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About Willamette week. (Portland, Or.) 1974-current | View This Issue
C O U R T E S Y O F B R YA N H I LT N E R
Friday the 13th
Duh. 5th Avenue,
Oct. 13-15. Laurelhurst,
What better way to
honor the late, great
Harry Dean Stanton
than with a movie that’s
mostly about his weath-
ered face? The story of
a semi-mute, estranged
father named Travis is
full of lonely LA and
West Texas scenery
and Ry Cooder’s gor-
geous slide guitar score.
Hollywood, Oct 12.
RACHAEL PERRELL AND DONNY PERSONS IN CORPSE.
PORTLAND HORROR FILMMAKER BRYAN HILTNER HAS TURNED NECESSITY INTO IDIOSYNCRASIES.
BY SHANNON GORMLEY
A week before CORPSE is scheduled to screen
at NW Film Center, Bryan Hiltner’s new short
fi lm still isn’t fi nished.
“We’re in frantic post production right
now,” says Hiltner “It’s just a stressful mad
scramble to get it all done.”
Like most of the Portland filmmaker’s
movies, CORPSE is a psychological thriller. A
couple (Donny Persons and Rachael Perrell)
check into an Airbnb where they get into an
argument. But the tense, domestic scene con-
tains a dark, supernatural twist. Their relation-
ship starts to fall apart along with the movie’s
sense of reality when their argument bookends
a bizarre dream sequence in an eerie forest.
But until about a month ago, Hiltner was
going to make an entirely different film. It
would also be set in an Airbnb, but that Airbnb
would be run by a couple who cut open the
skulls of their guests to perform experiments
on their brains. Depicting live brain surgery
would have required special effects, though,
and crowdfunding didn’t go as planned. “It
got really grim where we didn’t get almost any
money,” says Hiltner. After a month, he had
raised less than $2,000 of his $16,000 goal.
“I wrote a new script in 48 hours and we just
made a different movie that was simpler and
cheaper,” he says.
What made the alternate CORPSE different
from Hiltner’s previous movies wasn’t that he
couldn’t meet his budget, it’s that he was trying
raise a substantial budget in the fi rst place. “My
other short fi lms, we had no money from the get-
go,” he says. “So I wrote for having no money.”
Hiltner is a Beaverton native who learned
how to make movies by throwing himself
into the deep end of Portland’s independent
film scene, starting with Attack of the Flix.
Curious Comedy Theater’s monthly series
screened new shorts by Portland filmmak-
ers. Hiltner challenged himself to enter as
often as he could, and ended up making five
movies over the course of just six months.
“There’s probably a lot of videos that I
should mark private on Vimeo just because
they don’t necessarily seem that profes-
sional,” says Hiltner about his early work.
Now almost a decade into his career, Hilt-
ner’s made upwards of 16 short films with
moody lighting and glossy cinematography
using low to nonexistent budgets. Most of the
fi lms that will screen this Wednesday along with
CORPSE were created in just a few days.
Necessity is what lends Hiltner’s movie
their idiosyncrasies. He says he’s more
interested in feature-length films than
shorts, but shorts require far less resources
(his first full-length film has been in prog-
ress for seven years). The unintentional
advantage of short horror movies is that
they’re conducive to sustained, uncomfort-
able moments and condensed, whirlwinds
plots. Without a budget for special effects,
Hiltner forgoes jump scares and gore for
movies that are more unsettling than scary.
Hiltner’s filmography is dotted with odd
Portland references. “ When you’re mak-
ing low-budget movies, the first thing you
do when you write the script is go ‘okay,
what do I have at my disposal,’” he says.
Another fi lm that will screen this Wednesday
is Elena Vance, about a woman murdered
in her home on Peacock Lane while hun-
dreds of unaware bystanders take pictures
of the Christmas lights outside.
The movie’s premise was partly inspired by
the opportunity for a free filming location—
Hiltner decided to make Elena Vance not
long after one of his friends moved into a
house on Peacock Lane. Similarly, CORPSE
was filmed in another friend’s Airbnb.
Though it’s somewhat accidental, there’s
something darkly funny about a horror
film set in an Airbnb or on Peacock Lane.
Hiltner’s constant output helped con-
nect him with Portland’s independent
film scene. “I’ve helped out a lot of friends
on their movies and those are the same
people that work on my movies,” he says.
“Now when I have these impulses like ‘let’s
make a movie,’ all of a sudden there’s 10,
15 people who are like ‘okay we’ll do it.’”
According to Hiltner—who was once
stalked by a set designer hired off of Craig-
slist—Portland’s artistically hungry fi lm scene
has been one of the greatest tools for making
movies. While filming Spunk of the Reaper
earlier this year, actress Alysse Fozmark had a
serious allergic reaction to the catered lunch.
“At the end of each take, she’d go to the
bathroom, vomit, come back and do the scene,”
says Hiltner. “Nobody’s making money off of
this movie. People like that just want to make
art and they’re willing to be miserable to do it.”
Though he’s deep into the most stressful part
of making CORPSE, Hiltner says that the lack
of funding might have worked out for the best.
“I actually like the script a lot better,” he says.
No money means no bloody brain surgery
scenes, but it also means a more subtle, insid-
ious approach to creating an unsettling film.
“All of a sudden we didn’t have the money to
show scary things,” says Hiltner. “We have
to present ideas that hopefully creep people
SEE IT: Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t
Mean They’re Not After You: Short Films of
Bryan Hiltner screens at NW Film Center’s
Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave., nwfi lm.
org. 7 pm Wednesday, Oct. 11. $9.
Jacques Tati’s mostly
silent comedy is one of
film’s most masterful of
masterpieces. The visu-
ally striking movie’s six
different storylines are
set in a claustrophobic,
futuristic Paris. NW Film
Center, Oct. 16.
Wes Craven’s post-ironic
slasher flick Scream was
both a send-up of and
homage to horror, cred-
ited with bringing the
genre out of the direct-
Laurelhurst, Oct. 11-12.
Somebody in this camp
ain’t what he appears
to be. John Carpenter’s
tense horror masterwork
features lots of disgust-
ing practical effects and
Kurt Russell reaching
maximum Kurt Russell-
ness. Plus, Hollywood
will screen the movie in
70mm film. Awesome.
Hollywood, Oct. 13.
(1981), through Oct.
12. The Omen (1976),
Oct. 13-19. Clinton: The
Craft (1996), Oct. 16.
on a Train (1951), Oct.
11. The Wizard (1989),
Oct. 12. The Sound
of Music (1965), Oct.
14-15. Rocktober Blood
(1984), Oct. 16. Joy:
Curse of the Swamp
Creature (1966), Oct.
11. Kiggins: Friday
the 13th Part IV: The
Final Chapter (1984),
Oct. 13. Laurelhurst:
Frankenstein (1931), Oct.
11-12. Dracula (1931), Oct.
13-19. NW Film Center:
Earnest and Celestine
(2013), Oct. 14. Kubo
and the Two Strings
(2016), Oct. 15.
Willamette Week OCTOBER 11, 2017 wweek.com