“Due to circumstances behind any of our control, thanks to the rising spike of COVID (thank you, Omicron!) as well as a few breakout cases of the same amongst key members of our cast and crew at large, we had to make the unfortunate (but 100 percent correct) call to push production back,” said Sumrall on both Facebook and the production’s Indiegogo page.
Currently, the project is due to begin again in mid-May. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo recently raised the threat level for COVID to its highest level.
Hellfire became a hot topic of discussion thanks to a blockbuster crowdfunding campaign run by Sumrall last year. Sumrall himself has been a Houston horror icon both behind the camera as the maker of Pickaxe and in front of it as the hulking monster in Sweatshop. When Hellfire was announced, he quickly blew by his initial goal of $10,000 and raised almost three times that.
The movie is a revenge flick about a man who sees his family murdered and then goes on a killing spree against the perpetrators. It stars Brinke Stevens (Slumber Party Massacre) as well as mainstays in the Houston film scene like Victor V. Gelsomino (The Bat: Last Laugh) and wrestler Shawn “Hot Stuff” Hernandez (Lucha Underground). Sumrall assures fans that it will contain copious amounts of nudity and blood.
The indie film industry in Houston has taken a lot of hits over the course of the pandemic. Directors like Sumrall have strived to improve the safety of their sets, even taking courses on the subject, but the contagious nature of the Omicron variant has once again put things in crisis. Even with strict social distancing, mask protocols, and vaccination mandates, breakthrough infections are often too big a risk to proceed.
Though understandably saddened by the delay, Sumrall is attempting to make the most of it.
“The bright side of this is that every film (and particularly every microbudget/indie film) can always benefit from the addition of more pre-production work,” said Sumrall in his statement. “None of us are prepared to rest on our laurels, and rather than rush into production that could potentially be shut down thanks to COVID midway through the shoot, we’d much rather take a beat, collect our thoughts, and come out swinging for the damn fences when the time comes.”
The break may come with some unexpected perks as well. A few other local acting celebrities such as Chaney Moore (Life Insurance Lottery) have expressed a desire to join the cast as the new schedule may open up some opportunities.
The ongoing pandemic has definitely slowed down how often Houston gets to see movies made by its native talents, but it’s also encouraging to see those artists continuing to take COVID seriously and put the health and safety of their casts and crew firsts. It’s one way to ensure that when this is all over, there will still be a film scene around to make more movies.