Orson Welles once summed up the joys of running a movie set with the observation: "This is the biggest electric train set a boy ever had!"
It appears writer-director Declan O'Brien may be taking the toy thing too literally in his Erin Street production office, where he is preparing to film the suspense sequel Joy Ride 3 in Winnipeg.
On the table next to his desk is a toy semi-trailer, a smaller pickup truck, and best of all, a miniature Subaru WRX, which just happens to be the car targeted for destruction by a homicidal trucker who goes by the handle Rusty Nail.
"It was hard for me to find it at Toys R Us, but I did find it," says O'Brien, brandishing his little red car.
Be assured: the toys are entirely practical. O'Brien has just 20 days to shoot the second sequel to John Dahl's 2001 thriller Joy Ride, which first introduced Rusty as the mysterious trucker bent on bloody vengeance against a couple of pranksters (Paul Walker and Steve Zahn) who lured him to a motel with the promise of a sexual assignation with a woman.
O'Brien is using the toys and a small video camera to pre-visualize future large-scale shots he will be realizing with Winnipeg stunt co-ordinator Rick Skene. Given that he will only have 20 days to shoot the film, beginning Aug. 30, he has his work cut out for him.
"This is lots of road work, cars and stunts and it's very, very, very challenging," he says.
Skene's participation helps. In fact, O'Brien is all too familiar with the capabilities of the Skene family, having worked extensively with Rick's sons, Sean and Daniel. The brothers handled stunt work and played two of the mutant killers in the gory horror prequel Wrong Turn 4, which was shot in Brandon and southern Manitoba in the winter of 2011.
"Now I've cast Rick Skene in a role as a trucker and I've cast both of his sons, so I have the hat trick of the Skene family," O'Brien says. "I've finally done it."
O'Brien's resum© is filled with lots of low-budget genre entries, including Wrong Turns 3, 4 and 5 and the 2010 Sharknado-forerunner Sharktopus.
Joy Ride 3, produced by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, follows the rule that states every movie's sequel should be cheaper than the movie that came before it. But O'Brien says he intends to defy expectations as much as he can.
"On this one, I decided to do a little mix," he says. "It's Joy Ride meets Fast and Furious."
Notwithstanding the casting of one-time Jason Voorhees Ken Kirzinger (Freddy Vs. Jason) in the role of Rusty Nail, O'Brien promises the film will include considerable automotive action.
"I've done a fair amount of action in my past," he says. "I've blown some stuff up. I rolled the prison bus in Wrong Turn 3 -- the only American prison bus in Bulgaria, by the way. I could see the producer crying as it went off the edge. But it turned out to be a beautiful shot. And I sent a tow truck flying into a tree at ridiculous speed.
"Last year, when I was shooting Wrong Turn 5 in Bulgaria, I went out to the studio where we shot in the back lot and they had this one section that was this junkyard of crushed cars," he says. "I looked around and about 90 per cent of them were from movies I had done. The line producer there sardonically said, 'We should name it Declan's junkyard.'"
Of course, the film will also contain some of the horror beats one would expect from an O'Brien movie. A clue to this is on the walls of the production office where storyboards for "Kill #1" through "Kill #6" will be posted.
"There's a whole horror subgenre of killer-truck movies, the grandaddy being (Steven Spielberg's) Duel, but there's also The Hitcher and Breakdown and an Australian film called Road Train, and to a certain extent, Mad Max," O'Brien says.
"I've been looking at all that stuff. It mixes blood and oil," he says. "So I jumped at the chance to do this. You're in a subgenre that has a lot of really great films in it and you just hope to live up to that."