Horror movie filming in Runnels County

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

George C. Romero is the famed producer and director of numerous horror films. He's the son of legendary film director, George A. Romero, whose "Night of the Living Dead," is considered the grandfather of horror movies. The independent movie was filmed in 1968 on a budget of $112,000 and went to gross $12 million domestically and $18 million worldwide, respectively. The movie was extensively criticized for its gore when it was released but is it is considered a cult classic by scholars, critics and fans of the genre. George A. Romero passed away in 2017, but George C. is still carrying the proverbial torch.

That torch has now found its way into west Texas, where writer/director Shane Bradford is directing a new horror movie backed by Romero Pictures and Romero's Indie Brigade. Filming started in Tom Green County, around Water Valley, and has moved into Runnels County. Some scenes will be filmed in Ballinger as well as Rowena. The title of the movie, "Country Club," centers around a character dressed in overalls, plaid shirt and wearing a teddy bear head, who uses a club to dispatch his victims.

"Country Club" director Shane Bradford goes over the scene and lines with two actors.

Bradford said that he wants to see local businesses benefit from the movie being filmed here, "We want Ballinger and the other areas where we film to know how much we appreciate the people out here. If filming a movie brings them in more money, we're happy for that. We have a great producer in Romero and we're not only looking to make a quality movie, we want everyone involved to have a little fun with it."

Bradford needed extras and BBQ pits for the scenes while filming at Harper Park in Water Valley. Through a mutual friend, Bradford recruited San Angelo's Jason Jackson, along with a who's who of local barbecue pit masters to add authenticity, "I got all of my buddies to come out. We have 9 pits out here. We set up on Friday," Jackson said. Filming commenced on Saturday. Bradford says that they were able to work out a deal pretty quickly, "A friend pointed me to Jason and we started talking. I asked him what it would cost me to have his people come out here with their pits. He said that I'd just need to buy the food. Then he said that they'd pay for the food themselves so I said, 'Okay, let me buy the beer.' I asked him if he wanted to jump in (the movie) and agreed so we shot a scene with him." Bradford was interested in more that just simple set dressing, "We wanted a real, authentic barbecue. If we didn't have Jason and the others, it wouldn't have looked authentic. They have been barbecuing since yesterday, just like if they were at a competition. They have brisket, chicken, ribs and everything else."

A crew member works the clapperboard at the start of filming take 24 of scene 7.

Jackson said that being in the movie has been a fun experience, "It's been different. I've never been on a movie set before. This has been really cool. I've liked it." If you had driven by the park on Saturday night, you'd have thought it was just another west Texas weekend with barbecue and beer, never realizing that there was a movie being filmed. Bradford is quick to give credit to the cooking teams, "We want them to get all the credit that they deserve. It's not like we're just going to use them to film some scenes and then forget about them. We told them to use their experience and the movie for when they go to competitions or anywhere else. We really appreciate what they're doing for us.

Director Shane Bradford talks with crew members during a break in filming.

It's not just the barbecue that Bradford wanted to be authentic, it's the music as well. He hired a local band to be in the movie, "We told them that we're not musicians. They're the musicians. We told them to take their music and put it in the movie so they'll get some recognition."

One other element of the filming that is authentic is that it's an authentic family affair, "My cousin, Josh Pool, and I loved watching horror movies when we were growing up. I asked him to be part of the movie so he's directing a few of the scenes." Bradford has other family members and close friends helping out on the sets.

There is a group chat for everyone involved in the movie, as well as Zoom meetings with Romero from his studio. Sitting in on the conference calls, it's easy to see just how involved Romero is supporting this movie. The first meeting was a couple of hours of details with some lighthearted chatter thrown in for good measure. Romero is a down-to-earth, consummate professional who not only wants a successful movie, he wants everyone involved to enjoy the process and become successful in their own right.

Bradford said It's also important to them that the people involved in the movie get the attention, "I'd be happy if the actors and the crew found fame and success before I do."

Frank Castle dressed as the main character in the movie "Country Club." The movie is a horror movie being filmed in the Runnels County area.

The actor playing the role of the slasher is Frank Castle. He's a large, muscular bodybuilder who is a gentle giant in real life. Castle is a dealer of rare toys and comics and can be found at most ComiCons around the nation. He's embraced the role of the slasher, "It's been a lot of fun. We've had a great time out here. The costume gets pretty hot, and I haven't even put on the flannel yet, just the costume head so far." Castle met Bradford through his business, "Shane has bought a lot of rare toys from me throughout the years. We had a good relationship before he ever asked me if I wanted to be part of this movie." In between scenes you'll find Castle talking and visiting with other actors and crew on the set. His imposing physicality is quickly gentled by his quick smile and cordial manner.

The crew prepares to film a scene for the movie, "Country Club."

The movie will be filming in the Runnels County area throughout the week. Once the filming is complete, they'll shoot some additional production footage and go into editing. A release date hasn't been announced yet, but should be coming in the next few weeks.

Bradford said that they'll start filming the final scenes at the Horny Toad Brewery in Rowena at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Bradford invites the public to the filming at Horny Toad as they'll need extras for the scenes.