Las Vegas Sun

July 21, 2019

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Vegas filmmakers ride horror genre with latest offering, ‘Party Bus to Hell’

Tara Reid

Tara Reid appears in a scene from “Party Bus to Hell,” an indie horror movie filmed in Las Vegas and the Valley of Fire.

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"Party Bus to Hell" will be available at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, PlayStation, and XBox as well as through cable and satellite providers. The film has a limited theatrical run April 19-22 in California (April 19 in Pasadena, April 20 in Santa Ana and April 22 in Hollywood). The DVD release date is June 12. The international release will happen in six months.

Amid their relentless drive to boost the Las Vegas film scene, two brothers who comprise a locally based production team have churned out another horror flick.

"Party Bus to Hell," an indie movie starring Tara Reid and filmed in Las Vegas and the Valley of Fire, will have its video-on-demand release on Friday.

The plot follows a party bus that breaks down on the way to the Burning Man festival. As happens in the Nevada desert, the passengers find themselves stranded among a group of Satan worshippers. We won’t share any spoilers, but there’s a massacre and somehow Reid’s character acquires a giant machete to go along with her hippie flower crown.

“I really want to bring Hollywood to Las Vegas,” says Michael Mahal, co-founder of Mahal Empire Productions, along with his brother Sonny. The duo have found that horror, with its low-budget charm and built-in fan base, is the easiest way to stay out of the red.

The Mahal brothers are already hard at work on their next horror flick, "Art of the Dead." They’ll film in Las Vegas in May, shop the movie at film festivals in the fall and then release it next spring. In addition to seeking traditional investors, they’ve raised $73,550 via an IndieGoGo campaign.

Starring Reid and Richard Grieco, the movie is a contemporary Vegas twist on the Oscar Wilde classic, "The Picture of Dorian Gray." In this version, an unsuspecting family purchases a collection of cursed paintings that represent the Seven Deadly Sins. Next thing they know, they’re being sucked into paintings and falling victim to pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, greed, envy and wrath.

“We hype the hell out of our movies on social and show the entire process. If we go on a location scout, we share the entire album. When people know how excited we are, then they want to be a part of it, too," Michael Mahal said.

Mahal decided to scrap his dreams of being a writer and director in favor of being a producer. “There are lots of great directors out there,” he says. “But few people can do what I can do in terms of raising the money.”

So for "Art of the Dead," the brothers came up with the story concept and then hired horror movie veteran Rolfe Kanefsky to write and direct it. This serves as a natural transition to reaching their next goal as producers.

“One of our biggest aspirations is that we’d like to raise $100,000 and give 10 filmmakers $10,000 each,” Mahal says. “We’d like to take a break for a year — we’ve been making a project every year nonstop for six years — and let some other filmmakers have the reins and see where they go.”