Horror in Vancouver: Jeff Goldblum and that Aerosmith chick in Britannia Mine

Vancouver has not been kind to Dean Koontz.

First you had his awesome 1987 suspense novel, Watchers, being turned into a godawful Corey Haim vehicle up here in 1988.

Then seven years later you had his fine 1982 supernatural thriller, Hideaway, becoming the type of B.C.-shot trainwreck he tried to sue to get his name off of.

As the Vancouver correspondent for Fangoria when they shot Hideaway back in 1994, I had no idea it was going to wind up being crap. I just wanted to go on the local set and hang out with Jeff Goldblum for a while.

Not to mention that young lady from those hugely popular Aerosmith videos, Alicia Silverstone.

So here’s a shortened version of the set-visit piece I wrote for Fango 20 years ago. Please don’t feel like you have to actually watch Hideaway after reading it. 

 

With its scenic green mountainsides and radiant blue inlets, British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway is the type of winding route car advertisers dream about. On the gorgeous early evening in April when Fango takes the road, though, the path leads not to lush camping grounds and breathtaking vistas but to the dingy, cavernous Britannia Mine.

Director Brett (Lawnmower Man) Leonard and the makers of Hideaway, a psychothriller based on Dean Koontz’s 1992 bestseller, have taken up residence in the long-abandoned location, and now the only resource being sapped from the old copper quarry is fear itself.

A hardhat proves to be required gear for anyone venturing inside the massive excavation. Careful to avoid collision with light and sound technicians ranging about, your correspondent traverses a plywood path set in the mine’s earthen floor that leads to a 40-foot-high heap of scrap metal and amusement park castoffs that has been bent, twisted, and molded to subtly resemble a skull-like face.

This is the Body Hive, the titular location of Koontz’s book where hellbent villain Vassago hides from the light of day, and where at night he brings his victims to be tortured and sacrificed to Satan. Knowing this, yours truly is a tad reluctant to traipse directly into the scary lair, but duty calls and Fango musters on.

Squeezing through a narrow opening between slats of corrugated metal puts one in the epicenter of Vassago’s unpleasant world. In one corner, his filthy bedding is laid out, on the walls hang badly decomposed bodies, the handiwork of local makeup FX man TIbor (Needful Things) Farkas. The mouths on these victims are contorted in agony, and it’s evident they went down hard. He’s a real nasty number, this Vassago.

“I kill for excitement and because it’s the only way of living,” explains Jeremy Sisto, the young actor who portrays the killer. “This boy was a most disturbed child. At a very young age he was experimenting with everything, including the murder of animals and people, until he found that he could never be close to any human, and that human existence was hypocrisy.”

In Koontz’s story, adapted for the film by Andrew Kevin Walker and Neal Jimenez, evil teen Jeremy Nyebern–who later takes the satanic name Vassago–stabs his mother and sister to death before impaling himself on a knife. His father, brilliant physician Jonas Nyebern (Alfred Molina), brings the kid back from the dead with his groundbreaking resuscitation techniques, which he also used to save good guy Hatch Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) after a fatal car accident.

Both resuscitees spend time in their respective afterlives–Nybern/Vassago in hell, Harrison in heaven–and when they’re returned to the living, a strange psychic bond connects the two. At emotionally charged moments they see things through each other’s eyes, and what Harrison spies through Vassago’s peepers isn’t pretty. It makes him fear for the safety of his wife Lindsey (Christine Lahti), and daughter Regina (Alicia Silverstone), both of whom Vassago would like to “entertain” in his nightmarish netherworld.

Although Vassago gets his jollies extinguishing as many young lives as he can, he quickly becomes fixated on the innocence and beauty of Silverstone’s Regina–and you can’t blame him. The 17-year-old actress recently proved her popularity with the masses when she took home two MTV Movie Awards–Best Newcomer and Best Villain–for her performance in The Crush. She was also nominated for Most Desirable Female, but was just as happy not to win.

“I didn’t like that one,” says Silverstone, munching on microwave popcorn in her trailer. “Best Villain’s cool, but I think Most Desirable Female is pretty pathetic, considering that I was 15 when I shot it. I’d rather people didn’t see 15-year-old girls in competition with Kim Basinger. But what are you gonna do?”

Silverstone created quite a stir when she stole the show from Cary Elwes in The Crush, where she played a young wacko obsessed with–and willing to kill for–an older man. But as Silverstone sees it, her role wasn’t nearly as cut-and-dried as that.

“When I read the script I saw it as a love story, I really did,” she insists. “I believed my character was a wonderful girl who wasn’t trying to do anything wrong, she was just totally misunderstood. And the way it was edited, I do have a problem with it, because they cut out a couple of key scenes. There’s a scene where we go in the pool, and it shows how he’s the one who’s confused, ’cause he’s attracted to me, and into this. He’s tickling me and holding me down in the water, so I pull away from him and I’m like, ‘Wait!’–you know, ‘Leave!’

“I guess they decided it would be much more commercial to sell it like she’s a psycho bitch from hell and she wants to kill everybody,” she continues. “Of course she has a screw loose, that’s obvious, but it’s much more intriguing to see the struggle between them.”

