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Dead Meat, Starring Ron Jeremy, Premiered May 1st
By Constantin Traian Preda
Set in the quiet downtown district of Lakeland, Florida is the historic Polk Theater – a 75 year old grand movie palace that once showcased vaudeville and some of the first "talkies" to hit the silver screen. Adorned with warm amber lighting, plush velvet seats, and a spacious grand balcony, the Polk seems like an unlikely place to see a gory horror movie with slutty lesbian kung fu cheerleaders, a perverted southern sheriff, and a murderous chili chef.
Yet, on Sunday, May 1, 2005, an enthusiastic audience of horror fans got just that. The Polk Theater's silver screen showcased something very different than its normal run of cinema: the premier of producer/director/writer Philip Cruz's Dead Meat – an inventive splatter fest starring one time porn king and recent Surreal Life resident Ron Jeremy.
Dead Meat, the second feature film by Cruz (a Lakeland High School class of '93 graduate), is a comedy/horror described as "Halloween colliding with American Pie." Cruz produced the film with fellow screenwriter James Hyde.
It's about four cheerleaders who get stranded on a back road in the middle of nowhere Florida while on their way to the regional championships. All hell breaks loose when, after defeating their rivals in a kung fu battle, they end up in what seems to be an abandoned hunting lodge just over yonder some orange groves.
Meanwhile, a duo of escaped convicts also decides to hold up in the hunting lodge while keeping the cheerleaders hostage. Little does everyone know that the ghost of Andre the Butcher (Ron Jeremy) is out to harvest their souls for hell after turning their flesh into delicious chili!
"Ron Jeremy is incredibly professional, easy going, and just a fun cat to have around," explains Cruz in an e-mail interview. "He has very good manners, he's respectful of everyone - especially the ladies, and he's also a very good actor."
When asked if there were any funny stories about Ron Jeremy and Dead Meat, Cruz has this to say:
There is a part in which "Ron Jeremy grabs Jasmine (April Billingsley) from behind and stabs her. Right after he pulls the knife out, he farts really loud! The whole crew busted up laughing. And it's in the final cut."
Shot on various high definition and 24 P cameras, Dead Meat was shot in 12 days in Lakeland, Florida featuring an entire Florida cast and crew (except for Jeremy).
"We already had a lot of resources set up in the area from our first film, The Big Bang," says Cruz, referring to another feature he directed in Lakeland in 2003. "We thought it was best for our budget."
Currently a resident of Los Angeles, 30 year old Cruz expressed love of his hometown of Lakeland and gratitude for the cast and crew that brought his vision to life.
One of the individuals that helped bring that vision to the screen is Orlando indie film crew member and actor Jeff Blake. Originally signed on to be a grip on the movie, Blake also ended up playing two key roles in the film after the original actors didn't show up for the first day of shooting.
Getting some of the biggest laughs, Blake played the role of "Half-Cop", a police officer that had the misfortune of being chopped in half by Andre the Butcher while still remaining alive throughout the entire film.
Blake had been buried up to his neck in dirt, stage blood, and raw pig guts for over six hours while screaming "Somebody Kill Me!" His punch line coupled with his perfect comedic timing and facial expressions left the audience in stitches.
According to Blake, "I was buried in that hole for 6 hours man. The sun goes down and I'm still buried, covered in blood and pig guts. I sat cross legged. My legs cramped up half way through. It was nuts."
Blake's job didn't stop there. Additionally, he was Ron Jeremy's body double. Similar to the role Nick Castle played as "The Shape" in Halloween, Blake played the shape of Ron Jeremy. In fact, Jeremy was only in the scenes in which his face is visible (most of the time, Andre the Butcher wears a welder's mask).
Blake, who didn't even get to meet Ron Jeremy, says that in the end it was all worth it.
"Seeing it right here [at the debut], seeing people happy and laughing - it's great! That's why we make movies."
Co-producer Steven Shea, who was brought on the help produce Dead Meat affirms, "The real star of the film is Jeff Blake! His role was absolutely unbelievable and everyone applauds him for the amazing performance he gave."
Shea, an Orlando filmmaker who recently completed his first feature The Night Owl hooked up with Philip Cruz after responding to an ad for Dead Meat on the web. He brought additional crew and equipment to the project.
"There's a huge wealth of resources... in the Orlando area. There's definitely a market here. There isn't a lot of Hollywood stuff coming through, but there are a lot of people doing projects, getting out there, [and] making things happen." Shea's next feature film, Hoodoo for Voodoo is being shot in Louisiana and Central Florida.
Even with a strong crew and a solid script, making any movie is tough, especially a movie with explosions, several actors, and little money. Dead Meat was no exception.
On the last day of shooting, the production ended on a 20-hour day. The cast and crew had seen the sun rise, set, and rise again. Finishing at 5:00 AM in the morning while the temperature was about 45 degrees didn't help.
"And I was puking every 15 minutes the next morning just from general exhaustion," Cruz confesses. "It was good times."
Dead Meat has already been locked into a distribution deal and is expected to be available on video rental shelves at Blockbuster stores nationwide.
However, don't expect to see it called Dead Meat once it hits shelves. There is another horror movie about zombies with the same title that will be released in June 2005 from Ireland. Currently, Cruz is thinking about re-naming his movie to Fresh Meat. Coincidentally, Fresh Meat is also the title of one of Ron Jeremy's porn films from 2000.
Dead Meat is an offbeat, humorous, interesting horror movie with a clear story and some reasonably convincing special effects.
Featuring a compelling cast of assorted characters including a priest turned prisoner named "Hoss" (Maury Sterling), a tough female cop named "Deputy Hollingsworth" (Faye Canada), and a sensitive, horny jock named "Jimbo" (Justin Capaz), Dead Meat is unlike many indie horror movies shot on video in that in looks great, sounds great, and actually keeps the audience's attention from start to finish.
Cruz's next projects include a horror movie that takes place in a strip club and a martial arts epic that includes lesbian ninjas currently titled Carpet Ninjas.
When asked if he had any regrets about Dead Meat, Cruz responds with, "Hell no! How many people get the chance to say they made a sexy, gory, and hilarious horror movie with Ron Jeremy?"
Dead Meat is testimony that when indie cast and crew members come together with passion, persistence, and skill, a great project can be created outside of the Hollywood machine showcasing the many talents of the Central Florida film and video community.
Constantin Traian Preda is a freelance writer and TV producer in Orlando, Florida. He produces and story edits programs for MTV and VH1 and he is the producer, director, and creator of Cinema Café on Vision TV. He is also the host and producer of "Flicks on Fairbanks", a monthly indie film/video showcase at Austin Coffee and Film. Check him out at www.constantinpreda.com