Inbred & Undead
These kick-ass Kentuckians are fixing to drop a super weird web series about a hillbilly vampire
"The way I feel about most Eastern Kentuckians is that we don't want people from the city to come down here and mess with us. We just want to be left alone. Hicky isn't a bad vampire. He doesn't want to bite people. He just gets his check at the first of the month, catches The Pop Train, sells the pop and buys blood. He's a good vampire. He just wants to live his life. He moonshines. He gets drunk on snake venom. That kind of thing."
That's director Charles Shouse giving the short and sweet of his latest project, Hicky the Hillbilly Vampire, a bizarre (in a good way) comedy web series filmed in Kentucky and set to debut on Valentine's Day.
Charles' brother Mike and friend Zack Hall co-directed/produced the series.
"We wanted to take all of the sensationalism and stereotypes proliferated by mainstream media, put it all in there and just have fun with it."
What they ended up with was a wild story about a reluctant one-fanged vampire by the name of Vernon Ray Hicks, aka Hicky, full of serpent-handling Pentecostals, pill pushers, bigots, yankees, werecreatures and Mountain Dew mouth.
"We don't want to make everybody happy. We want to offend some people. If everybody likes it we did something wrong."
Shouse, 44, was born and raised in Jackson, Kentucky. Breathitt County. He got his degree in video production from Morehead State. He was accepted to film school in LA and made the move in '92. But it was an expensive place to be and his money evaporated quicker than he thought. "It was either live on the street or come back home, so we just came on back and I kind of gave up the dream for a while."
For eight years he worked on the assembly line at the Toyota plant in Georgetown. He hated it. He wanted to make movies.
"Lo and behold, around 2000 technology got to the point where anybody could get a digital camera and edit digitally on their home computer, so I decided to make my first film."
That was Forever in Black Hills, which starred his brother Mike and featured a memorable cameo by the infamous and now deceased Kentucky Youtube sensation O.H. Napier.
Ever since then he's been able to pay the bills with commercial video work while at the same time completing numerous passion projects through his own company, Showhouse Productions. Most notable is the hour-long documentary he produced on legendary Breathitt County outlaw "Bad Tom" Smith. Tom Wopat, the actor best known for playing Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, narrated the documentary and it aired on several TV stations.
But all of Shouse's work has one thing in common: Kentucky. Whether it's the actors, the locations, the story or all three, the bottom line is that he's committed to the idea of making films in the Commonwealth.
Hicky, for example, was created with a cast and crew from Kentucky cities large and small. Jackson, Hazard, Danville, Lexington, Louisville to name a few. And it was filmed here as well, mostly in the tiny town of Vicco made famous by Mayor Johnny Cummings' stereotype-crushing appearance on The Colbert Report in 2013.
"Johnny really rolled out the red carpet and gave us the keys to the city," says Shouse. "He pretty much let us do whatever we wanted. They've been real supportive over there. You feel at home in Vicco. They treat you like family."
Cummings has a small part in the web series and enjoyed the process.
"It was a privilege to work with so many talented people from all over Kentucky," he says. "We had a great time while they were filming in and around Vicco and feel honored they would select our little town for such a major project. Like the producers we appreciate the satirical humor used to address the issues in our area."
Jeremy Lindon, the actor who plays Vernon Ray Hicks, is on the same page.
"Stereotypes become stereotypes because there's some truth to them. Everybody in Eastern Kentucky knows that. So we just wanted to show everybody that we realize that and that we can make fun of ourselves."
Lindon is studying to be an X-ray technician and fronts the house band at a Hazard sports bar.
"He's just got one of those faces," says Shouse. "First time I saw him I was like, 'Man, he'd look good on camera.' He's got that cool country look. So we recruited him for a couple projects and he did a great job."
"I never really even thought about trying to be an actor," says Lindon. "I just do it because they're my friends and it's fun."
He says his favorite part about working on Hicky was all the improvisation he got to do since they shot it without a formal script.
"To be honest with you, at first I thought it was going to suck without a script. But Charles is real good at giving direction, so in the end I think it turned out way better this way."
How much better?
"It could be one of the dumbest things you've ever watched. But in a good way. It'll make you laugh. It's definitely funny. And it's definitely out of the ordinary."
Episode 1 of Hicky the Hillbilly Vampire airs on Valentine's Day, February 14th.
For more information visit HickyTheHillbillyVampire.com or follow @HickyWebSeries on Twitter.
Story by Coleman Larkin