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Living Off The Dead

Plainview filmmaker directs life of horror

It is a dark, bone-chilling night and a madman is on the loose. The guts of a thousand tormented and dismembered souls line the hallways as mutilated bodies are stacked 10 high, blocking any possible escape. The air is choked with a sinister silence, broken only by the shallow, halting breaths signaling a coming dread.

You are about to die. And you love every minute of it.

At least that is the hope of Plainview filmmaker Frank Sabatella, a horror fanatic and maven of the macabre who recently wrapped the short slasher flick “Children of the Witch,” about a troupe of undead, resurrected, turn-of-the-century trick-or-treaters who terrorize an all-girls slumber party.

“Hell ensures,” said Sabatella, who wrote and directed the film from a story he wrote with fellow fiend Marc Schoenbach. “As you can imagine, beyond the grave trick-or-treaters are not too happy.”

Sabatella is the founder of Sideshow Pictures, a ferociously independent production company designed to produce high-quality, fiercely entertaining and highly marketable content for horror audiences worldwide. The projects range from monster movies to splatter flicks to nail-biting chillers, all with the collective mission of reanimating the horror genre for a new generation of blood-starved, gore junkies.

It is a life-long passion for Sabatella, who remembers exercising his knack for creeping people out at a very young age.

“Apparently I’ve loved scaring people since I was very young,” he said, recalling how his mother found papers he wrote in elementary school declaring his devotion to deviousness. “But people want to be scared. You get to go through those terrifying emotions without actually dying. It’s a catharsis of the mind. You feel that terror, but you are ultimately safe.”

However, the actors in Sabatella’s films are not safe for long. Aside from “Children of the Witch,” Sabatella has raised society’s body count in the short films “Night of the Pumpkin,” “The House That Cried Blood,” and the feature length movie, “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet.”

“Blood Night” was a true labor of love for Sabatella, albeit a twisted sort of love, to be sure. The film stems from the real life Long Island legend of Mary Mattock; a young girl who in 1978 gruesomely murdered her family with a hatchet and was locked away for life in the island’s notorious Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

The movie follows a group of teenagers as they come face to face with the legend, facing her blood-soaked hatchet one-by-one. The splatter-fest, dripping with gore, guts and sex, features an array of doomed actors, including legends of the genre, horror-character actor extraordinaire Bill Mosely and scream queen Danielle Harris.

Sabatella said great horror actors must convey the proper emotions — a sense of fear, vulnerability and of course, a good scream.

“Actors and actresses love getting killed,” he said, adding that the actresses in “Children of the Witch” could not wait to be covered in blood. “They’re like, ‘when do I get to die?’ It makes for a lot of fun on the set.”

Sabatella goes high gear on the set; working long hours to get the film in the can and even longer hours when it comes time to edit. But that’s not even the hardest part of filmmaking, according to Sabatella. For him, the darkest time in the process is sitting and staring at a horrifyingly blank page while trying to write a script.

“Writing is the truest form of abstract,” he said. “I’m staring at a blank page trying to draw my ideas into words and bring some sort of semblance to it all. At that point the story can go in so many directions and I’m always questioning if I made the right decision.”

Also an established photographer, Sabatella has an eye for the absurdly attractive. He is constantly pulling influences from his deep, dark knowledge of horror films. He said he is a product of his influences and any filmmaker who refuses to accept inspiration from those who came before are making a grim mistake.

“When you watch my work, you see the influence of slasher films of the 1980s, but there’s also an element or two from the horror movies of the 1930s,” he said. “I like to absorb all influences and filter them through my brain into something that is unique.”

Unique, decapitated and awash in blood, Sabatella’s brand of horror was developed while growing up in Plainview and attending Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School.

“There is always a suburban flair to my films,” he said. “Plainview informs the person I am and naturally, my experiences influence what I create.”

Sabatella’s film creations, including his latest venture, “Children of the Witch,” can be downloaded and viewed at www.sideshowtheater.com. For more information on Frank Sabatella and his work, check out www.sideshowpics.com.