Niagara Falls review
by John Law
Making Movies: Mullen filming thriller in Niagara Falls

It’s early morning at a strip club on Lundy’s Lane, and April Mullen feels right at home.

As a film crew sets up behind her, the Niagara Falls director is discussing a scene with Christopher Lloyd in one of the back ‘private’ rooms. An actress playing a stripper sits on his lap, and Mullen is making sure the 74-year-old star of Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a half-dozen other classics is fine.

“You all feel good?,” a crew member asks.

“Ya, we’re great,” she says, setting up behind a monitor.

Mullen yells ‘Action’ and Canadian actress Katharine Isabelle enters the room in a tight, revealing red dress. “There’s my favourite girl,” Lloyd mutters, before Isabelle – the star of Mullen’s surprisingly dark new movie 88 – tells him she’s leaving her job to run off with a guy.

Lloyd, looking as scary as he ever has in a film, glares at her and mutters “You going to buy a house? Make some muffins?”

After four takes of him smashing a glass on the table, Mullen calls ‘Cut’ and starts dishing hugs on set. To the crew, to the cast, to whoever looks like they need one. She’s home and this is how it’s done in Niagara Falls.

It’s no wonder the same people – including Lloyd, now – return to work with her.

“I love working with her and the whole (Mullen) family,” says Lloyd, who also filmed Mullen’s horror comedy Dead Before Dawn here in 2011. “It’s great, they’re wonderful. And it’s a great script.”

It’s certainly a dark script, after three straight comedies to launch her filmmaking career. Written by longtime filmmaking partner Tim Doiron and stemming from a hazy dream Mullen had years ago, 88 is a revenge-based thriller about a woman named Gwen (Isabelle) seeking payback on the person responsible for her lover’s death. The story skips between two timelines, blurring the lines of reality and fiction.

Dark and gritty is nothing new to Isabelle, a favourite of horror fans after American Mary, Freddy vs. Jason and three Ginger Snaps movies.

Mullen is putting her through the wringer – Isabelle is in virtually every scene.

“It’s worth it,” she says. “This is what every actor really wants to do … something that’s this cool and has such a great crew, in such a great place. You dream of stuff like this.”

Mullen and Doiron felt it was time to switch gears. After a trio of comedies (The Way of the Tosser, GravyTrain, Dead Before Dawn) established them in Canada’s film scene, they’re putting the laughs on hold.

“It’s a huge switch,” she says. “I love movies and I hope to do them all.”

“The idea of this film is very old, Tim and I have wanted to do it for a long time. We just had to do comedies and build a repertoire and budget level up, make sure we’re experienced enough as filmmakers to pull this idea and concept off.”

“This is a project that’s super close to our heart,” says Doiron, who met Mullen in theatre school. “We were saying it’s an action thriller, but it’s not. It’s more cerebral. Very gritty. It’s a ‘something’ thriller … get back to me when I perfect my pitch of it!”

Filming continues around town until Nov. 8.

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