Producer Wendi Sun has a great deal in common with filmmakers like Brian De Palma, Alfred Hitchcock, and Quentin Tarantino; that is, he understands that the most frightening tales are the ones which present the very possible and horrifying acts of real people rather than supernatural creatures. Nothing leaves as lasting a sense of fear as delivering a film which could have, or even may already have taken place.
The true mastery of this is transporting the audience into surroundings in which they sincerely feel the panic of this environment. This takes immense talent and skill, as evident in the film No Deer for Dinner which Sun produced. As with all great thrillers, No Deer for Dinner is built upon suspense and the fears we all feel exist just below the surface, waiting like a predator for those who lack an astute nature.
There’s a looming sense of dread in the story until the horror is presented in such a common-place and mundane manner that it deepens the uneasiness. Sun concedes that the process of making the film itself was not the most comfortable but asserts that it was his job to make the cast and crew absorb as little of this as possible. The DNA of this film seems to be better for the experience of the filmmakers as the unsettling tone is often subdermal in the scenes of No Deer for Dinner.
The dichotomy of Indie films is that the lack of studio oversight leads to innovative and creative stories while also negating the sizeable purse which support said creativity. The responsibility for gaining funds often falls in the lap of a film’s producer and demands its own creativity to obtain financing. Sun’s original approach in this regard was to work with director Yuhang Chen to create a demo-reel from the footage captured thus far.
Displaying a simplified version of the story, the quick editing approach featured some of the most striking visual moments propelled by an exciting score. With a substantial investor excited by this demo-reel and immediately signing on board, this Thriller was able to continue forward with the desired creative aspirations the filmmakers intended.
Written by Otoniel Walker, directed by Yuhang Chen, and featuring a minimal cast, No Deer for Dinner takes place in a rural Nevada mountain town. A young couple who has just robbed a bank is on the run and looking for somewhere to hide out. These felons break into an older couple’s house and take them captive, hoping for time to assess the situation and figure out their next step.
The story is a perfect circle of “who is the pursuer and who is being pursued.” The rhythm of a panicked state is palpable from the first chase scene which occurs in the forest. This subtle sense of fear rather than bloody gore allows the sense of foreboding to escalate as we learn more about both couples and the annual disappearance of individuals visiting the area for the past thirty-six years.
The penultimate “rescue” scene of the film is one of the most satisfying horror twists for a Horror film in recent times. The overwhelming embrace of this film is confirmed by its receipt of the Silver Remi-Award at The Houston International Film Festival as well as awards from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Independent Shorts Awards, Oniris Film Awards, and others.
The overnight shooting schedule on a remote farm in Northern California offered some notable moments of uncomfortability for the cast and crew while making this film. Dark, cold, and in the middle of a forest/farm area is not without its own sense of the unknown.
Sun recalls, “Extra coats, heating blankets, and coffee helps keep the mood up and are as important as the right camera equipment when you want to keep morale high. I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we created in this film. The enthusiastic response we got for it made all of those cold nights more than worth it. I also see something very important about this film contributing to the industry. Making a Thriller can enrich diversity of the movie genres. Because this film received a number of awards and recognitions, it encourages a lot of filmmakers try to make a Thriller. I think it’s important that our artistic creations inspire others to make their own creations.”
Writer: Cecil McCoy