Chills run Deep in this thriller


      A film set is a weird combination of heavy industry and intimate craft, as when the diesel engine fires on a big mobile crane in the woods near Buntzen Lake, while actor Haylie Duff weeps quietly standing next to a gas heater.

      A big light atop that crane needs adjusting between shots, hence the loud diesel. And Duff is staying in character as one of a group of vacationing college students who just found one of their number dead.

      "It kind of depends on what the scene is," Duff says later. "When you have something like that, where there's no dialogue to get you where you need to be -- for me, I have to stay in it, 'cause it's too hard for me to bring it up and let it go."

      'We're suggesting things as opposed to showing things,' says director Michael Story, on the set with stars Aaron Ashmore and Haylie Duff.

      By the time we talk, her crying is done for the day. "There'll be quite a bit more crying through the shoot of this movie."

      The movie is a teen thriller called Deep Cove -- and yes, they did film a few scenes on the real Deep Cove's Gallant Avenue before heading out to the woods across Indian Arm, the setting for an isolated cabin where a half-dozen friends have gathered for an-end-of-term summer break. The reality being Buntzen Lake's chilly woods in early May, those gas heaters are coming in handy for the lightly clad actors.

      The carefree summer hijinks are interrupted when the revellers start turning up dead. Yes, an unknown killer is on the loose, but the cast and director Michael Storey say they're aiming for something more real than I Know What You Did In Deep Cove.

      "This one was interesting because it was more of a revenge story, instead of a psycho on the loose," says the L.A.-based, 23-year-old Duff. "Especially at my age, it's like you're just starting to learn about yourself and you're thinking about whether your actions do have consequences. All of them were collectively involved in something -- it's by turning a blind eye that they're indirectly responsible.

      "A lot of times, you watch horror movies or thrillers, people running up stairs when they shouldn't -- we're not doing that," says Duff. "In this movie, everything is all about survival but in a smart way."

      As to those consequences, cast and crew are filming a scene where the vacationers carry the tarpaulin-wrapped, bikini-clad bod of one of their friends through the woods to their cabin. A movable wall is pulled away from one side of the purpose-built cabin set. <

      Actors Aaron Ashmore and Jacob Blair lift up limp co-star Jessica Harmon in a tarp, all set to roll, when the makeup woman calls a halt. It seems more of Harmon's arm is dangling from the tarp than was made up, so further touch-ups are required. Harmon dons a bathrobe and sits.

      To get the three metres from her deck chair next to the heater, back to where her death tarp is on the forest floor, Harmon has an idea. She calls over a crew guy, puts her bare feet atop his shoes and hugs him, getting him to walk backwards to the tarp. And they say improv is dead.

      They shoot take after take of Ashmore and Blair carrying Harmon's corpse, more lifting than is an actor's usual lot. Ashmore came to this set the week after wrapping a season on TV's Smallville as Clark Kent's photog pal Jimmy Olsen. He'll be back as Jimmy when Smallville starts filming its eighth season in July, but meanwhile he's getting enough action on Deep Cove. The first couple of days in Deep Cove itself involved Ashmore's character riding a motorcycle, being chased by police, running and finally jumping onto a departing boat to get to his ex-girlfriend (Duff). A stuntman handled the boat-jumping duties.

      The Richmond-born Ashmore grew up in Edmonton and Toronto, but two years spent filming Smallville in B.C. have made this place familiar again (he drives to the remote set himself), though the teen-thriller thing is something he hasn't tried before.

      "It's easy to go over the top, but it's just listening to the director, tone it down, keep it real," says Ashmore. "These kids are on this island, they're being hunted down and they have no idea what's going on. They're trying to put together the pieces."

      Ashmore says he's a fan of well-made horror, naming early Sam Raimi and John Carpenter flicks alongside a more recent title, his twin brother Shawn's Mexican jungle thriller The Ruins.

      "It had great suspense, the character build-up was amazing," Ashmore says. "The slasher stuff, it doesn't scare me."

      Ashmore and Duff bonded on this set after realizing that their sibs -- Shawn and Duff's younger sister Hilary -- had made a Disney TV movie together six years ago.

      "The minute I saw her I was like, 'Hey, my brother and your sister worked together,' so it's kind of fitting," says Ashmore.

      The two play childhood sweethearts who break up as ambitions take them in different directions, says Duff. "We had broken up right before this trip happens, and she finds herself in the situation of needing him again."

      Deep Cove is being produced by Saskatchewan-based Waterfront Pictures, and is set for release later this year. Director Storey prepares a setup over poor dead Harmon in the cabin, and the cast head back to their low-key work.

      "We're suggesting things as opposed to showing things," says Storey.

      Later, back at the trailers, erstwhile corpse Harmon is in her bathrobe having a laugh over a cappuccino. Nearby, a fake tree on a plywood stand leans against a real tree, ready for its close-up.

Glen Schaefer // The Province