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Shadows

December 13, 2018

I have always had a love for film. In my youth, I almost directed a primitive version of my short story, The Deadfall. I had plans in 1989. I was going to rent a camcorder and do it myself, in the line of the direct to video films of the time like Truth or Dare, Blood Cult, The Ripper (with Tom Savini), and Boarding House. I saw pictures in Fangoria of these home made films and sought them out on VHS. Honestly, they all were pretty bad, but if they could get made, why couldn’t I film something on my own? I had experimented before, when I was 14, and rented a VHS camcorder and filmed a zombie thing in the backyard and some fake blood stuff. Nothing spectacular—it is all lost to time, along with the huge horror film collection I had recorded, three to a tape in SLP mode. 

 

Anyway, when I was 19, I had obsessed over a story I was writing and rewriting. The Deadfall was going to be a slasher with Dario Argento styled deaths and the intensity of Clive Barker and Lucio Fulci. I had a cast of friends willing to do it and together we built a set. A torture room was constructed in a garage of a two-story, dilapidated, abandoned house that belonged to my family. The set was complete with chains, wood backing with carvings, and an altar with painted symbols from the Necronomicon, adorned with a large red pentagram wrapped in barbed wire. Needless to say, my family thought I had been influenced by the satanic panic of the nation. The place was freaky and had a coldness—a sense of dread about it. Unfortunately, before filming commenced, I was in a serious car wreck. Months later, the passion for the project cooled. I ended up destroying the unholy set and the film was never shot. 

 

Flash forward to 2004: Life had moved on and I found myself with a new group of friends, working in and around an art theater. I met the Bailey brothers who were extremely talented and they recruited me to be in a short film for a contest for the then upcoming Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan DVD box set. (No shorts ended up on that set, but some fairly lame ones landed on editions years later.) The Bailey’s Jason design was awesome, even with a great scene of him rising out of a lake. The film bug hit and I found myself in their next project, The Women of Boy’s Creek. That zombie short came out well, considering the limitations. I felt then that it was time to do a project of my own, so I wrote Spike. 

 

Spike is set in a strange punk, twilight zone, where Spike is trying to find his friend Tracer. Along the way, he encounters a rogue’s gallery of underworld characters, all leading to a supernatural ending. 

 

The short script was complete, so I took the next step and bought a Sony camcorder from Fingerhut, a bad credit decision, and set out to make Spike guerrilla style. We shot at the same cemetery I used to runaround in as a teenager and somehow only got kicked out of once. The now defunct Hou-Tex Inn was used for exteriors on the fly and interiors of the motel were in Pearland, courtesy of a friend. The apocalyptic abandoned Sea-Arama Marineworld in Galveston was an amazing find. We also used an alley off the Strand while on the island. The surreal finale was filmed in the chigger filled woods of East Texas; it makes me itch just thinking about it. Problems came up from the beginning with the quality of the video. It was disheartening, but I pressed on and in a couple of months of weekends we mostly finished shooting. Additional footage was shot later with my friend, Lee Webster, for a cemetery coda and some unused lake scene. I had all the tapes and no way to edit. The situation changed, mistakes were made, and I moved away and lost contact. 

 

Four years went by before editing began. I had moved back to Houston and started talking to my friend Jason Swarthout who was interested in film. I brought up the lost tapes of my project and on the spot we agreed to piece it together. I visited his art gallery in the Heights as much as possible to work on Spike, transferring it into a digital format and going trough all the takes to find the best parts. Luckily, the grind house look was in vogue at the time, so we used it to hide some of the tracking flaws from the original format. Somehow, we finished it. Spike premiered at The Betz Art Gallery in October of 2008, followed by Repo Man. The film was never a commercial effort, but it was cool to have it shown. 

 

The experience led to the lost films that followed including a sequel of sorts, Spiked, which was a more colorful underground film. The original Spike was reedited and rescored as Shadows because, like Dolphin Street, I could not leave it alone. Both versions exist and represent the only film I have directed, so far. Would I do it again? It is unlikely without the time and resources, but who knows what he future might bring? 

 

The Deadfall currently exists as a short story in my anthology book, Anarchy — Strange Tales of Outsiders and Spike, Shadows, and Spiked are currently lost films. 

 

DS 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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