Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

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A few finishing touches on those zombies

Talking with local filmmaker Kerry Prior as he wraps up “The Revenant”

CineVegas

Excuse me, I’m looking for my teeth and pupils.

Beyond the Sun

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Kerry Prior has forgotten to pay his power bill.

The writer, director, producer and editor of CineVegas zombie/vampire horror-comedy "The Revenant" is standing in his house on the west side of town with the doors and windows open, multiple fans running and a loud generator pumping away in the backyard. Because even little things like getting the power shut off can’t stand in the way of Prior finishing The Revenant, which is set to screen at the festival a week from today. In nearly every room of the house, members of Prior’s postproduction team, most flown in from out of town, toil away at coloring footage and rendering special effects. The air conditioning is a luxury in the Vegas summer, but computers absolutely have to be working.

“Here we have a production that’s more than a million bucks, and a $136 (expletive) electric bill could mean the difference between screening at CineVegas or not,” Prior says with a smile, but there is a real sense of danger to this down-to-the-wire enterprise. “We’ve been applying to festivals for six months now, thinking, ‘Ah, we’re almost done with it,’” he says, even as tinkering goes on all around him. He shows off a complicated effects sequence that occurs near the end of the movie, which is being cobbled together from a test shoot of the Hollywood Hills location and footage of actor David Anders in front of a green screen. Prior marvels at the ingenuity required of his crew to make this one scene work. “I still think it can’t be done,” he says, “but it has to be done.”

Prior has more than two decades of experience making the impossible possible; now 43, he started working in special effects when he was just 18, contributing to major Hollywood films like "The Abyss" and "Total Recall" during years spent at effects house Dream Quest Images. He’s best known, though, as the go-to effects guy on the "Phantasm" series of horror movies (the ones with the killer silver sphere). “Eventually you start questioning what you’re doing with your life, making models for somebody else’s crappy science-fiction movie or whatever,” Prior says. “So I’ve been pushing toward writing and directing for years, really.”

Three and a half years ago, Prior, who’s originally from Ohio, left LA to come to Vegas. Two years ago, he started preproduction on "The Revenant," his third feature as a director (the first two were never released), with his own money, eventually landing Anders (of TV’s Heroes) and Chris Wylde as the leads, and leveraging them plus the quality of his script to find financing. Over a year ago, he finished principal photography in LA. Now with the premiere only a week away, Prior’s had distributors large and small expressing interest, even without soliciting them. “Obviously, I’d love to see it go as big as possible. I’d like to break records,” he says. “All I can hope is we get a lot of people there who want to release a vampire movie, and who think this might be the one.” That, and for the power to come back on.

"The Revenant" screens June 11 at 11:30 p.m. and June 13 at 11 p.m. There will be an afterparty for the film at Rojo in Palms Place at 1:30 a.m. following the June 11 screening.

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