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10 Tragic Film Set Disasters

Alec Baldwin was recently involved in a fatal movie set accident when a prop gun misfired, killing the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and injuring the director, Joel Souza. Busy filming the New Mexico western, Rust, with co-producer Baldwin also playing the lead... no charges have been laid yet with a full scale investigation currently underway. The incident recalls the tragic death of 24-year-old Brandon Lee during the filming of action thriller, The Crow (1994), who died after a slug was dislodged and fired into his abdomen by a prop .44 Magnum revolver loaded with blanks.

The shock news story and Hutchins' tragic death serves as yet another reminder of the dangers of working in an industry concerned with the art of illusion. Flirting dangerously close with death in order to get the perfect shot, it's imperative that experienced stunts and munitions professionals are hired to perform and co-ordinate stunts. Tragically, accidents can and do happen on set with Rust joining the long list of deadly movie sets. While these tragedies do lead to films becoming notorious, they should also serve as a healthy reminder of just how much stunt people put their bodies on the line for the sake of the silver screen.

These equally devastating incidents just highlight their contribution and makes you wonder why stunt performers don't get more acknowledgement or recognition beyond in memoriam film dedications. Their efforts are designed to become invisible and while they understand the risks of the job, it just seems as though there isn't enough award recognition for their efforts, respect for their contributions or compensation when accidents happen.

10 Tragic Film Set Disasters

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Steven Spielberg's Twilight Zone: The Movie is steeped in notoriety after a tragic incident led to the death of actor Vic Morrow and two children, who were hired illegally. The production used multiple directors to film three short films, which played as a feature film. During the shooting of an aerial stunt sequence directed by John Landis, tragedy struck when high winds, pyrotechnics and an overly complicated stunt forced a low-flying helicopter to crash into the path of Morrow and the two children.

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story (2014)

Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story is an unfinished biographical drama, which was set to star William Hurt but led to an investigation due to criminal negligence. Tragedy struck on the first day of filming on an active railroad trestle bridge over the Altamaha River in Georgia. When a train approached, the cast and crew got off the tracks leaving their props behind. Hitting a gurney the train inadvertently threw second assistant camerawoman, Sarah Jones, into the path of the locomotive killing her instantly and injuring several others. This incident has led to the creation of the Safety for Sarah movement.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

The finale to the successful and long-running Resident Evil franchise, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Milla Jovovich, left the zombie action series on a tragic note after a serious injury and death rocked the production. Jovovich's experienced stunt double, Olivia Jackson (Mad Max: Fury Road), lost her left arm after injuries sustained during a motorbike stunt forced her to have it amputated. After this horrific ordeal, the set suffered yet another disaster after crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was killed during a botched car stunt involving a Humvee after it slid off a platform and pinned him to a wall, resulting in injuries that led to his death hours later.

Dead Pool 2

Ryan Reynolds is the star of Dead Pool, an irreverent action comedy that sees the actor play the titular near-invincible and masked superhero. The much-anticipated sequel was marred by the death of stunt performer, Joi 'SJ' Harris, who died after hitting a curb, losing control of her motorcycle and crashing into a plate glass window during an action sequence near Shaw Tower in Vancouver, Canada. An experienced rider, it was her first job and she wasn't wearing a helmet because her stunt double character, Domino, didn't wear one in the scene.

xXx (2002)

xXx was a stunt-orientated actioner for Vin Diesel in his prime, which saw the actor take on an action adrenaline hero. Sadly, Diesel's stunt double, Conway Wickliffe, who died on set after suffering a severe head trauma during a botched stunt rehearsal. Preparing for a scene involving the Batmobile, Wickliffe was leaning out of a Nissan 4x4 travelling parallel to an old American police car when the driver failed to make a 90 degree turn at the end of the run only to hit a tree.

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Being a tribute to action men of the '80s, it's no surprise that Sly Stallone's Expendables series is jam-packed with wild stunt work and pyrotechnics. The Expendables 2 upped their game, going for bigger and better and hiring Con Air director Simon West to replace Stallone. Tragically, a sequence shot by the second unit saw the death of 26-year-old Kun Liu and injury to Nuo Sun after the stuntmen got too close to an explosion near a rubber boat on the Ognyanovo dam in Bulgaria.

Top Gun (1986)

The iconic '80s film is celebrated in pop culture but a tragic aerial stunt sequence still haunts the film's crew and cast. Well-known and experienced stunt pilot, Art Scholl, was flying a Pitts S-2 camera plane and wasn't able to maintain altitude after an uncontrollable spin forced him to plunge into the Pacific Ocean off the Californian coastline never to be recovered. A chilling and fateful moment, observers watched the incident unfurl in which his last words were "I have a real problem".

Red Heat (1988)

Red Heat is a buddy cop movie from the '80s co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi, who play police officers on either side of the Iron Curtain. Sadly, stunt coordinator Bennie E. Dobbins known for TRON, The Running Man and Commando suffered a heart attack, brought on by a bad case of pneumonia.

Jumper (2008)

Jumper is a sci-fi thriller directed by Doug Liman, starring Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell. Tragically, 56-year-old set dresser, David Ritchie (X-Men), was killed when frozen debris from an exterior set struck him and workers below whilst dismantling an outdoor set in wintry conditions, seriously injuring another man.

Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

Wes Craven's horror comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn, sees the charming Eddie Murphy playing opposite Angela Bassett in a story about a vampire trying to ensure the legacy of his blood line. While quite forgettable as a film, it is remembered for Timecop and Strange Days stunt double, Sonja Davis, who fell 42 feet to her death.
How Many Times Can You Scream?

