants to give their fans more of what they want.
EFE, on the other hand, enjoys making movies in other genres besides horror. Their first film, "2020: An American Nightmare," in fact is more science fiction than horror. It is about a future where America, and all of civilization is crumbling. Bowen also plans on making a space adventure movie and political/horror film.
"I like making the horror films because they're fun," Bowen said.
Fusselman said he loves what he does and gets a kick out of doing it with friends and family.
"We are thankful to be where we are, and wouldn't change a thing."