Nfld. & Labrador

Self-taught horror savants Grind Mind still turning worst nightmares into reality

One year into making budget horror flicks, the self-taught St. John's film crew has a new ambition: going pro.

A year into DIY project, St. John's film crew says they've learned enough to try to make a living

The scariest thing for this film crew of (from left) Francois Van Zyl, Shane Mills, Justin Wiseman and John Carter was turning 30, but they used that fear as an impetus to start making movies. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

If it keeps you up at night, horror film crew Grind Mind has probably made a movie about it.

The St. John's quartet vowed last October to make one freaky flick every month, and say after a year of experimenting with scripts and set design, they've sharpened their skills on a shoestring budget.

After hitting 30 and realizing they hadn't yet breathed life into their death-driven movie ideas, Mills said the four friends promised to regularly write and produce short films, which they post online.

Now, the crew boasts a portfolio that runs the gamut from gore-filled takes on local folklore to their newest horror-comedy web series, Deadflix.

"I think we've probably pissed off a few spirits along the way," laughed Shane Mills, who juggles directing, editing and shooting.

Grind Mind came about as a kind of challenge between friends, but the group says they now harbour loftier ambitions. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Tuesday marks exactly one year since the group first turned their nightmares into reality, churning out a broad spectrum of unnerving shorts in that time.

Mills explains there's no method to how they decide what to make next. 

"We're not trying to hit touchy subjects, it's just kind of what comes to us," he said.

"We've dealt with situational terror, we've had serial killers, we did one about mummering … we're trying to hit every genre as we go along, but it's very much based on what we can do, really."

Skeleton crew

Mills admits they sometimes choose creepy folk stories for the exposure therapy: next on their list is a twist on tales of the Old Hag, playing on Mills' own fear about a nighttime visitation from the old lady, who's said to terrorize half-awake minds during a bout of sleep paralysis. 

The DIY group operates on a skeleton crew, as Justin Wiseman slyly puts it, producing their shorts without outside intervention.

He takes care of the special effects, while member John Carter composes and Francois Van Zyl deals with writing and lighting.

Running a "skeleton crew" has its challenges, but Wiseman says with a bit of internet savvy, he's able to learn all he needs from online tutorials. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"Between the four of us, we have all of the creative skills that we've always needed to make these things, we just didn't combine forces until now," said Mills.

Mills says their local spin on the indie-horror canon has garnered a fan base that helps them out when they need actors and extras, but putting together a sharp production still takes some inventive jury-rigging.

"You try to find the easiest, most efficient way to do things with the littlest amount you possibly can," Wiseman said, describing the scrap latex piping and other supplies he's accumulated for effects. "Silicone is a wonderful thing."

Despite the limited resources, Mills said Grind Mind has aspirations to go pro.

"We want to make a living in horror," he said

"However that comes about, we're going to continue to push, continue to release new films and hone our craft."