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Hayride was a sleeper slasher hit, and here we talk all about it with director Terron R. Parsons and star Sherri Eakin, writes the Sinister Siblings

A horror film featuring a masked killer, urban legends and Halloween is exactly the sort of film that we love, and with all the hallmarks of a guilty viewing pleasure, 2012’s Halloween horror film Hayride is a great example of how a smaller budget doesn’t automatically mean smaller ideas.

The Sinister Siblings recently caught up with writer/producer/director Terron R. Parsons and lead actress Sherri Eakin to discuss this ‘Southern Style Shocker’.

Shot throughout 2011 in Terron’s native Alabama, the film focuses on Steven (Jeremy Ivy) and his girlfriend Amanda (Sherri Eakin) as they head back to Steven‘s family farm for Halloween. Every Halloween, Steven‘s uncle ‘Captain’ Morgan (Richard Tyson) runs a Halloween hayride where the main attraction is a local legend – Pitchfork – a killer who stalks the countryside, killing people with a … yup, you guessed it! Only this year, an escaped killer is loose in the woods near Captain Morgan’s farm and, for the passengers on the hayride, they may be in for more than just a scare…

Officially conceived when Terron and co-producer – and childhood friend – Thomas Hatchett were in a store late one October night, having a long conversation amongst the seasonal Halloween props and costumes about what they wanted to see in a horror film, the roots of Hayride reach further back into Terron’s early years.

As he recalls “Hayride was very much based on a haunted hayride that my aunt and uncle used to do for the community. Because of that, I put a lot of references to my own childhood and family in the movie.” 

Terron’s grandfather used to tell him tales of Rawhead Bloody Bones – a legend that comes out in the film’s campfire scene and is credited to Steven’s Grandpa. Sherri hails from Metairie, Louisiana, which is home to another great legend – The Grunch.

“I remember a teacher once sharing stories about The Grunch, but I think that legend has been mostly lost with time in our area. Maybe someday someone will make a movie about them and bring the story back”.

Along Sherri’s road to Captain Morgan’s farm, she encountered several people that she would ultimately end up working with.

“In June 2010, I attended an acting workshop in Jackson, Louisiana, where I met Jeremy Sande (who plays Corey in Hayride) and we both heard Richard Tyson speak. A few months later, at another workshop, I got a chance to meet employees of a production company, including Jeremy Ivy.” 

Sherri and the Jeremys became fast friends, sharing any acting opportunities and casting calls that came up.: “I was following many casting websites at the time, and I jumped at the chance to submit myself to audition for the role of Amanda, especially after learning that Richard Tyson would also be part of the film.” By the time call-backs were sent out, both Jeremys had auditioned for the role of Steven, leading to a friendly rivalry between the pair. Ultimately Jeremy Ivy would win the role as Sherri’s on-screen partner, but Jeremy Sande won her heart in real life, with the couple marrying in 2017.

Filming saw some challenges, as Terron remembers: “A brand new hard drive that contained the only copy of about 15-20 insanely crucial minutes of the movie, burned up due to a faulty application we bought to edit with!  It legitimately looked like we tried to melt it. The computer forensics business gave us no guarantees that they’d be able to salvage it so we left it there for three days while all we could do was pray. Ultimately we only lost a handful of shots and were able to make it work.”

But all the stress and effort was worth it: “After a long day of shooting early on with just a small crew, we took the footage back to Jon’s (co-producer Jon Kelly) house to screen it.  Happy with what we saw, we decided to show it to his dad who watched most of it with his mouth open before exclaiming, “it’s like a REAL movie!”

Director Terron R. Parsons in his cameo.
Amanda (Sherri Eakin) and Steven (Jeremy Ivy).

Challenges were also faced in front of the camera.

“My favourite scene was also one of the hardest of the shoot,” Sherri explains. “Everyone is on the hayride trailer, and Pitchfork appears wielding a chainsaw. I was covered in sticky blood while crawling on my hands and knees, screaming for most of the night.”

