This article originally appeared in August-September ’17 issue of Owensboro Living Magazine.
Not many attribute their love of horror stories to their grandmother, as Owensboro native PJ Starks does. Most weekends of his childhood were spent with his grandmother, Almeda, watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Monsters, and Tales from the Darkside. Now Starks writes and produces the “cult hit franchise” Volumes of Blood.
Starks remembers there was “rarely a time when [he] didn’t have a camera in [his] hand making something” during his time at Owensboro High School. Starks says, “The best way to write a screenplay is by reading other screenplays.” His self-taught courses in screenwriting were reading Stephen King’s teleplay Storm of the Century and the scripts for Scream, Friday the 13th, and other films. After nearly a decade of trial and error, Sparks has found his winning formula.
The Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, website calls the first VOB, “Five tales of dread from five independent horror directors.” It was part of a project called the Unscripted Film School Program that Starks created in conjunction with the Daviess County Public Library in 2013. Local actor Jonathan Humphrey had a role and commented, “Everyone really knows how to have a good time on set, but at the same time gets all the hard work done in order to make a great film.” The project lasted four months and was released in spring of 2015. Dread Central hailed it a “memorably gory indie anthology.” You can watch it instantly on Amazon.com
or purchase it on DVD or Blu-ray from
Walmart.com or BestBuy.com.
Due to that successful collaboration, Starks and Eric Huskisson, another Owensboro resident, formed a production company called Blood Moon Pictures, LLC in December 2015. According to Huskisson, the two then determined “what worked and what didn’t with the first film…and secured a super-talented production group out of Paducah” to begin work on the second installment.
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories brings in new collaborators, actors, and directors from beyond Kentucky, but it is still set in Owensboro. Huskisson says the special effects are bigger and the script is tighter and more “provocative.” Filming took place at “the big yellow house located…behind CVS on Frederica Street.”
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories premiered at the end of October 2016 at the Owensboro Convention Center to a crowd of 400 spectators. It has received much critical acclaim at national film festivals, including an Audience Choice Award for Best Film and Best Horror Anthology. Fangoria Magazine called it “the most entertaining anthology film in years.” On August 1, it becomes available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand (VOD). You can also order it online through Petri Entertainment’s website
petrientertainment.com/home or follow Volumes of Blood on Facebook or Twitter for the latest information.
A card game based on the VOB universe will be released on August 11. Huskisson says, “You take on the role of a director setting up scenes based off locations, killers, weapons, and victims from both movies.” You earn fear points from these cards in order to create victims as “it truly pits friend against friend in horror-filled fun.”
A third and final installment, Volumes of Blood: Body Count, is currently in production and will also be filmed here in Owensboro. It will tie into the storylines of the first two and answer some questions, but the three films do not have to be watched together in order to make sense. Starks comments, “When you’re producing an ultra-low budget franchise like ours, you never know where the next installment will end up…These films all take place in the same universe, but they aren’t a continuation of one another.”
Starks is also busy producing five other projects around the Midwest. These include two other horror anthologies, plus Deimosimine, about a drug addict’s treatment gone wrong; Close Calls, a telephonic descent into madness; and Butcher the Bakers, a horror comedy.
Despite his success, Starks remains grounded. He still lives in Owensboro with his wife, Katrina, and their two sons, Logan and Connor (who always make cameo appearances). Collaborating with other artists is what inspires him to keep creating. “When you see an idea come to fruition…there’s a true sense of accomplishment, and I’ve been very lucky to be part of that process for the last decade.”