Local resident and part-time filmmaker James Horton and his two-year filmmaking experience ended as he closed the shooting of his horror movie, “Do Not Disturb” recently. The long editing process is now before him.
The shooting officially began in February of 2012 in Beatty. The producer believes the modern horror genre as a whole needs to get back to the basics and needs to be “scarier.”
“It is done and it took nearly 3,000 takes. It is a lot for a low-budget movie. For everything we shot, we will probably use only five percent of that,” he said.
Horton said he did HBO movies in his 20s.
After HBO, he made is first attempt to produce a big $30 million project called “Ghost Writers.” The project was a series of scary vignettes. Horton tried to sell “Ghost Writers” to Hollywood, but there were no takers.
One of the stories from the HBO project became “Do Not Disturb,” a story he had written. Horton said out of all the stories, this one was the most adaptable for a feature film.
The movie is shot in Pahrump, Beatty, Death Valley Junction, Jean and in the Spring Mountains.
It centers around the host of a TV cooking show, who turns into a paranormal investigator after experiencing his own encounter with the surreal.
The host is played by Las Vegas actor Ernell Manabat. His co-star is also a Las Vegas-based actress, Victoria Cameron, who plays the cooking show producer.
The film centers around the Amargosa Opera House and former director Rich Regnell granted unlimited access to the famous home of Marta Becket. In the movie, a demonic entity resides there and Manabat is called out to investigate.
Cameron feels the movie is coming out at a good time.
“It ties in with a trend, a paranormal investigator trend with an actual feature film. I have not seen it done in this way to this degree,” she said.
Horton has been a believer since he saw a full apparition in his grandmother’s home as young child. “Quite a few times people were startled during the filming of this movie,” Horton said.
For various reasons Horton said Manabat was easily startled. Horton said, “If the Scooby-Doo team was hiring he would not be the first in line.
“We were doing one shoot in Spooky Hollow and I was there with Ernell, Victoria and my wife. We were fooling around and asking some questions like, ‘Hey are you there?’ The lantern started flickering during the questions. It was an LED lantern and usually with those they work or they don’t and there usually is no in-between. We then asked, ‘Do you want us to leave?’ It started flickering more. Ernell responded, ‘That is enough for me. That is all I need to know. You don’t need to tell me twice.’”
After the movie was in the can, Manabat recalled the moment and said he left the space has fast as he could.
“I know someone didn’t want us there and I respect that,” he said. “I took off and I went outside. I did not stop to see if they were going to answer any of the questions asked. I have a respect for the dead.
“It’s not something to fool around with. I believe in the paranormal. I didn’t leave because I was a chicken. I left because I didn’t want to stick around and see what could have happened.”
Cameron said she was also spooked a few times on the shoot especially during the incident Manabat was talking about.
“I feel we asked specific questions and we would see lights flicker or we would hear noises,” Cameron said. “I am a big feeler. I feel the energy. I did not see any shadow figures while filming, but all I can say is I felt a bad energy that felt like we were not wanted there.”
Of course Horton had his own experiences at the hotel. “I had an experience in the opera house where I felt a faint tapping on my back,” he explained. “I would turn around and nothing was there. I would go back to shooting. It would happen again and I would say, ‘Stop it, I am trying to get a shot.’
“Another time it happened was in room 24. I said to the spirit, ‘Stop it and don’t make me wonder if you are there, come give me a real kick.’ Of course it never happened. It was kind of disappointing because I expected it to happen. The joke was if something did happen we would get free special effects and of course we never got that.”
Horton said he had no major problems during the shoot.
“Other than trying to make what appears to be a bigger budget production on a part-time schedule because everyone had another job and other things to do,” the filmmaker said.
“It was an ambitious undertaking if it were the only thing we were doing. It was 40 days of shooting. We had to deal with a lot of things.
“The weather I don’t think was the largest problem, just an annoyance. It was especially a problem shooting at the Amargosa Opera House in the middle of the summer in 120-degree heat,” he said.
Horton said the opera house had no air conditioning and the scene was set at night so they had to close all the doors so light would not come in. The scenes were all shot during the day.
The crew also had to film in the Mt. Charleston area and had to contend with freezing temperatures during the winter.
Cameron said, “We all just worked hard and wanted to make the best project possible.
“We really just worked well together. This project just felt right. I would do it all over again from the shooting in 120-degree heat, the two-hours of sleep at night and the freezing cold mountain shoots. We had a lot of admiration for James and we were blessed to work with him.”
The editing process is well underway, but Horton is not sure when the film will be truly done.
His plan is to include the whole town when the project is completed. Originally he wanted to show it at the Amargosa Opera House, but he is not sure the new management would allow that.
“We would like to do the movie in the park with an inflatable screen and also have a showing at Preferred RV,” Horton said.
Will there be sequel and more shooting in and around Pahrump?
“Of course,” Horton said. “The movie was made for a sequel.”