The trailer for Josh Bruce’s film. Below, Bruce in a scene shot near the Red Bank Public Library. (Click to enlarge)
By DAN NATALE
Bruce, a Red Bank resident, said this as he surveyed the property behind the borough’s public library, where a few months prior, he and several other young men had smashed a lifeless body’s head with rocks they had found there. But Bruce showed no signs of remorse. In fact, a smile stretched across his face as he recalled the event.
The blood was made of corn syrup, and the head was plastic. Both were props for Bruce’s first feature film, ‘Burn In Hell!‘ When borough cops showed up during the filming and saw Bruce and his accomplices armed with sharp knives and ammonia, one crew member encouraged the cop to smell the blood.
Bruce captured the moment on film, he said.
Described by Bruce as a “B-grade gore fest,” the film, which is still in production, is intentionally campy, and pays homage to the cheesy horror movie genre he loves.
The plot? “It’s a small town, there’s a bunch of gruesome killings, and then there are three guys who go on a revenge-driven journey to hunt down whoever the killer is and destroy him,” Bruce said, “It’s not some serial killer: it’s a big, oozing monster.”
The film was initially shot as a fake trailer, but progressed into a much longer production. It’s now more than 50 minutes long, making it a feature.
The production led Bruce and his crew into a plethora of odd scenarios, such as walking into 7-Elevens covered in fake blood, getting kicked out by police, and filming amid the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy.
The cast of the film has nearly tripled since Bruce first started the project, and includes Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic, employees at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, where they do double duty as stars of the reality TV show, Comic Book Men. Bruce’s father, comics collector and dealer Robert Bruce, is also on the show and in the film.
Also making appearances in the film are a few of Bruce’s peers from Red Bank Regional, where he’s a sophomore.
Chen, who plays a priest in the film, recalled his involvement in the production as an interesting experience.
“I got covered in blood. I got my head smacked into a table. I got my neck broken by a demon. I mean, you name it” he said. “It got pretty crazy. I think that’s his real passion. He likes bloodying people up.”
Although Bruce’s film projects are violent in the extreme, is generally regarded as a peaceful person.
“I don’t think he’s a violent guy,” said Chen. “I think he’s really just a fan of the genre.”
Bruce said his obsession with gore stems from his esteem for B-grade horror films, particularly 1982’s ‘Creepshow,’ written by Stephen King. A staple in the genre, its violence is tongue-in-cheek, as is the mayhem in “Burn in Hell!”
“It’s not done to be serious, it’s not meant to make you sick,” said Bruce. “It’s like going to a carnival funhouse, or it’s like playing that game where you pass around a bowl of spaghetti, and people dip their hands into it. It’s very carnival, fun-house gore. It’s in your face, but in a silly way.”
In the film, Bruce’s character is a metal-head/stoner with no interests besides smoking pot, relaxing, and listening to music. In real life, Bruce is a type-A workaholic and honor student. His responsibilities on set include acting, setting up the lighting, working on special effects, selecting cast members, and picking set locations.
Bruce has no plans to stop making films after ‘Burn in Hell!’ He will be an effects assistant on a film in the near future, and will be working on the gunshot wounds of another production. He also plans to begin working on a “Goonies”-influenced production in the near future.
Dan Natale of Red Bank interned this summer at redbankgreen. He’s a student at Rutgers and a reporter for the Daily Targum.