But it wasn’t all bad: “I’ll never forget how excited I was to go back to my hotel, still bloody and filthy, casually walking past the desk clerk on the way back to the room!”

Completed through the use of the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, an experience Terron describes as “encouraging AND exhausting” this ambitious debut feature premiered at the Crescent Theatre in September 2012. Looking back at the premiere, Terron notes “That (the premiere) was one of the most rewarding parts of the whole experience. The first night we had 114 people in a 90 seat theatre and 120 something the following night”.

“It was a beautiful, fun night,” Sherri agrees “It was like a big reunion for the cast and crew and I remember feeling a huge rush when Terron asked me to stand up and help introduce the film.”

The next public screening was at an outdoor haunted corn maze.

“The audience was about double of what we expected and the setting was perfect,” Terron tells us “Being surrounded by nothing but 8 foot high corn, huddled together on a cold night is probably the best way to watch the movie.”

Whilst a film can be forgiven for limited locations and minimal effects sequences when working on a lower budget, it can be much harder to forgive a thin storyline. Thankfully, Hayride is a film that takes its time developing its main characters into three-dimensional people rather than standard ‘Slasher’ stereotypes, introduced simply to be slaughtered.

There is a real sense of family woven through the script – our main storyline sees us following Steven as he returns to his roots and reconnects with his family. There’s a suggestion that he doesn’t come home as often as others would like him too – he, himself, mentions that he’s glad he could “finally make good on his promise to come visit” – and there’s just a hint of family tension in the air. This is underlined by comments made by Morgan, questioning whether Steven is a “rider or a worker” – the not-so-subtle dig highlighting how Steven has distanced himself from the family.

When Steven sheepishly admits to Amanda that you spend “half your life pretending you’re not from Alabama”, it shows that he really is nostalgic about his ‘home’ and maybe just a little sad that he’s been away. The family connection is raised again when we see a thoughtful Morgan skirting around the topic of who will take over the farm – and the hayride – in the future.

It’s clear that Morgan would prefer it to be Steven rather than his own son, Corey. These scenes are only fleeting, but show a depth not always seen in lower budget horror films and shows that Terron was working hard to fill his leads with rounded lives and histories.

Budget constraints also led to an uncredited cameo by the director. Look for him near the start of the film – he plays Jeff, the poor worker who was running lights at the old hay barn. Speaking about the part of the film he jokingly refers to as “the only thing I regret about the movie”, Terron recalls.

“My playing Jeff was instigated by Jon Kelly who, for some reason, really wanted me to do it. We ended up doing about 2–3 days of pickup shots just before we locked the picture with that scene being the last and most elaborate of them. I’m not a fan of it, but it’s funny to go back and watch it.”

“My playing Jeff was instigated by Jon Kelly who, for some reason, really wanted me to do it. We ended up doing about 2–3 days of pickup shots just before we locked the picture with that scene being the last and most elaborate of them. I’m not a fan of it, but it’s funny to go back and watch it.”

Terron also donned the killer’s costume for a couple of shots in the haunted house chase sequence, stabbing through the wall at our hero, Steven.

“Thomas Hatchett, who was technically directing that scene, kept calling me out for doing a spin move with the pitchfork each time I pulled it out of the wall. I didn’t realise I was doing it, but agreed that it felt a little out of character for Pitchfork. But if you look closely in the scene, it snuck its way into the final film anyway!”

The film plays upon the classic horror movie tropes of isolation and ‘The Outsider’. Most of us can relate to a time we’ve been somewhere and felt – or been told – that “you don’t belong here”.

Amanda’s character represents the audience in the role of ‘The Outsider’; like us, she has never been to the locations, met the people or heard the stories. As clues and facts emerge, we learn them along with her. Sherri plays Amanda really well here, resisting the need to ham it up as a ‘city girl’. She’s respectful of the locals and their customs, doing her best to join in.

“I did not have to try hard to imagine what Amanda was feeling, as I had moved to Mississippi as a total outsider from New Orleans at fifteen years old,” Sherri recalls.

