Exclusive: MoreHorror visits the set of horror film 'Utero'

UTERO on Set with Jonathan Weichsel and Jessica Cameronby Jonathan Weichsel, MoreHorror.com

On a dark and rainy day, I drove up the twisting Hollywood hills to visit the set of Utero, a new horror film produced by and starring Jessica Cameron, the queen of screams who dominated the festival circuit last year with a dementedly twisted game of truth or dare.

What I found when I got there was a passionate and energetic cast and crew fueled by energy drinks, energy shots, coffee, and energy bars. There was so much caffeine on set that it seemed to seep into the air so that I felt like I got a caffeine buzz just from breathing.

Of course, in reality my buzz didn't come from imaginary airborne caffeine, but from my close proximity to scream queen Jessica Cameron. Jessica was as beautiful as ever in her costume, a grey bathrobe covered in blood and green vomit. She has a kind of infectious energy about her that is larger than life, and although she can't help but fill a room with her energy, it is also focused, almost like a laser beam, and not at all scattered like so many other actors I have met. Jessica is wickedly smart, and has an almost superhuman sense of perception. She has an uncanny ability to perceive what you mean by what you say, and if you say something to her that is less than truthful, she will know, and call you out on it immediately. Jessica is a woman with strong opinions about almost everything, and she isn't afraid to share them, a quality which is so refreshing in this age of meek agreeability.

In Utero, Jessica Cameron plays Lauren, a claustrophobic pregnant woman who comes to believe that she is carrying not a child in her womb, but a monster. What follows are, to put it mildly, the worst couple days of this woman's life, as she completely loses her mind. Things go on around her apartment that nobody can see but her, and the people around her are not there to support her, forcing her to remain secluded.

Utero is not merely Jessica's next movie after Truth or Dare, but in many ways it represents the next stage in her evolution as a filmmaker. Although it is just as gory as her previous film, it is also more psychological and character driven. While Truth or Dare has a frantic, hyperkinetic energy to it, this new film has a more traditional pacing that allows for more character development and allows the filmmakers to tell a deeper, more personal and meaningful story.

Before my set visit, Jessica promised me that I would get to see a lot of gore, and she certainly delivered. Getting to watch Jessica in action as she sprayed down a giant blood stain with a household cleaner and dismembered a human corpse with a cleaver was about the biggest gift a horror fan could wish for, but it was getting to observe first hand how the gore effects that go into any great horror movie are created that was an invaluable educational experience.

I got to watch as effects artists Josh and Sierra Russell manipulated a model and a cast of an actor's head, almost like doctor Frankenstein building his monster. I watched as a styrofoam dummy was covered in latex to create the appearance of skin, and as a gore piece was attached to create the illusion of bodily injury. I was standing right there in video village as the filmmakers used different shots and camera angles to trick the eventual audience into thinking that a cast of the actor's head was the real thing.

Utero is written, produced and directed by Bryan Coyne, a smart, passionate, and enthusiastic horror filmmaker as well as fan. Coyne's influences include Dario Argento, Sam Raimi, early Peter Jackson, and David Cronenberg. He describes Utero as Cronenberg with a sense of humor, and like all the above mentioned directors, he believes in learning the rules so that you can break them.

Coyne's master plan for the film is to start with traditional shots and camera movements, but as the character loses her mind, the film transitions to skewed angles and wide angled lenses with gels on them in order to get inside her head. The day I visited the set, they had already entered the crazy part of the film, and I got to see insane shots as they were created, including one very noir overhead shot of Jessica dragging a corpse down a hallway.

Jonathan Higgins is a very hands-on producer. I was impressed by how quickly and efficiently he kept things moving. He is also a natural problem solver, and able to come up with solutions on the fly whenever needed.

During lunch, the horror filmmakers became horror fans, and everybody excitedly shared trivia from their favorite films, including Hellraiser, some of Wes Craven's more obscure efforts, and Evil Dead 2.

I had a great time on the set of Utero. It was a fun shoot, and the film looks like it will be the kind of subversive horror movie that we don't see enough of anymore. Fans of practical gore effects will be satisfied, as will fans of psychological horror.

Utero is a coproduction between Coin Op Flix and Small Town Girl Productions.

Utero Teaser Poster

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