Humor and horror hit a hole in one

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First Posted: 9/30/2013

It’s hard to imagine that the writer/director of indie horror films like “Deatherman” was once concerned about the sensibilities of young children, but even Bobby Keller draws the line somewhere.

When PJ Lahey, manager at Lahey Family Fun Park in Clarks Summit, approached him about showing his killer weatherman movie at the park as part of its Haunted Miniature Golf weekends, Keller immediately warned him about the foul language and gory scenes that kids may be exposed to. Instead of passing on the opportunity, however, he presented another idea.

“I suggested that I do a short horror film, like a kid-friendly thing, sort of like ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ or ‘Goosebumps,’ and then I thought, ‘Well, why don’t we do it about mini-golf?’ and then he said, ‘Yeah, you can use the whole park.’ Then I came up with the name and I quickly looked up ‘golf ball Halloween mask’ online,” he recalled.

“The mask I originally wanted to get I couldn’t find for sale, so I used the one that’s in the movie. I actually knew about it because I had the baseball mask in high school and I actually made a horror movie called ‘Field of Nightmares,’ which is pretty much the same premise as ‘Mini-Golf Massacre.’ I played a kid who tries out for a baseball team and doesn’t make it, so he puts the baseball head on and kills everyone on the team and the coach.”

The 29-year-old Scranton resident didn’t hold back on the premise for “Mini-Golf Massacre,” but he did tone the scenes down a bit through humor.

“The character’s name is Leroy, and he’s been working at the Puttz Family Fun Park for about three years as the mascot. So he stands on the side of the road and holds up a sign and gets customers to come in. Mr. Puttz is the owner of the park, and right before he goes on a vacation with his family, he pulls Leroy aside and fires him. In the movie, he says it’s because of the economy, but it’s really because he thinks he’s scaring customers away because he’s really awkward,” Keller explained.

“Similar to ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night,’ he gets drunk (at the V-Spot in Scranton) and goes on a killing spree. He steals the mask back from Mr. Puttz… (Puttz) leaves one worker in charge and things go wrong and the workers and the customers start getting killed off.”

Raising some money online through Indiegogo but mostly paying for it out-of-pocket, Keller shot the movie on video like he did for “Deatherman” to retain a classic look, though it’s a decision he soon regretted in post-production as he spent a week and half just transferring the footage onto his computer.

“I like the way that (video) looks, and I realized this time that it’s really not worth the hassle. The next movie I do is absolutely, positively going to be shot digitally. If I really wanted to, I could just degrade it and make it look bad and still shoot it digitally, especially now that I’m going to school for communications. I’m taking video production at Lackawanna (College) and learning more about digital and editing and getting into lighting and audio next semester. Just being in school is making me realize how much better digital is,” he acknowledged

The shooting of “Massacre,” however, was a much more pleasant and professional experience than “Deatherman.”

“We had a lot more fun this time. We were on a very tight schedule and we had actors and actresses that would actually show up,” he cracked.

“Everybody was dedicated, and I made sure from the get-go that I was working with people from ‘Deatherman’ who I knew were reliable, and then a bunch of new people who I can’t wait to work with again because we all just had a blast doing it.”

That may be because the actors and crew had free reign over an entire fun park during the course of the shooting.

“I wrote a script, or an outline rather, and then once we got there, we looked around and saw what was available to us and we tried to work with that and come up with death scenes and ideas…We tried to use everything that we could, really take advantage of what the golf course had to offer. The only thing that we didn’t get to do was a death scene on a go-cart,” he noted.

“I think I topped myself. I think there’s a death scene that may actually be worse than the worst death scene in ‘Deatherman.’ There’s a scene in a batting cage that’s just awful. It’s intentionally bad, but it’s ridiculous. You have to see it.”

If that’s worse, then how is this appropriate for kids?

“I focused more on the comedy, and in the death scenes, you don’t really see much. There’s very, very little gore and absolutely no bad language. I don’t want to say it’s not scary at all, but we were leaning more towards the comedy than the horror. It’s a simple horror slasher setup, but it’s silly,” Keller described.

“It is a kid movie and there is alcohol use, but it is shown in a negative light, obviously because it makes you turn into a psycho killer immediately, but I hope that they would just laugh and enjoy it.”

The 30-minute film will be premiere on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 9 p.m. and will play on loop every weekend during Haunted Miniature Golf.

“Not everyone is going to stop and watch the whole movie; they’re going to walk by and see like maybe 15 or 20 seconds of it, and hopefully they see somebody getting murdered on a mini-golf course on the screen and then that kind of scares them because they’re about to go walk through it after seeing that,” he said.

“It would be nice to actually scare somebody, but not too much. They’re going to a haunted attraction – they’re supposed to get scared. I think adults would enjoy it more, but it’s not just for kids, especially for somebody with my sense of humor.

“Hopefully everybody enjoys it.”