The last time David Winning had a red-carpet film premiere in Calgary was over 20 years ago. It was for Killer Image, an Alberta-shot 1992 thriller starring Michael Ironside and M. Emmet Walsh. But the Calgary native’s history with the Globe Cinema, which held a raucous screening Saturday night on behalf of the Calgary International Film Festival for the world premiere of Winning’s TV movie Mutant World, dates back even further to when the director screened his 1987 film Storm.
“It played in this theatre,” said Winning with a smile, after the screening Saturday night. “Which is very weird.”
Winning, who usually divides his time between Los Angeles and Calgary, has carved out a long history as a gun-for-hire director with a penchant for guiding actors such as Bruce Dern (Swamp Devil), Robert Englund (Black Swarm) and Kevin Sorbo (Something Beneath) through B-movie terrain.
Mutant World follows a similar path. In his intro before the film, producer Mike Frislev of Calgary’s Nomadic Pictures gleefully labelled it a B-movie, as in “big ideas” brought to the screen with very little money. Shot in Strathmore and Calgary and starring Kim Coates, Ashanti, Holly Deveaux, Amber Marshall, David LeReaney and Jason Cermak, it will air on the Syfy Channel in the U.S. in early November and Super Channel in Canada at a later date.
It follows the adventures of a group of doomsday preppers who emerge from an elaborate bunker — the interiors were played by the old Telus Science Centre — a decade after a meteorite wipes out civilization. They find the world overrun by, you guessed it, mutants.
It gave some locals a chance to play against type. Yes, that’s Marshall, who usually plays Heartland’s earnest horse-whispering hero Amy Fleming, switching gears to play Nicole, a scrappy, machine gun-toting medic. If David LeReaney, a veteran theatre actor and dialect coach of a thousand voices, actually has a type than his turn as an action-ready military man named Mads is probably against it.
“LeReaney I’ve been wanting to work with forever,” says Winning. “I wanted to cast him in things when I started out in movies. He was always ‘Calgary’s actor’ — he was always the guy you wanted to get.”
Saturday’s sold-out screening had an appropriate, late-night vibe to it. Outside, zombies prowled the red carpet and posed with actors. It seemed three-quarters of the Alberta film industry was on hand. A-list Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who begins shooting the Leonardo DiCaprio western The Revenant this week in the wilds of southern Alberta, was even there. Granted, it was to watch the pensive, Palme D’Or-winning Turkish film Winter Sleep that was screening before Mutant World. Nevertheless, he gamely and briefly posed on the red carpet.(without the zombies.)
Inside, the audience reacted appropriately to the fun on the screen, laughing and whooping it up for the cheesy one-liners and green-blood-spurting (The Mutants have green blood for some reason) kills and decapitations.
“It was nice to see people getting energized by it,” says Winning. “It’s so tongue-in-cheek. You get into it and laugh and think ‘this is ridiculous’ and then get pulled back into it. Which is the whole point of it when you have no money and are trying to stretch the story as much as you can, which is implausible to begin with.”
Deveaux plays the film’s action heroine Melissa, a take-charge kind who is both handy with a gun and has a curious habit of breaking into sorrowful song throughout the movie. She was among the actors — including Marshall, LeReaney and Cermak — on hand for the screenings.
“I’ve been marvelling at it ever since I heard it was happening,” she said about Saturday’s red-carpet launch, prior to the screening. “I was like ‘It’s a TV movie and it’s at a film festival!’. It’s so exciting and speaks so highly of the film. It was a great example of a great Alberta crew coming together to create what I’m pretty sure, I haven’t seen it yet, will be an awesome flick.”