The internet and social media are more influential than ever. People on their phones, posting on social media, hiding behind avatars, streaming their thoughts and accessing anything their hearts desire no matter how dark. Imagine the very tool to learn and access brought you closer to your death? In The Dark Military, we meet a group a diverse people brought together to be part of a game on Halloween. Over one night, that game of life or death will be executed with no one or nothing to help them. A tense, thrilling and brutal blending horror and action together, who will be strong enough and survive to witness the rise of The Dark Military. With the film working through festivals around the world, Jay Kay grabbed writer, actor, producer and director Loren Lepre to talk lighting, drafting a cast and creating killer deaths for the Horror News Network.
Horror News Network: Thank you Loren for taking some time to talk your feature The Dark Military. First, where did the idea for this feature come from and how much off you is in the DNA of this film?
Loren W. Lepre: I just had a vision of a team, “A Large Team.” I wanted strong men and women in these roles. I wanted to try something new with adding action to horror. Lots of myself went into the DNA of this film. I played the bad guy, which comes easy for me in films and we all have that dark side of us in our minds.
Horror News Network: What films influenced this project?
Lepre: I would say Friday the 13th, 24, Battle Royale, Scream, The Devils Rejects, and Mad Max. Yes, all of those.
Horror News Network: In The Dark Military, we see the horror that comes from social media and the internet in the overall conflict. What is frightening about the internet?
Lepre: The internet changed the world, but it does have a downside. The idea of KILLERS teaming up online was a great idea for a film. As well as a scary thought in real life.
Horror News Network: Can you talk about the casting?
Lepre: Great question! I had about 70 actors in this. I had no reads for this film I just drafted them. I live this business 24/7 and knew the right actors to pull off these roles. The big factor is also how an actor’s reputation is. Do they show up and know their lines? Do they show up late? Do they back talk the director? Do they bring the set down? Do they make crazy posts on Facebook? I follow ALL of these steps before drafting.
Horror News Network: Which was more difficult to cast, the predators or the prey?
Lepre: The Prey only because there was a lot more of them. The Dark Military itself was easy to cast.
Horror News Network: Can you talk about the unique aspect that each member of the Dark Military embodies?
Lepre: Barabbas (The Leader) doesn’t play around and carries out the orders of The General. He is mean. His words are funny, but his actions are not. Delilah is a pure cold killer. She is never happy and always up for a big fight! This muscle machine ranks just below Barabbas. Jezebel this diva steals the show. She is sexy, brutal, and loves the spot light. Judas and Kane (Soldiers) These two are built to kill. Judas loves a good fight and Kane might be something else. This man feels no pain! Mother Nature her background is still unknown. THE COOK! Jimbo The Cook takes 100% pride in his craft! This role might of stole the film.
Horror News Network: What has your body of work, especially your theater background brought to you as a writer, actor and director on this film? How does this reflect Barabbas?
Lepre: I was in the wrestling business for many years. Just going out, feeling out the crowd and performing came naturally to me. When I jumped into acting the ride was easy because of that. Being a writer and director took time. That I had a learning curve on. As for taking on the role of Barabbas. I took this role for many reasons. The part is so me. Another, I’ve been in about 80 projects and most of them are out of The Philly Area. The projects I speak of are not pushed or not released. It’s sad that The Philly area doesn’t have strong directors that push their project through. In a small way, I feel like I just started acting just because of this film is making noise.
Horror News Network: Can you talk about putting together three interweaving storylines with the real-time hunt, the police search and the news media? Which stage of the production did the total film come together?
Lepre: Wow! Yes, I did a lot of research. This is the part of the film I had to be clever to tie all of this together. I made many calls and talked with a lot of people. This took time, but I feel I hit the point. I had lots of ties with many police departments which helped out so much with this script.
Horror News Network: One of the trickiest parts of this film is the lighting. I have to believe we see the darker side for symbolism, the budget you had as well as a more an authentic effect. Can you talk about this aspect?
