Teen anti-bullying horror film plays on LI
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This is not your G-rated "Afterschool Special."
"Red Head Randy" is an anti-bullying movie for teenagers being screened free on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Sunrise Multiplex in Valley Stream. The feature-length film concludes with this moral: "Your actions have consequences. Every choice you make today will come back to you tomorrow."
But because the creators wanted the movie to appeal to high school kids, they chose to write and produce a genre that teens embrace -- a horror flick.
The first hour of the movie sets up the relationships of the popular kids and the underdogs at the fictional Montauk High School on Long Island, and some of the grown-ups are no better behaved than the teens. Then comes the comeuppance: A bullied teen who killed himself in 1989 returns to teach a lesson to those who behave badly. Creepy music, visions of violence, some pot smoking and a few bloody scenes end with characters expressing this message loud and clear: "It's time that we treat each other with love and respect."
A chunk of the movie was filmed in Valley Stream, Plainview and Miller Place, and several actors are Long Islanders, including leads Meredith O'Connor, 17, of Cold Spring Harbor, Courtney Moore, 19, of Bohemia, and John Formica, 50, of Plainview, who is also an executive producer.
"I got a lot of opposition at first from anti-bullying organizations," says Raymond Deane, 31, of Springfield Gardens, Queens, the mastermind of the film. They told him that he shouldn't spread ideas of revenge, he says. "But I feel that kids will want to really go see it. I will market it as an anti-bullying horror film for sure. It has a ghost."
While Joseph Salamone, executive director of the nonprofit Long Island Coalition Against Bullying, isn't 100 percent comfortable with the idea of getting back at the bullies, he does applaud the effort to produce a film that teens can relate to, saying it's better than "another boring assembly that they're not paying attention to."
'What if . . . ?'
Deane came up with the idea for the movie when he heard about 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi killing himself in 2010, after Clementi's roommate secretly used a webcam to broadcast Clementi kissing another man.
Deane, appalled by the cyberbullying, thought, "You know what would be crazy? What if he came back to life?" When he learned of still other kids who had killed themselves after being bullied, he was even more upset. He called Phillip Hammond of Rosedale, his best friend since high school, and said, "Yo, we should do this movie. We have a great opportunity here."
Says Deane: "I realized a lot of those kids, in their minds they're literally believing what they're told about themselves." He wanted to teach kids: "Opinions do not define who you are."
The duo -- who own Raymond Deane Films and PH Consulting & Media, respectively -- initially raised about $18,000 on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com. They decided to cast some kids who have actually gone through bullying -- including O'Connor, who says she was bullied in middle school for being an outcast. In the movie, she plays head cheerleader and high school senior Melissa Evans.
First public screening
"It was a crazy experience to play such a mean person," says O'Connor, who added that she remembered the evil stares of the girls who bullied her for being tall and skinny, and she tried to re-create them in the movie. "It was weird to be on the other end of it."
The kids are bullied because they are overweight, gay or just plain geeky. In one scene, a gay student is eating lunch when another comes up and says, "Looking a little hot there. Let me cool you off," and pours water on his head. In another, a popular boy publicly humiliates an overweight girl who has a crush on him. "Usually I only date girls that are about a size 2, and you look like you're pushing a size 30," he says to her, and he and his friends fist bump.
O'Connor, Moore, Formica and several other co-stars, as well as Deane and Hammond, plan to attend the first public screening in what Deane and Hammond plan to make a wider anti-bullying tour. Deane -- who also plays a bullying basketball coach in the movie -- and Hammond say they hope to get the movie professionally scored so they can enter it in film festivals.
WHEN | WHERE Doors open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21 at Sunrise Multiplex (750 W. Sunrise Hwy., Valley Stream)
INFO Free; snacks for sale