I hear a growl... motorcycle—or werewolf?
Robert Conway is trying to do for New River what George Romero did for Evans City, what Sam Raimi did for Morristown.
Conway will be howling like a wolfman if his in-production "Hellhounds" goes from low-budget horror to box-office gusher, a la Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," filmed 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Romero’s hometown, or Raimi's "Evil Dead," made in a cabin in creepy Tennessee.
Conway actually has a leg up on those two, at similar points in their careers. While Raimi and Romero had to beg and scheme to get on big screens, thanks to Amazon Prime, Conway has a ready market for his flicks.
Though he has months of post-production work ahead, Conway just finished shooting "Hellhounds," mainly around New River.
Which, if you know it, is a pretty creepy place itself. Small-town vibe by day, but by night…
Strictly "strangers stay out!" Probably a few Raimi-esque cabins...and perhaps a Romero zombie or two wandering the town 30 miles north of downtown Phoenix.
HARK Valley caught up with Conway for a Zoom interview from his Tempe home.
What’s the deal with “Hellhounds”?
“It’s about a group of bikers who are secretly werewolves,” Conway said.
Niiiiice. And werewolfing is a coed sport, here:
After a massacre, he continued, most of the Hellhounds gang are wiped out, setting up a big showdown.
“We shot in New River. I developed a fictitious town called The Scrapyard. It’s a no-man’-land where criminals can go to pay for shelter...
“Big shout out to Dirty Dog Saloon in Scottsdale; we used that as the biker bar. And we used the Roadrunner Saloon in New River.”
He occasionally goes to L.A. for work, but mainly has been able to make a string of movies right here in Arizona.
His horror-thriller films and neo-Westerns include “The Encounter,” “Krampus Unleashed,” “Krampus: The Reckoning,” "Eminence Hill” and "The Covenant." Check out his Amazon Prime page.
Conway started his career with "Redemption: A Mile from Hell" in 2009 while taking film classes.
How does he fund his Roger Corman-fast filmmaking, cranking out about one movie a year?
“A fair portion is presale; the rest of it is private equity,” Conway said. “I have a group of investors.
“My films are pretty commercial; we don’t do too badly. For a small budget operation, our films do pretty decently.”
When “Hellhounds” comes out in 2022, for example, he expects to be on Amazon Prime, Hulu and “all the streaming platforms.” DVD’s will be on sale in Walmart and some other stores.
It’s a long way from Hollywood, how does he find actors?
“If you watch my films, you’ll see the same faces quite a bit, we’re a tight-knit community. But I’m open to new talent,” Conway said. “We have a great talent pool in Arizona.”
He took filmmaking classes at Collins College and Scottsdale Community College. “But for me, the best film school was being a production assistant in Prescott when I was 20, that was 22 years ago.” He was a low-level dude on “The Cactus Kid.”
“I was just happy to be on set, getting people coffee,” he said. “And seeing the machine, how it works.
“I had young college kids working on ‘Hellhounds’; that’s the way to learn—not taking anything away from colleges.”
Conway feels the Arizona landscapes give a dash of hot sauce, so to speak, to his action movies. “The southwest is so beautiful, I think that’s something that’s unique in my movies.”
His movie-in-process is a great example, he said.
“The opening shot is the Mogollon Rim, with the beautiful pine forests. Then, we follow down into the desert, down in the Valley. George Lucas always said, ‘Try to put at least three starkly different environments in a film.’ I try to do two.”
Check out the scenery and some scenery-chewers, as Conway shared a very-early trailer for his action flick.
For more stories like this or to subscribe for free (and receive HARK Valley twice a week in your email), visit harkvalley.bulletin.com.