At the conference table sit two detectives discussing the latest transgression in a rash of criminal slaughter. An assortment of lights illuminates the scene, a horseshoe around the room, pulling up short from forming a ring so as not to be caught by the watching camera. Outside the lights on the edges of the room, a small cohort watches silently, terrified to break the spell, the anticipation filling the corners of the room and giving weight to the shadows.
Director Maurice Thomas is working on his new film, The Beautiful Ones, an erotic thriller/horror film set in Akron about a man whose indiscretions end up costing people their lives.
“It’s about sexuality, Black sexuality, and [promiscuous relationships],” Thomas says. “It’s basically a whodunit thriller—on the edge of your seat— the whole way through.”
Thomas’s inspiration to become a filmmaker comes from the blood-and-guts flicks of his childhood.
“When I was in kindergarten—grade K—Friday the 13th, my mom took me to see it. I don’t know why. But that’s the one that really started everything right there,” Thomas says, explaining his devotion to the old school.
“I’m not like these new-school horror films like the Get Outs and The Conjurings and stuff like that,” he says. “I go by the three B’s” that fans of vintage horror are likely familiar with, he adds.
For the uninitiated, Thomas explains by paraphrasing film critic Joe Irving Bloom, aka Joe Bob Briggs, but with an update of his own: “The three B’s are the blood, the breasts, and the beast…but we also incorporate a fourth B, which is Blackness.”
Like the original Friday the 13th, all of Thomas’s productions are independent affairs.
“I don’t plan on working with any studios,” he says.
“It’s kind of crazy how this happened,” Thomas says, speaking about The Beautiful Ones. “This project actually started about three years ago… I was thinking about doing a movie, an erotic thriller about a guy cheating.”
Coincidentally, around the same time, a friend of his, Tracy Linier, and a group of others were looking for someone to help make a similar movie.
“One of my friends came to me,” Linier says, “and he needed help with the project, but the storyline wasn’t really there.”
She called Thomas asking for help with the script. At the time, Thomas was in Los Angeles, but he told Linier that he would be moving back to Akron soon.
“I already had the idea,” Thomas says, “and I told them I would do the movie only if I could make it a horror movie.”
Once he was back in town, he began putting the flesh of the story onto what Linier calls the “bony, bony skeleton.” By the time Thomas got to writing the third act, however, he was derailed by the overdose death of his oldest son.
“It took about maybe a year and a half, and I got back on track,” he says.
Upon delivering the finished product to the group, the person holding the project’s purse strings abandoned the ship. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic began ramping up in earnest, leaving the project stranded in development hell, until recently.
Cast and Crew
All horror movies need their scream queen, and for The Beautiful Ones, Thomas has recruited Monique Dupree, a woman in some circles affectionately known as “The First Black Scream Queen,” according to her IMDB mini bio.
Since Dupree’s first film appearance in Morgan Freeman’s Lean on Me, she’s amassed a whopping 111 credited roles, most notably, for some, her work with Troma Entertainment. Dupree also plays a prominent role in Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore wrestling promotion.
Most often, Dupree is cast as a villain.
“I want to be the female Danny Trejo,” she says. “I’m okay with being typecast, as long as it’s something that I like being typecast as. Even in wrestling, I’m the heel. Always. I’m never the good guy.”
Shae, Dupree’s character in The Beautiful Ones, is another unstable turn in a career full of them.
“She’s a crazy b—,” she says, censoring herself and laughing. “She’s off the chain,” Dupree adds, noting that she can’t say much more for fear of giving something away.
Ryan D. Martin, the actor portraying Marcus, The Beautiful Ones’s lead, is a little more open about his character, though still careful to give nothing away plot wise.
“Marcus—he’s kind of mysterious,” Martin says, adding one thing that is clear about Marcus is his lecherous womanizing.
“He’s kind of trifling, but at the same time he has a likeability about him,” says Martin. “At the same time, you shake your head at him like, ‘this fool.’”
Movies don’t appear according to the whims of actors and directors.
“I don’t do this by myself,” Thomas says. “It takes a crew to make a movie.”
Everyone on the crew has multi-year working relationships with Thomas, the experience knitting them together, driving the production engine.
Assistant Director and Director of Photography LaVail Duncan likens the on-set bond to family. “This is our third, maybe fourth film working all together,” he says. “It’s beautiful, man. We’re brothers.”
“Everytime we do a movie,” says Executive Producer and Editor Rovina Moore, “we seem to find the right people that fit together.”
Fit together they do, and that camaraderie drives The Beautiful Ones.
“When people believe in you, and they believe in your craft,” Thomas says, “they get behind you.”
The release date for The Beautiful Ones is still TBD. However, Maurice Thomas’s previous movies can be found streaming online: Rhyme Slaya is available on tubitv.com and Amazon Prime, and Urban Cannibal Massacre can be found on Amazon Prime.
Derek Kreider is distribution manager and a general assignment reporter for The Devil Strip.
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