Fans of The Crush who got a rush out of seeing the angel-faced Silverstone doing serious damage to anyone who threatened her romantic plans may be disappointed to know that her mayhem quotient is considerably toned down in Hideaway.

“Unfortunately, they have me tied up quite a bit,” she says, “so I don’t get to kill anybody or do anything exciting like that.” Silverstone says that the best things about being in Hideaway are working with Goldblum, eating the steamed rice he cooks, and meeting his equally talented girlfriend.

“I’ve had a great opportunity to meet someone I really admired as an actress, Laura Dern. If I hadn’t seen her work in Smooth Talk, I would have been hopeless for The Crush. I would only have been able to be evil; I wouldn’t have had any idea how to alluring or anything. Smooth Talk really helped me discover whatever sexuality I had.”

Dern, in fact, is on set visiting the busy Goldblum in his trailer while the lanky actor takes a breather from shooting one of Hideaway‘s final scenes. Best known for her courageous work in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart and the box-office monster Jurassic Park, Dern hangs around just long enough to offer a friendly smile, then retreats to the back of the trailer while Goldblum hunkers down at the kitchenette.

Being in such close proximity to The Fly himself, the talk quickly turns to the subject of makeup FX, in particular those employed in Hideaway. According to Goldblum, this film won’t have the same kind of gooey gore sequences that made folks shudder back in ’86.

“Brett says he’s gonna have very little of that on screen,” says Goldblum, “just a suggestion of it here and there. But there are some murders in it, and I’m involved with the first vision that I have through this killer’s eyes. I, or he, or me as him, is slitting this girl’s throat, and it’s horrible when I wake up and don’t know what’s happened! At first I think it’s a hallucination from having been out that long, and then two nights later the same thing happens, and by then I’m convinced that I may be blacking out and doing it myself!”

“And then I’m with Alfred Molina, and another body that Vassago has killed come out of the freezer,” he continues. “Now, in this movie I’m not the kind of guy who’s used to being around dead bodies. I’m an antique dealer! So it’s horrible.”

Goldblum’s character in Hideaway may start off as a mild-mannered curio salesman, but near the end of the film Hatch Harrison is transformed into a desperate, shotgun-toting man with a mission, that being to save his family from Vassago and send him back to hell. When Goldblum is called away to shoot one of the final confrontation scenes in the mine, Fango tags along.

Under Leonard’s close eye, Goldblum strides purposefully towards the Body Hive, shotgun in hand. From atop the scrap-heap skull, Sisto taunts him: “I’m not afraid of you! I can see through your eyes! You’re nothing! You’re just a link between me and Regina!” Goldblum draws a bead on the bad guy, then tosses his gun aside. He surveys the mountain of mangled metal in front of him, looking for a way up, and starts to climb before Leonard shouts “Cut”.

They shoot the scene a dozen times or so, a the bearded, pony-tailed Leonard–wearing a Stunts Canada baseball cap and a Lawnmower Man jacket–takes swigs from a jumbo-size bottle of mineral water and coaches Goldblum on the finer points of approaching the Body Hive. When they finally cut for lunch–at 1 a.m.–most of the crew has a tasty curry dinner on their minds, but Fango doesn’t rest until makeup man Todd McIntosh has been rounded up and grilled on Hideaway‘s FX.

“On this show there’s a whole bunch of little effects,” says McIntosh, whose makeup trailer boasts a prominently displayed copy of Fango. “Brett’s vision, his idea, was to show the most horrific thing that he could, but cut it quick. You never linger on it; you never see much of it.”

In Koontz’s novel, Vassago’s killings are often preceded by sadistic torture, as he attempts–usually successfully–to extract information about the Harrisons from various innocent parties.

“The people who read the book will be familiar with a lot of the things that happen,” McIntosh promises. “There are a number of slashed throats, there are the cut-out eyeball sequences, a couple of bodies that end up in the Hive are odd. Like Rose gets her head put on backwards, and Zoey ends up with the eye cut out on one side and bloody gashes up the other. And Vassago keeps cutting himself and healing in sequences, so there are a lot of tight little effects like that.”

To get the final word on how the Hideaway shoot is going, it’s time to talk to the director himself. Leonard is tracked down in his trailer, where he and his wife, Hideaway coproducer Gimel Everett, are hungrily devouring curried chicken with all the fixings. Between bites, Leonard fills fango in on the shoot.

“It’s a very complex film to make,” he says, “because the killer and Jeff’s character are psychically connected, so we have all these visions and a lot of special effects work to do that link in with live action.”

Leonard’s groundbreaking work with computer animation, as seen in Lawnmower Man, should result in some of Hideaway‘s most eye-popping moments. But the director points out that gorehounds looking for a heavy dose of grue won’t be getting it here.

“We’re not portraying the violence as graphically as it’s portrayed in the book,” confirms Leonard, “and there’s a lot more in the book than what we’re showing. We’re creating more of what we call a transcendental thriller, something that is focused on the suspense and the metaphysical aspects of the story as opposed to the gore.

“It’s more along the lines of Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist, which I feel are films that transcend the genre of ‘horror’. Not that I have anything against horror films. I enjoy horror films, but this just doesn’t qualify as that.”

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