Lepre: Plain and simple lighting and audio make a film! This part mattered a lot. Actors cannot shine without these two things. If you don’t have the money to pull this off don’t make the film. I told my audio guy Samuel Crow to be ready for me to be over protective with me checking in on him on this often. Every bird, plane, car, or bush crackle I heard I would turn to him and say, “was that picked up?” or “Sam how are we doing anything we need to do over?” I don’t believe in fixing it in post. I believe in fixing it on the spot! Lighting we had an outdoor crane, this was the key getting things done faster. We wanted good lighting and we got it. When filming in the woods you HAVE to go all out.
Horror News Network: This film is challenging for any DP with lots of action and a variety shot setups, locations and lots of action. What did Zafer Ulkucu bring to this production and did his work with Filmmaker Adam Ahlbrandt impact how the kills were shot?
Lepre: I can’t answer if Zafer working with Adam helped him in any way with that, but I can say that Zafer knew we were shooting this eight straight days and things needed to move quickly. He did an amazing job and I also gave him free reign to keep the cameras rolling if he saw a shot he felt would add better coverage to the film. He moved fast and at the same time between Steve Carino and myself making sure we got the shots we needed it made for a great combo.
Horror News Network: What was the thinking behind the visual presentation and pace of the kills in this film?
Lepre: I wanted great coverage and we needed to keep things moving. Yes, doesn’t every film. I wanted this film to move fast and let the twists and turns keep coming. The Pace if the film is strong and we had some great luck with visuals. The week we shot we had a Super Moon to add to our great lighting. The ball bounced our way that week.
Horror News Network: What power did the score for the film have? How important was the tense silence as the game developed?
Lepre: I believe a horror movie is just a comedy if the film score isn’t strong. I had three people scoring this film. I’m so happy with the results. I plan to use all of them again. tense silence to the ramps and action beats all need to be on point.
Horror News Network: Where did sound design play the most important role in this film?
Lepre: From start to finish. I didn’t just say “whatever” to any point of this film. When you’re an indie filmmaker you can’t have any errors. You need to make sure all sound design for every part matters.
Horror News Network: Natalie Foxhill is a talent. She wears many hats and definitely impacts the film. What did she bring to this project? What went into The Dark Military’s costuming? Any influence of pro wrestling?
Lepre: Natalie is an amazing soul. Overall, she boarded all the cast and crew on her land. At one point we may have had 100 bodies on set. We took care of her, but more so she took care of us. She did The Dark Military outfits and makeup. The girl blew through everybody so fast. I remember asking her months in advance if she needed a team. She asked for no help she wanted full credit, so she got it.
Horror News Network: What did Second Unit Director and Editor Steven Carino bring to this project? How crucial was the edit?
Lepre: Steven Carino is the unsung hero of this film. This guy made sure I didn’t have errors on set. He puts 100 % into everything he does. He did storyboard, AD, editing, and at times directing since I was also an actor in this. We both together spent two years in post-production building this film.
Horror News Network: You are one of a quartet who handled stunts on this project, can you talk about the choreographing of the hunt through the woods?
Lepre: Eric Foxhill, Lamar Brumley, and myself do martial arts. Cory Kastle and Shannon Sexton are Pro Wrestlers. This part of was easy and I really lucked out having each one of them be captains with working out the stunts.
Horror News Network: Is this film meant to be the first chapter in a franchise or a stand alone?
Lepre: This is a Trilogy horror fans, get ready!
Horror News Network: As production manager, what did Nick Esposito bring to the intangibles of this production?
Lepre: Nick is a warrior and the second he rolled onto the set any worry I had went away. He doesn’t allow his team to get sloppy.
Horror News Network: What is your thinking on the importance of humor and dialogue in a very heavy action and horror film?
Lepre: I think it’s needed. You can’t make a pure horror flick in today’s world. People react different to things. Something scary to one may come off funny to another. So, I figure have a balance. I also knew where to draw the line before the film could be labeled a horror or comedy.
Horror News Network: What’s next for this film and where can we find out more?
Lepre: Right now, it’s getting reviewed and so far, it’s been positive. It’s also been on its film fest run and it’s getting great feedback. The distribution part of the film I’m keeping a tight lipped on it. Let’s just say the film will be out in 2018. For all details and updates on the film, please “follow” us on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheDarkMilitary/ and check out the films website at http://www.averagesuperstarfilms.com/
Horror News Network: Thanks for your time!