Writer/director Chuck Parello, who has previously helmed such reality-based fear features as HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER PART 2, ED GEIN and THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER, gave Fango the scoop on his next foray into murderous true crime, POWDER BURNS. The movie is set to star Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin who also appears in the upcoming fright features DON’T LOOK UP and DETENTION.
“POWDER BURNS is inspired by a true case that occurred in the Midwest back in the 1970s, and has always haunted me,” Parello tells us. “A beautiful and headstrong teenaged girl’s father and older, married lover got into a violent confrontation, which caused her to become so unhinged that she was suddenly convinced that her dad was going to kill both her and her lover. The girl then tried to hire some creepy hitmen to wipe out her father before he could get her and her boyfriend, but that effort failed miserably, and this highly manipulative girl ended up talking her boyfriend into murdering not only her father, but her mother and younger brother as well. It’s an intense story that I’m in awe of. I think it’s going to shake up a lot of people—quite a feat these days, when audiences seem so incapable of being shocked.”
Williams (pictured) looks to be an up-and-coming horror heroine but hasn’t had an abundance of exposure just yet, and Parello is hopong POWDER BURNS gives her a chance to truly shine. “Zelda was the suggestion of producer Mike Muscal, who had just worked with her on DETENTION, which I believe was David Carradine’s last film before his untimely death,” Parello says. “Mike sent her the script and she loved it, so we met and talked about the type of film I want to make. When I realized how fearlessly committed to the project she was going to be, I stopped looking for anybody else. It turns out that she likes dark themes in films as much as I do, so I’m sure this is going to be one special partnership. She’s a hell of an actress, and I believe POWDER BURNS is going to give her a platform to really show what she’s capable of.”
As on his previous efforts, Parello’s BURNS budget won’t be incredibly high, but he’s looking to make the most of what he has. “When you make films as dark as POWDER BURNS, you go into it knowing that it’s not going to be funded with trillions of dollars,” he explains. “That’s fine, though, because it makes creating something truly special, something that will stand out from the pack, even more of a challenge. We have enough money to make POWDER BURNS an awesome film, but it will be tight enough that everything will have to be planned out in advance very, very specifically. Obviously, a movie like this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but every project I have been involved with involving serial murderers has more than made its money back, which is not something you can say about a lot of independently funded productions.”
So what is it that keeps Parello coming back to this bloody reality-based well? “I’ve always loved movies about crime, like IN COLD BLOOD and BADLANDS, so making films that are similar in scope is like a dream come true. I guess my professional indoctrination into serial killers came when I got John McNaughton’s disturbing masterpiece HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER released into theaters after it had been languishing on a shelf for a number of years, because it had been slapped with an X rating by the MPAA for ‘disturbing moral content.’ That led to my getting the opportunity to direct the sequel to HENRY. It ended up being considered a pretty good follow-up, so I was then offered another serial-killer film, and then another one after that, etc.
“I have written scripts that are not about narcissistic sociopaths,” he adds, “but whenever I talk to producers or financiers about projects we might do together, the topic of bloodthirsty psychos always seems to rear its head—after all, there’s no denying their appeal in the commercial marketplace. One day I’d like to make a movie not involving all this violence, but for now this is sure an interesting way to make a living.”