Sounds slimy and bloodsucking. A leech. Or there’s the seeping, leaching cesspool. To leach.
Let’s just say both. Leach is a feature length suspense thriller from writer-director John Taylor and actor-producer Jim Dougherty. It was a nightmare of Taylor’s which inspired the script.
It’s a nifty play on words, for the story focuses on two newly acquainted men, one of whom is a dangerous sociopath named Ron Leach who won’t let go.
Think Robert Walker’s Bruno in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and you get the idea. Bruno imagines he had a deal with Farley Granger’s Guy and won’t take no for an answer.
Photo: Jim Dougherty as Wes
In Leach, Dougherty’s Wes has to deal with not only a twisted villain but the twisted villain is a cop. Thomas J. Smith does a superb job as Leach, a police detective who will go to just about any lengths to retaliate and avoid exposure of his crimes.
Jim Dougherty does a great job as the frazzled family man/wannabe filmmaker who doesn’t know what to do as Detective Leach stalks and threatens him from all sides.
This movie proves that well-done suspense and ultra-low budget are not mutually exclusive. It’s a great thriller, where the danger grips you and takes you for a ride. Not necessarily a train ride, but hold on to your seats.
The film screened recently at the Indie Film Con, sponsored by the Indiana Filmmakers Network. Jim Dougherty was there to give some behind-the-scenes tidbits, and John Taylor weighed in with some background on his nightmare that was so inspirational...
Jim, did you or John Taylor re-watch Strangers on a Train before production began?
We hadn’t actually made any comparison to Strangers on a Train until after the film had its initial test screening. It turns out to be a very interesting comparison that many people have made.
Photo: JoLibby McDermott as Wes's wife Sarah
John, can you elaborate on the nightmare that led to this script?
I dreamt nearly the entire story over the course of one night of sleep. The dream itself ended with me running for home in an attempt to beat the killer there, whom I was certain was on his way there…that’s when I awoke. So, as far as the movie is concerned, I was left to figure out the ending.
Odder than most dreams I’ve experienced, I could remember every detail quite clearly. You could say the dream was much like seeing a preview of the film, only much more intense and emotional since I was literally in the shoes of the protagonist. It resonated with me for over a year before I began outlining the story.
Any similarity to Strangers on a Train is coincidental. However, I’ll admit that I’m not only a fan of Hitchcock, but that Strangers on a Train is one of my favorite films he did. So there’s definitely something to be said for how the things that influence us, good or bad, subconsciously make their way into our work.
Photo: Thomas J. Smith as Ron Leach
How was the casting done for the two lead roles?
John: I knew I wanted Thomas J. Smith to play Leach within minutes of waking from the dream.
Jim: As for me playing Wes, John and I had met for coffee and talked about me helping to produce the film. After the first reading, I called John to give him my thoughts on the script, which I loved. He tossed out the question of which role really attracted me.
In independent film at this budget, we all wear many hats on both sides of the camera. I shared my thoughts on a few of the characters and told John that Wes really resonated with me. His response was pretty much if I want it, the role is mine. That was it.
Can you give some examples of how you economize, be creative, and stretch your budget with ultra low budget feature films? Your budget was just $13,000, correct?
Jim: The film was made on that meager budget, yes. Most of it was spent on food, lodging, and fuel. On this particular project, everyone had such a passion for the material that we all worked on it as a labor of love.
We were fortunate enough to have strong connections in Anderson, Indiana (where the film was mostly shot), so locations were relatively easy to secure and people were very happy to help. We did travel for a few locations, though.
The jail is actually owned by Rich and Dann Allen (Rich appears in the film) and is located in Hartford City. The cabin is in Stubin County, the real estate office in Alexandria, and we shot the bank and police interrogation scenes in Rochester with our partner Adam Shephard at 25 North Filmwurks.
The majority of the cast were local actors from the local community theatre.
Any fun anecdotes from on set?
Jim: I think you’ll see on the gag reel on the DVD that we had a great time shooting this film. I was caught on camera more than once laughing uncontrollably. That’s a credit to John’s sense of humor and trying to inject some levity into a very dark film to keep us all in balance, I think.
What’s the current status of the film and where can people see it?
Jim: The film is currently available online at The Watchbox. Here’s a link to that:
And we are working toward a larger distribution in the near future.
Thanks so much, Jim and John. Keep those thrillers coming, and we will look forward to the next ones.