Two hours outside of Los Angeles, somewhere on the southern outskirts of the Mojave Desert, a small diner/motel called The Four Aces lifts its rusty head just above the dust kicked up by a small army of crew, cars and lighting gear. One lone road passes by the motel with nothing to see for miles in any direction. It looks like just the kind of place one might expect to see modern cult heroes cocking sawed-off shotguns as they blast the heads off rabid werewolves, brain-hungry zombies or, as in Michael Raven's latest horror blockbuster The Wicked, vampires.
"It's an homage to a few different horror movies," says Wicked contract star Stormy Daniels. "The strip club reminds me of From Dusk Till Dawn." With the addition of a few neon lights - one in the window that reads "Live Nude Girls" and one inside that says "Wicked" - and metal stripper poles, The Four Aces is being transformed into a strip club. While the crew puts the finishing touches on the diner's transformation, about 20 or so extras mill around outside. They'll be the club's patrons when the cameras start rolling.
Stormy looks like she's on the prowl in her rocker-style cowboy hat, boots, tight-fitting vest and Daisy Duke shorts. She and Derrick Pierce play supporting roles as monster hunters. "My favorite part about this movie is that I get to kill people with sawed-off shotguns," she adds.
As the sun begins to drop behind the San Bernardino mountain range, Michael Raven takes a quick break from orchestrating his crew. "I wanted to do something similar to [his award-winning 2005 thriller] Visitors, but not a sequel." In Visitors, the town of Desert City, California is terrorized by a series of alien abductions. In The Wicked, Desert City has fallen victim to a new threat - vampires.
"The Wicked is about a group of kids on their way to Blackrock Festival - like Burning Man - and they run into a coven of vampires named The Wicked. Tonight we're shooting the first night of the trip when the kids spend the night in Desert City. Across the street is The Wicked bar where they have a chance encounter with the head stripper - played by Sophia Santi - who turns out to be the vampire queen."
Kaylani Lei and Barrett Blade are the stars of The Wicked and while Blade and co-star Voodoo (who plays comic relief as the film's conspiracy theorist) chat with the supporting female cast - like new Wicked contract girl Mikayla Mendez, as well as Roxy Deville and Tori Black, all of whom will soon be shedding their clothes while working the poles inside of the club - Kaylani is busy with script in hand, memorizing her lines with the few remaining moments before the sun drops below the horizon and Raven begins shooting.
"I'm the leader of this motley crew," says Blade, referring to the group heading to the Blackrock Festival. "And we plan on cutting loose and getting fucked up." His character, Tommy, and Voodoo's character, Brandon, are best friends.
"Our characters smoke a lot of pot and have deep discussions," says Voodoo. "And my character gets even deeper into his conspiracy theories the more we smoke. But then, strange things start to happen and Brandon turns out to be right."
"Oh my god, those boots are sick," says Tori Black when she sees Roxy Deville in her vampire stripper outfit. The boots are black and red thigh-high monster platforms, and with pale make-up and black lipstick on her face, Roxy looks every bit the sultry creature of the night.
Within moments, the sun falls behind the mountain range. Raven calls his vampire strippers, monster hunters, weed-smoking dropouts and cast of extras on set. Inside The Wicked strip club, vampirellas start working the poles while Kaylani and other cast members deliver their lines. Darkness falls all around the quiet, dusty town of Desert City and The Wicked is its sole beacon of light. But on this night, there is movement in the shadows - female vampires ready to feed.