Just like a classic slasher villain, The Scream franchise refuses to die. Wes Craven's meta serial killer horror mystery thriller set the ghostface killer in motion in 1996 and now 25 years later, we're staring down a reboot in 2022. Slashers typically have some good replay value and whether you kill the masked villain off or not, it seems inconsequential as long as one can rise up in their place.

The original film starred Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox and let's not forget Drew Barrymore and Matthew Lillard. The headline trio of Campbell, Arquette and Cox have returned for the reboot also named Scream. You'd think that 'Ghostface' would be a good title for the franchise resurrection but the producers are looking to capture the brand's audience rather than trying to create something shiny and new.

At least Scream 4 tried something by reworking the title into SCRE4M a decade ago, delivering a fairly lacklustre return in spite of reassembling the original team. Featuring the same actors as this reboot, which actually hinges on the original's lore, it's almost as if the fourth installment never happened.

Neve Campbell is a mascot for the Scream series, who's inextricable link to playing Sidney Prescott has probably been as much of a help as a hinderance over the years. Luckily for Campbell, the constant attempts at reviving the series and character keep her in business. However, one wonders just how long this revival stunt will keep happening. Will she be in her 80s still dodging a masked killer at a retirement home?

Hello Sidney - Scream

Based on the Scream 4's box office profitability, it seems as though no end is in sight. Whether they find a new Sidney... or Tara if you've watched the trailer, it seems as though like Titanic the heart of Scream will go on. Brandishing a modest budget of $40 million, the fourth installment managed to rake in almost $100 million in takings after a $173 million, $161 million and $172 million streak for its trilogy. This fifth Scream film and "reboot" will be the decider. Based on the sluggish post-pandemic return to cinemas numbers... it's make or break. Just like the Fast and Furious managed to overcome Tokyo Drift and an iffy non-Diesel sequel, it's rare but at least possible for a series to reach new loftier heights. Brandishing the meta angle, this series manages to stay fresh by virtue of its self-reference and comedic undertones. Right now, this kind of ironic edge is most welcome... so Scream has everything to lose.

Based on the trailer, it seems as though the new Scream (or Scream 5) is just going for a rinse and repeat trying to capitalise on the 25 year anniversary as a story and marketing concept. Updating the story to latch onto our over-reliance on technology and social media, it could bring something fresh to the butcher's block. Roping in a next generation of fresh meat, the slasher is going for a precarious handover of sorts with enough old "furniture" to revive the nostalgia and spirit of the original. Sprouting lines like "I'm Sidney Prescott, of course I've got a gun.", perhaps this will be Campbell or Prescott's final Scream? Right now, it's becoming a will they or won't they on discontinuing the core character who's becoming more and more likely to don the ghostface mask and come full circle to play the slasher. Let's just hope the Ghostface Killer mask is more a scream than a yawn.

Finding 'Fried Barry'

Have you ever had a film elude you? Until recently Fried Barry has been that film. Having seen the experimental short film (below) a few years back and even interviewing director Ryan Kruger, his feature film debut has managed to slip out of reach again and again.

The epic old school movie poster, experimental concept, short movie and enigmatic star in Gary Green have given this film some buzz and energy. Being geared towards all things cult cinema, there's a mixture of excitement and trepidation about finally getting the chance to watch what should be a frenzy of a Ryan Kruger Thing.

The pandemic made it even more elusive, doing the festival circuit and not quite landing in South Africa apart from a few special screenings. Yet, after missing a few precious moments to see it, including last year's Horrorfest... the opportunity has finally arrived with the film set to premiere on DStv Box Office on 26 October 2021. This means you don't have to pursue the movie, Fried Barry's coming for you.

Fried Barry follows a lowlife, drug-addicted father and husband living in a middle-class nightmare who becomes host to an alien who takes Barry’s body for a joyride through the strangest and darkest avenues of Cape Town. Just as Barry's body is starting to give out after a series of mischievous, whimsical and deranged detours from crystal meth, a rave and even torture... the alien departs having learned a thing or two about the weird and unforgiving existence of humankind.

The pulsating, genre-bending, cult style flick also stars Chanelle De Jager, Johnny Pienaar, Bia Hartensen and Sean Cameron Michael and arrives just in time for Halloween. A first-of-its-kind film for South Africa, the ensemble is bolstered even further by the likes of Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Steve Wall, Deon Lotz and Tuks Tad Lungu. Having Ryan Kruger in the director's chair makes the prospect of seeing it even more tantalising, known for directing music videos and delivering a "what the hell happens next?" kind of short.

'Troll Girl' Short Film to Premiere at CTIAF

Kay Carmichael is an accomplished storyboard and development artist who works in the live-action and animation industry. Having started in animated television she's come to include animated series, feature films and commercials. While she worked on Supa Strikers, Kay's most recent animation work includes Mama K’s Team 4, Moosebox, Fairy Wheels and now her short film Troll Girl. When it comes to live-action productions, she's worked on series and films such as Northmen, The Book of Negroes, Blood Drive and The Perfect Wave. While Carmichael has been working in this space since 2009, she's known for her own comics and has been nurturing a number of passion projects such as 'Sophie the Giant Slayer' and a long-form series.

While some of these projects have been relegated to the backburner, one passion project that has been taking all of her time and energy... is ready to roll. Troll Girl is a fantasy short film that will be making its premiere at the Cape Town International Animation Festival between 1-3 October. The screening will be accompanied by a talk in which the creator will be discussing the making of, in particular the medium of blender grease pencil. Made with support from Triggerfish and the NFVF, this has been a labour of love for Carmichael.

From the trailer, which doesn't give too much away, the textured animation gives the short film spunk. Taking place in medieval times with a fairy tale twist and centred on an outcast, there will obviously be comparisons with Shrek. However, based on the teaser... Carmichael's animated adventure is more dramatic and lives in its own world without leaning on popular fairy tales.

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