From a dark basement in Lancaster County, a voice cries out.
“Halloween is never canceled!”
Just then, another voice springs out of the ooze.
“Well yeah, but maybe I will be.”
The two voices in this dramatization belong to Adam Lenhart and Jake McClellan, who, along with Eric Griffin, will premiere a new original film this week -- just in time for Halloween. Titled “HeBGBtv,” the feature-length movie follows the trio’s successful “Halloween Horrorama” event at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse last October.
“I think we started talking about it while smoking cigarettes immediately after [‘Halloween Horrorama’] ended,” says McClellan, who creates and performs under the name Knucklehead. “I think we knew what we wanted to do and what we didn’t want to do.”
“HeBGBtv,” which will receive the live premiere treatment at an event called Nights O'Fright, outdoors at Phantom Power tonight and Friday, is a mixed bag by definition. In the broadest sense, the film is a loving tribute to horror’s rich history of anthology films, but it also has the TV tropes many millennials will appreciate.
“A lot of this whole thing is like, if you were a kid staying up later than you were supposed to in the ‘90s watching TV, what is it that you see?” says Griffin.
One of the big differences this year is that the creative trio is leaning less on “found footage” from the internet and more on their own content. Scenes vary wildly from one to the next – one minute you’re learning about how a vampire deals with puberty, and minutes later, you’re hearing a catchy song from the perspective of a candy corn quartet that doesn’t get enough love.
Filming began in March, and the crew worked right up t>hrough the weekend before Halloween to ensure everything would be ready in time.“I think the project has changed a lot over 2020, but we’ve tried to stay liquid with it,” explains Lenhart. “Thankfully, we formed a very small isolation cell of the three of us quarantining together, and then we have a very small skeleton crew and other people working with us.”
In another change from last year, several Lancaster County actors and locations are a part of the fun, as opposed to mostly featuring McClellan and his bevy of created characters. Locales such as Square One Coffee and Mr. Suit Records are repurposed, and actors such as Ian Sanchez-Herasme not only played parts, but wrote scenes and musical numbers.
And while man-about-town DJ Salinger does not appear in “HeBEGBtv,” we do get the next best thing – his kids, Van and Willie.
“Look, I’m not a huge fan of kids, but [Van and Willie] are some awesome kids,” says McClellan. “If I was a child getting asked to be in some silly commercial, I would die happy.”
Outside of the Lancaster sphere, “HeBGBtv” will also feature a last-minute appearance by Andrew Bowser, better known as viral TikTok star Onyx the Fortuitous.
One of the most obvious changes in the trio’s second year is, of course, the effects of COVID-19. At last year’s Zoetropolis performance, the cast was able to fluidly mix video with live stagecraft, which would be difficult to recreate in an outdoor setting at Phantom Power.
Griffin, Lenhart and McClellan plan on utilizing three different screens, but concede that the debut will have to be sort of an “amped up screening.”
“We leaned into theatrics last year, but it would be silly this year if we fought the digital age, especially now,” says McClellan.
Due to the tenuous connection between original and copyright materials last year, the crew wasn’t able to share “Halloween Horrorama” very far past the initial screening. Griffin confirms that “HeBGBtv” will go online in the near future after the debut.
Horror films and sequels go together like creepy music and jump scares, so when asked to compare their own sequel, Lenhart didn’t hesitate to shout out 1985’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.” Once maligned, that film’s mix of bawdy humor and goofy scares seems like a perfect comparison for the fun weirdness “HeBGBtv” promises to deliver.
Griffin sums it up best.
“This is the kind of movie where people will say, ‘That’s stupid,’ but they’re laughing.”