Maker of horror movies calls himself 'storyteller'

November 03, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

According to Dusty Fleischman's rsum, he's experienced the "Pit of Doom," the "Night of the Fiend," "The X Incident" and "Express From Hell."

His work involves murder and mayhem, whether he's haunting a train station or stalking a military team searching for an alien in the Washington County woods.

And, oh yeah, he graduated from the Hollywood Film Institute in June 1997.

Fleischman has been making horror films for 10 years, mostly with a video camera, friends, family and his endless enthusiasm for telling stories.


"I am not a filmmaker; I'm a storyteller," said Fleischman, 26, dressed in black and sitting in his Northaven Mobile Home Park living room north of Hagerstown.

The room's walls are covered with posters from horror movies and pictures of musician and horror movie enthusiast Rob Zombie. The decor includes horror movie models, a tombstone Halloween decoration, a gory head hanging from the ceiling, a rubber hand used in his movies and a 52-inch television on which to watch them.

Fleischman has four boxes of scripts he's written for dramas, comedies, science fiction, action and mystery movies. He has chosen to focus on horror for now because it's cheaper to make. He has made a name for himself with a filmography of 11 horror films he's acted in and/or directed.

Many filmmakers on his level make movies for the shock value, including excessive gore or nudity, Fleischman said.

"I'd rather scare somebody than shock them. I'd rather they jump out of their seat than be disgusted," he said.

Fleischman began making movies at age 17 when he and fellow North Hagerstown High School student Steve Hendrickson were watching a horror movie one Saturday afternoon and Hendrickson suggested they try to make their own. They made movies during weekends for three years, asking friends, family members and co-workers to play victims while Fleischman got to be the bad guy.

"I never liked the good guys," Fleischman said. "That's no fun. I want to wear the crazy costumes and kill people."

It also gave him a chance to play the bad guys portrayed by his favorite actors, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Production company

As Fleischman and Hendrickson got more serious about their filmmaking, they formed Horror Punk Productions in 1997 after Fleischman graduated from the Hollywood Film Institute by taking classes at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"It's basically his show. I help out when I can," said Hendrickson, 27, of Hagerstown.

His help includes acting, coming up with story ideas, helping produce music for the movies and using his pro wrestling training to choreograph fight scenes.

After film school, the pair started using more local theater actors and better lighting and sound equipment. Fleischman varied his camera angles, he said.

Despite the improvements, Fleischman said there was still some difficulty on the set of their first feature-length movie, "Spooks 1997: A Tale of Love & Terror."

"It turned into a comedy because nobody could do anything right," Fleischman said.

That's not the only time people have gotten a laugh out of Fleischman's movies.

"I describe them as horror, but most of the people who watch them describe them as comedic, at least the older stuff," Fleischman said.

A sampling of his videos showed unsophisticated movies with a look similar to that of home videos - except with a more skilled and steady hand behind the camera. The movies had plots and, true to Fleischman's word, profanity and mild violence rather than excessive gore.

'Kind of campy'

Hendrickson describes the movies as "kind of campy, kind of schlocky," like "'70s-style horror films."

The pair, who went their separate ways in 1999 and reunited Horror Punk Productions two months ago, aren't trying to win any Oscars and don't expect their movies to gross millions or even thousands of dollars.

"They haven't sold, by most standards, pretty well. They sold well by our standards. If we sell 50 copies, that's a major deal to us," Fleischman said.

"Spooks" sold the most copies, probably around 100, because low-budget, cult film actor and "Spooks" star Conrad Brooks peddled it at sci-fi/horror conventions, Fleischman said.

Hendrickson, whose screen name is Steve Fiendish, said he'd like them to get some name recognition in the B-movie world.

Fleischman hopes the movie the pair just wrapped, "The Corn Stalker," might attract some distributors who will put it on DVD in video store chains such as Blockbuster or Suncoast.

None of Fleischman's movies has made it to even a local video store, he said.

The movies have sold via mail-order advertisements in horror magazines and through the Internet and word-of-mouth.

Fleischman said he and Hendrickson invest so little money in the films that they make a profit on selling 10 copies for $5 each. What profit they get they reinvest into the next movie.

They are able to do this because their actors work for free and they're creative when it comes to scouting locations.

'He has fun'

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