Section of Highbury Ave. was turned into a horrific pileup (London Free Press)

By Hank Daniszewski, The London Free Press (Original Article Here)

Mangled bodies and overturned cars were strewn along Highbury Ave. Saturday night a truly horrific scene.

Fortunately, it was all fiction. The gory accident scene that shut a section of the highway between Commissioners Rd. and Bradley Ave. for hours was a location shoot for Kingdom Come the second feature film for London-based Matchbox Pictures. The scene looked authentic enough, with dozens of smashed and overturned cars, fire trucks and ambulances, enough to draw crowds of curious onlookers. But closer up, it was a touch of Hollywood with director Greg Sager calling the shots for the Red Epic, a high-tech digital camera mounted on a crane which was used to shoot films such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Spider-Man.

Lead actors Ryan Barrett and Camille Hollett-French wore bloody makeup and mingled with local people hired as extras and the crew, which included Fanshawe College film students. Matchbox scored a hit with its first film, Devil Seed, a horror picture released last year.

Kingdom Come is about a group of strangers who wake up in an abandoned hospital and are stalked by evil spirits. While shutting down major roads for film shoots is not unusual in Toronto and Vancouver, it’s almost unprecedented in London.

Producers Dwight Coughlan and Robbin McDonnell spent about six weeks meeting with city engineering, fire and police officials, to work out a plan to shut down the busy highway for a night. “There was a lot of back and forth, but the city was most accommodating” said Coughlan. Local businesses got in on the action. The cars came from Baker Auto Wreckers and most were towed to the scene by Simpson’s Towing.

While shooting on a highway on a cold March night wasn’t easy for the cast and the crew, it was an improvement over the Southwest Regional Centre, south of Chatham, where most of the film was shot during the past month.

McDonnell said the abandoned institution, which has been shut down for five years, was even colder and darker. And it was sinister, to boot. “There was a creepiness to the place as soon as you entered it” she said.

The massive complex is rumoured to be haunted and Sager and other crew members report hearing the ghostly voice of a young girl, singing and laughing. Barrett said the constant cold and the lack of running water made for tough days of shooting at the hospital, but he said the setting is ideal for the movie. “It was totally worth it for the visuals we got.” Hollett-French said the cast and crew were often on edge in the building, which was home for years to residents with a variety of developmental and psychiatric conditions “There was a heaviness, a sadness to the place,” she said.

hank.daniszewski@sunmedia.ca

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