We double down on our ‘Outsiders’ as we also have Detective Loomis (Corlandos Scott) arrive in the neighbourhood to track our escaped killer, Guffin (Shannon Box).

With a man called Loomis chasing a masked killer on Halloween night, Hayride clearly wears its ‘Slasher’ heritage on its bloody sleeve. Those of you who’ve spent time in the ‘Slasher’ world will find some elements of the film reminiscent of Madman (1981), Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th – Part 2 (1981) as well as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974).

“Loomis’ name originally wasn’t ever spoken out loud in the script.” Terron explains. ”I kind of just named him that for my own amusement but a rewriting of his introduction scene for logistical purposes required us to say his name over the radio and by that point we had been calling him that on set so we just went with it.  I don’t think I would have made that decision if the scene had been written that way to begin with. I generally don’t like to make too many references in my writing to other movies, but when it comes to horror the main audience is usually such diehard fans of the genre that I think it’s nice to have little winks and nods that you can pick out.”

A good horror film – such as the ones mentioned above – knows that the occasional light hearted moment provides a pause for the viewer to catch their breath before the next scare. A great moment occurs when Steven is recounting the Pitchfork legend to Amanda over lunch. Expecting her to totally buy in to the tale, Amanda instead picks holes in the story before summarising it as “sounds like lazy writing to me!”

As with a lot of horror films based around a date/event – there is the threat that the build up to the titular hayride could drag and lose the audience. But the first act’s combination of Steven and Amanda arriving and the Pitchfork story being unpacked along with the manhunt for Guffin provides enough material for the viewer to chew on while waiting for Captain Morgan to start the ride.

Hayride cast and creators Jonathan Kelly, Richard Tyson, Thomas Hatchett, Sherri Eakin, Jeremy Ivy, and Terron Parsons. Picture: IMDB

What becomes apparent quite quickly when watching the film is that it’s not full of traditional Halloween iconography – you won’t even see a single Jack O’ Lantern. We queried Terron on this choice: “You know, that’s interesting. There were times when I kept dialling back some of the traditional decorations as they felt like unintentional references to Halloween (1978). We had a couple of moments where I had to ask ‘who put that there and what reason did they have?’ when it came to Halloween decorations.

“One of the things that I had hoped to flesh out more was that we were seeing behind the curtain of something we’re used to being on the other side of. I liked the idea of seeing the more business / production side of that.”

Now 11 years old, Hayride’s longevity is pleasing to its creator. Available to watch in Australia on YouTube (where it’s clocked up over 6.8 million views as of this writing), the film has seen release in numerous international markets – in the UK as Halloween Haunting, in Europe as Pitchfork Murders and in Japan as Halloween Killer: The Beginning. T

he film’s international reach has surprised Terron; “I remember seeing that the film had made a few thousand dollars in the Middle East and being both grateful – and a little confused!”.

Even negative reviews are viewed philosophically: “I gotta be honest – I’m just happy to have people talking about it. The whole thing should have fallen apart a million times in a million different ways, so to have it available to be screened and critiqued at all is enough for me.”

Hayride is a love letter to the ‘slasher’ genre.” Sherri enthuses. “It takes people back in time to when movies were made for pure fun. And you can’t deny the fact that the South just does it a little better than anywhere else.”

Spawning a sequel in 2015, Hayride is a great example of what can be achieved in the low budget horror world when you have a dedicated cast and crew. A fun Halloween film to watch with friends while sharing some drinks and snacks, it is a film that invites repeated viewings and will be one the Sinister Siblings will watch again in Octobers to come. As summed up by Steven: “Keep it simple – simpler is scarier. (People) don’t come to learn some lesson in life or to hear a compelling story. They come to be scared.” He’s right – sometimes that’s all you need!

We’d like to send a massive thankyou to Terron and Sherri  for taking the time to answer our questions. Look out for Sherri in the Netflix film We Have a Ghost directed by Christopher Landon (FreakyHappy Death Day).

For more film and TV news, read our blog.


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