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Hank is down for the Count

by Mark Burger

You just can’t keep a good hero down “¦ or dead “¦ or even undead.

Earlier this year, independent filmmaker Dan Sellers unleashed a horde of zombies upon the Piedmont Triad and introduced a new screen hero in his debut feature Hank vs. the Undead, an affectionate, low-budget, tongue-in-cheek (and teeth-in-flesh) zombie romp.

Sellers has teamed up with Greensboro’s Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema to get the Halloween season off to a bloodthirsty start with the DVD release party for Hank vs. the Undead, which is now available in a limited edition from Brannon Carty’s Greensboro-based home-entertainment label RetroVision Entertainment.

In addition, Sellers will also unleash the premiere of Hank’s latest big-screen adventure, the self-explanatory Hank vs. Dracula, a similarly tongue-in-cheek (and fangs-in-throat) short that pits the eponymous everyman hero Hank (Colton Snodgrass, reprising his role) against the Prince of Darkness himself (Ryan Downing).

“Having already made a film, I had a much better idea of what I was doing,” Sellers admits. “Although I had grown as a filmmaker, I didn’t want to sit back and do the same thing again. I decided to up the ante a bit. While it’s a smaller film in its scope, it’s more complex technically speaking and effects-wise.

“While I call Hank vs. Dracula a sequel, it’s really just another ‘Hank’ adventure – much like the different Indiana Jones or James Bond movies are different adventures, as opposed to actual story sequels,” he explains. “It makes absolutely no sense in the time-line of Hank vs. the Undead, as most of the characters who return were killed off in the first one! I tell people: ‘If you’re thinking too much about it, you’re not getting the premise and spirit of the film to begin with.'” Chris Demm, co-host of the popular “Two Guys Named Chris” weekday-morning drive-time show and the host of “That Demm Music Show” Sundays on WKRR 92.3 FM radio (“Rock 92″) played himself in voice-over in Hank vs. the Undead but here essays the role of fearless vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing.

“My biggest worry going in was wasting the time of the real actors and the crew,” Demm confides. “My second biggest worry was being embarrassed – and this is from a man who’s had Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel poop on his head! Squirrel poop is nothing compared to forgetting your lines time and time again.”

Demm joins the esteemed company of such previous Van Helsings as Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Rod Steiger, Peter Cushing, Hugh Jackman “¦ and, oh yeah, Mel Brooks – to name but a few.

“Honestly I had no idea so many legendary actors had played Van Helsing,” Demm marvels. “Hearing all of their names might have made me back out! I would never dream of stealing anything from an Olivier or a Hopkins. My Van Helsing is kind of like what might happen if you threw Clint Eastwood into a food processor with Jim Carrey “¦ with apologies to both!

“Reading the script gave me some idea of Dan’s comic vision, but when I met Ryan Downing, who plays Dracula, I realized in a hurry that I’d better step up my game. He is simply amazing. His look, his attitude – Ryan is Dracula! Believe me, it was tough just not to get blown off the screen by the guy. It was an honor to get into mortal combat with him.”

Praises Sellers: “Both of their performances steal the show,” according to Sellers. “Neither are formal actors, but they are great performers and they knocked it out of the park. Downing brought his incredible charisma and energy he’s known for onstage, and Demm was able to tap into his talent for creating characters with his voice through his decades in broadcasting.”

Sellers has a number of irons in the fire, including a comic-book adaptation of Hank vs. the Undead, the documentary feature Sammie the Comic Book Man, a short film (Dark Heat) that will become a segment of the upcoming horror anthology Witching Hour II, working alongside Carty for the latter’s debut feature The Shark, and he’s the director for the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 9-10 at the Ansonia Theatre in Wadesboro – near the site where Sam Raimi made his 1987 classic Evil Dead II, which will be screened for free during the festival.

“Right now, there are no plans for another Hank adventure on film,” states Sellers. “However, whether or not Hank returns to the big screen depends on the audience and their desire to see more. While I love the characters and have a few ideas how to square him off against other public-domain monsters, there are no actual plans in the works. I think the dream scenario would be if a small studio were able to actually remake Hank vs. the Undead with an actual budget and crew. I would be thrilled to bring Hank back on that scale.” !

WANNA go?

Hank vs. Dracula will be screened 5 pm Saturday at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, 2134 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro. Tickets are $5 and $10 (the latter includes a DVD of Hank vs. the Undead). Showtime is 5 pm Saturday. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.355.7180 or visit the official Geeksboro website: www.geeksboro.com. The official Wreak Havoc Productions website is www.wreakhavocproductions.com.

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