- Our Sites
- The News-Gazette
- NewsTalk 1400 WDWS-AM
- Lite Rock 97.5 WHMS
- 107.9 WKIO
- Community News
The actors and crew of Kiss the Cook Productions are pretty good at pretending to slit each other's throats. Having made four horror films, they've had plenty of practice.
"The more blood you use, the more real it looks," said director Steve Pratten, noting that they either buy fake blood by the gallon from Dallas and Company or make their own out of corn syrup, red food coloring and chocolate syrup.
"And it smells delicious," added Holly Jellen. She plays a potential murder victim in Kiss the Cook's newest film, "The Mahomet Journal," premiering at Champaign's Art Theater on Tuesday, June 26.
Pratten and fellow director Hayden Waugh, as well as most of the cast, are recent Mahomet-Seymour High School graduates.
Their most valuable prop is a dulled butcher knife. Before each murder, they hot-glue a small sponge to the back of the blade and then soak it with fake blood squirted from a ketchup bottle. As it presses against the victim's neck, the blood seeps out.
"The key thing to do is practice and make sure the sponge hits the neck in the right place," said Cody Brennan, who plays a demented killer in the film. "It's pretty much 'practice makes perfect.'"
The film's budget was $450. That doesn't include some incidentals that the crew hopes to reuse on future movies, such a new microphone and (of course) buckets of fake blood.
"The Mahomet Journal" is more complex than Kiss the Cook's three earlier films, Pratten said. It's a horror movie/mystery with a healthy dose of comedy. The crew knows that their production values aren't the equal of a big-budget Hollywood film, so "we use our inexperience for the best," he added—mixing shock with a dose of camp.
The plot centers around a group of young delinquents ordered to do community service at the local newspaper, The Mahomet Journal. But things start getting bloody when the editor is stabbed to death, and the kids must find the culprit in order to prove their innocence and save their own lives.
This is Brennan's second time playing a psychopath in a Kiss the Cook production. "It's basically all blank expressions and big eyes, and making sure you hold the knife so it looks menacing," he said.
Jellen has appeared in all of Kiss the Cook's films to date—and like any good horror film heroine, she's good at going into hysterics on cue. During filming, "I screamed myself hoarse every night," she said.
The setting of the film will look very familiar to Mahomet residents. Most of the film takes place at the Mahomet Community Center on Main Street (which doubles as the offices of the Mahomet Journal) but scenes were filmed all across the village and beyond. "We wanted it to be a product of Mahomet," Pratten said.
Kiss the Cook—named in honor of a prop apron from their first movie—has been making films since 2008, which was Pratten's freshman year of high school. Their first foray into the horror genre was "Spawn of Andre," which had its premiere at Mahomet's Community Center.
"We decided, on the spot, to make our own cheap movie," Pratten said—and their efforts garnered them more attention than they'd expected. In 2009 they produced "Election Day," which they followed up with "The Better Friend" in 2011.
They've been working on "The Mahomet Journal" since February 2011.
The movie was shot using a handheld videorecorder. A boom microphone and a "light on a stick" round out Kiss the Cook's supply of equipment. Former classmate John Lecouris created the soundtrack, and a few parents stepped in to play adult roles where needed.
Only Pratten and Waugh have seen the finished film so far, and they're anxious to see how it plays on the big screen—and to see their movie listed on the marquee outside the Art Theater. "I've never seen one of my movies on a screen that big," Pratten said.
Following the screening at 7 p.m., moviegoers can purchase DVDs of the film for $5. DVD sales help Kiss the Cook fund future projects. The directors said that the movie was probably appropriate for those aged 13 and up, but Waugh added that he thinks younger kids "will know it's not real."
Although most of the cast and crew are now in college—Brennan and Jellen are studying computer science and pre-med, respectively, at Parkland, while Pratten studies film at the University of Illinois—they hope to keep Kiss the Cook alive. Pratten said that they've discussed focusing on shorter films and even branching out from the horror genre.
Classes and work schedules meant that filming of "The Mahomet Journal" inched along slowly, but the finished product is worth all the hard work, the crew said. "We want to keep going, no matter how slow the pace is," Pratten said.
The official website for the film can be found at www.mahometjournal.com.