“Sickhouse,” a horror movie starring digital celeb Andrea Russett based on 10-second video snippets posted to Snapchat, is now available for purchase — another test of whether social followers will become paying customers.
The 68-minute feature-length version of the movie, produced by Indigenous Media, launched Wednesday on Vimeo. The film is based on footage shot on iPhones over five days, from April 29-May 3, and unfolded as live 10-sec snaps sent out via Russett’s Snapchat account (@andwizzle), without any warning to fans that it was a scripted movie and not real life.
The story followed Russett and her friends — including her fictional cousin, Taylour (played by actress Laine Neil) — who decide to take a trip into the woods to explore the Sickhouse, a mysterious cabin outside of L.A. with a dark past once inhabited by a former Hollywood producer and his ailing wife. Russett (2.5 million YouTube subs) and actor Sean O’Donnell (1 million Instagram followers) starred in the project; the cast also includes actor Lukas Gage and popular YouTuber Jc Caylen. “Sickhouse” was written and directed by filmmaker Hannah Macpherson (with some improvisation by the actors). The location of the Sickhouse was a ranch out near Calabasas, Calif.
Russett conceded that she was initially worried about hoodwinking fans — some of whom were concerned enough for her safety that they were contemplating calling the police. “I had a big, big concern about that, but we went about it in a way that we weren’t completely trying to trick people. We wanted people to understand, it was a movie and that they were along for the ride,” said Russett, who is repped by WME and affiliated with Fullscreen.
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She added, “You can only do something like that once, but it’s definitely worth exploring doing other movies on social platforms.”
The final Snapchat post for “Sickhouse” revealed that the sequence was all a movie project, which Russett further explained in a YouTube video May 4.
On Snapchat, the “Sickhouse” clips were viewed over 100 million times, but those vanished within 24 hours of their posting. Indigenous Media is hoping fans will fork over $5.99 on Vimeo to watch the “director’s cut” of the movie, which includes substantial additional footage that wasn’t posted on Snapchat.
Jake Avnet, Indigenous Media’s chief operating officer, said the concept of using Snapchat was to create an authentic and organic feel, as a way of stealth-marketing the movie. In order to make the storyline more believable, producers created an online mythology for Sickhouse, with a website and a Facebook page detailing the fake history of the house. At one point during the filming, several fans of Andrea’s created fake Twitter accounts for her cousin in the movie, Taylour, with one of the accounts, @SweetBaBayTay, garnering more than 4,000 followers in just a few days.
“We love the idea of creating premium content on new platforms,” Avnet said. “We think there are these great opportunities to tell these rich, quality stories natively on these platforms. What we want to do is figure out how to repackage them for other platforms. We’re not interested in making content that runs once and doesn’t appear anywhere else.”
Avnet declined to reveal the budget for “Sickhouse,” but said it was in line with an indie film. “This didn’t cost $100 million,” he said, noting that it was shot entirely on iPhones.