Six weeks of filming a Western-style fantasy horror comedy about vampires ended last month just in time for cast and crew to don Halloween costumes for a "wrap" party.
Not many of the costumed revelers came as vampires, though. Everybody was sick of vampires by then, and of costumes for that matter, said Marsha Barton, women's costumer for Sundown Productions Inc."Smashing" was Barton's description of the final party. "A few sets got damaged. Everybody's starting to fry at the edges."
The production of "Sundown: The Vampires in Retreat," shot entirely in Grand County, spanned at least six weeks. While most expressed relief that the work was over, they also were leaving with warm memories of the southeastern Utah desert countryside and the townspeople.
Nearly 100 local residents were hired as extras, a 9-year-old Moab girl garnered a major role in the movie, and movie star David Carradine and his wife Gayle donated nearly $550 to the ailing art department in the Grand County Middle School from a fund-raising dinner they coordinated while here.
All of it served to cement a mutual regard between the town and production company that some complain has been sorely lacking in previous endeavors.
"Talk about nice people, they're wonderful people," said Yvonne Pierson, whose daughter Vanessa landed a major part coveted by hundreds of other little girls.
"There's been movies come in here that aren't classy; these guys have a lot of class, besides being very good with the community," Pierson said.
Bette Stanton, executive director of the Moab Film Commission, estimated the company spent about $1 million in town during its stay.
The movie, a $3 million production of Vestron Pictures of Delaware, is due for release next summer, said Anthony Hickox, director-producer.
"It's about a community of retired vampires who moved out West because they have nowhere else to hide, and they're manufacturing fake blood, trying to fool the humans that they can fit in," said Hickox.
"I call it a fantasy-comedy; it's very funny, a very original, exciting story."
A London-based writer-director, Hickox had his first major film, "Wax Work," released this fall.
He said there were 32 speaking parts in the Moab movie, which brought to town 20 well-known character actors and movie stars, including Christopher Bradley, Emmett Walsh, John Hancock, Phil Esposito, Lloyd "Sunshine" Parker, and John Ireland, familiar to Moabites from filming here in the 1950s.
Lead roles went to Carradine, Morgan Brittany, Maxwell Caulfield, Jim Metzler and child actors Erin Gourlay and Vanessa Pierson of Moab.
Jack Jones, location casting director, said all the extras "were just magnificent, really incredible people" and the experience in Moab was "tops."
Other cast and crew echoed Hickox' sentiments and were also effusive about Pierson's daughter. Everyone called her "a natural" and predicted she would make good in movies if she chose to follow the star route.
Outdoor scenes were shot in canyons and parks and along the Colorado River, and indoor scenes took place in a warehouse in Moab. The town of Thompson turned into a haven for vampires, and at the old airport south of Moab, Translyvania loomed in the facade of a gloomy grey mansion.
Hickox said he tends toward horror films, and the area inspired a sci-fi movie he would like to do here in the future.
What movie-goers will definitely see are incredible skies, amazing night scenes and majestic settings captured in cinemascope, Isaacks said.
"The quintessential western landscape," as Metzler put it, was perfect for Hickox' script, which includes a western-style clash between good and bad vampires.
"It's going to be a shame when this thing goes to TV, because you won't see half the picture," Isaacks said. "The scenery is classic, absolutely classic. It's fascinating. I took a drive off the road and stumbled into a canyon with beautiful red rock and it was another world."
Exactly as Hickox would have it seem.