The creepy phenomenon known as sleep paralysis is the focal point of an upcoming horror film, Omnicron, by Airdrie filmmaker, Caillou Pettis – who plans to knock down the barriers to entering the film industry when he starts shooting later this month.
“The movie is about a young college student who begins to experience sleep paralysis on a nightly basis…many people that have experienced this say they see a figure standing over them, and it’s this really terrifying experience,” Pettis said. “It was such an intriguing concept that I thought, ‘I need to make this into a horror movie.’”
Pettis, 18, met a writer from Germany on the website Stage 32 – which is “like Facebook but for filmmakers,” he said – who shared his interest in the condition. The writer, Joshua Clay, wrote Omnicron for Pettis to direct.
“Horror has always been my favourite genre since I was 12, if you can believe it,” he said. “I grew up watching scary movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
For Omnicron, he said he’ll be pulling inspiration from such movies as The Witch and Hereditary – two films known for their slow-burn, cliché-ditching style, rather than the hack-and-slash of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
His early love for film provided him with the dream and the drive to be a filmmaker, he said. He added that film criticism, from the likes of Roger Ebert and others, helped inform his tastes – and taught him what works and what doesn’t, he said, especially in horror films.
That criticism expands to his YouTube channel. Under the username TwistedFalcon, Pettis has been releasing video reviews of films throughout the last two years, along with a number of web series videos – all produced in Airdrie.
Though he said he felt the draw to film elsewhere, he opted to keep the movie production in his hometown of Airdrie, too.
“I figured, Airdrie has some really nice locations I can use,” he said. “It’s just a really nice place to film, I think, and I really wanted to represent where I was from and show that, in Airdrie, there is a film community here that loves filmmaking, as well.”
Inspired by John Krasinski’s turn as actor/director in this year’s The Quiet Place, Pettis said, he will also be acting in his film – though he won’t be working on the project alone. A crew of around 20 people will run the production, he added.
Although he’s a long way from the cultural markets of Los Angeles or New York, Pettis said he’s dedicated to his dream. And it certainly helps to receive the support of the community, he said – which he experienced in June, after announcing the project on social media.
Pettis said he hopes to pick up distribution for the film once it’s complete, and have it seen as much as possible. He said he plans to make more movies down the road – at only 18, he said he wants to break the barriers people perceive when making the leap to the big screen.
“It doesn’t matter what age [you are],” he said. “As long as you know how to tell a story, you should be able to tell it. And I think that this story of Omnicron will definitely surprise people.”