Legend has it that if you see the Grim Reaper take a soul, you are destined to become him.
But for Raphael (played by Brandyn T. Williams), the lead character in the new locally made independent horror film “A Grim Becoming,” that’s not in his game plan.
He’s young, handsome, arrogant and has a great life he doesn’t want to give up. So begins his comic adventure to defy the Grim Reaper in the DefTone Pictures Studio film, premiering with three screenings this weekend in the Hamburg Palace (31 Buffalo St., Hamburg).
“It’s physical comedy, slapstick without going over the top. Death doesn’t like to be called death in the film; he likes to be called Magoo,” said Michael Sciabarrasi, the film’s executive producer, first assistant director and a co-owner of DefTone.
Oh, and add actor to that list of job titles. “I was really excited. I got to play Death. The greatest role of my life,” Sciabarrasi laughed.
Director Adam R. Steigert, also a co-owner of DefTone, co-wrote the story with Janeen Avery, Christopher Brechtel, Mark Mendola and T.R. Smith with a mix horror and comedy.
“We’re dealing with something we will all unfortunately deal with at some point – death. And this makes light of it,” Steigert said. “The film touches base on a variety of different genres – action, comedy and horror – and it goes back to a lot of original stuff we don’t really see in mainstream horror. As an indie film, we were able to play with limitations and push it to make it look and feel great.”
He added the movie was shot with the idea of a PG-13 rating to make it accessible to most ages.
DefTone Pictures is an independent film company in Hamburg that prides itself on shooting movies entirely in Western New York and featuring as much local cast and crew as possible. “We show Buffalo to be the beautiful city of good neighbors that it is,” Sciabarrasi said. “The acting talent we have here, we put it against the best in the business and it is seamless. We were so proud to showcase what we have here.”
The filmmakers used 500 local actors and extras, plus a crew of more than 100. The film also stars the likes of Britt Griffith from “Ghost Hunters” and indie-film horror icons Melantha Blackthorne, Bill Oberst Jr. and Lynn Lowry. Blackthorne, among others, will be on hand for the screenings.
Not only does Buffalo talent shine, but the Buffalo area does as well at locations including the grain silos, Washington Street and various spots in Elma and Hamburg.
Sciabarrasi recalls shooting a scene on the 24th floor of One Seneca Tower and being awed when the camera panned from the window to show a picturesque view of Lake Erie. “Buffalo is gorgeous,” he said. “That’s our mission – to show the talent and our beautiful area.”
The film was made for $60,000 and was independently funded. “We don’t do Kickstarter. We had 20 people who believed in our film enough to put together $60,000 to get our film made,” Sciabarrasi said. “We’re a young company and doing the best we can to put Buffalo on the map. You can film gorgeous water activity for a spy film, go into a Halloween feature with falling leaves and a Christmas movie with snow all in three months. You can’t do that anywhere else.”
DefTone’s previous film, “Not Human,” is available on-demand and will sold in Walmart stores by Christmas.
What: “A Grim Becoming”
When: 11:59 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday (official premiere), 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Hamburg Palace, 31 Buffalo St., Hamburg
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at the door. Advance tickets are available at World Hollywood Entertainment in the McKinley Mall through Oct. 30.