As if a shortage of theatrical venues in Pittsburgh weren't already a problem, now it seems that one of the city's venerable stages has become possessed and is turning actors and stage crews into crazed zombies. At least that's how it's going down in PlayHouse, writer-director Hunter F. Roberts' full-length horror-movie spoof. Roberts presumably knows his way around the 'Burgh boards, having studied theater at Point Park College while learning film production at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Though he now resides and works in Los Angeles, Roberts says the decision to shoot his film in Pittsburgh was simple: lower costs, versatile locations and the city's welcoming artistic community. "You get good support because they want people filming there."
Roberts shot his low-budget riff on digital video, but went old-school on the special effects, hiring local FX artist Steve Tolin. PlayHouse boasts plenty of good old-fashioned liquid gore, and Tolin certainly delivers on one especially good head-whacking.
Of course, Pittsburgh has an international reputation for having zombie trouble. Roberts acknowledges this but also admits, "I never watched horror movies growing up -- I never thought I would make a horror movie. But there's a good market of people that really enjoy these low-budget horror films.
"At Point Park, I had learned of some true local ghost stories, though I think a lot of the true stories got lost in the humorous approach. If I tried to write a straight horror movie it would just come out ridiculous anyway. The main thing is for people to be entertained. -- that's why people pay their $7 or $8 dollars to see a movie."
Next Tuesday, for a mere $5, Roberts, in collaboration with the newly formed Motion Picture Commission of Pittsburgh, is promising a full evening's entertainment. Local band Punchline will perform a 25-minute set before the film's Pittsburgh premiere at Loews Waterfront; after the screening, Roberts, the four lead actors and Steve Tolin will host an after-party at nearby Bar Louie. So far, no zombies are scheduled to attend, but around these parts, you never know.