Oxy Morons director debuts new horror flick on the biggest screen
Originally from Charlestown, filmmaker and anti-opiate activist Johnny Hickey launched his career with his writing and directing debut Oxy Morons in 2010. Over the past two years, he’s been working on a new project, the psychological horror The Habit, which stars local celebs including MTV reality show favorite Chris “CT” Tamburello and other Real World cast members from Greater Boston. With his premiere on the enormous 80-foot screen at Jordan’s Imax Theater in Reading on Oct 30, just in time for Halloween, we spoke to the actor and director about his latest.
How did you come up with the idea and the story for this movie?
My first film, Oxy Morons, had a lot of these demonic dream sequences in the film that I really liked. But it was a very small part of the film because it was based on a true story.
I always just loved doing that dark horror stuff. I’ve been a horror fan since I was a kid, and I wanted to tie a couple of ideas together, and one idea that I had always seen failing in horror movies is these movies that take place in these abandoned lunatic asylums. I always wanted to play that up and see if I could take advantage of maybe getting access to the abandoned asylums that are in the state of Mass.
I also wanted to tie the story to drugs because that’s my niche market. I came up with the idea of these ravers doing these drugs and they go to this asylum for an underground party. All this stuff starts happening where it goes from a crime drama to a horror to you really don’t know what the hell is going on, almost like a bad trip.
How did you get the Jordan’s Imax Theater in Reading?
We just reached out to them. I always was like, “If I can ever get an IMAX that would be a big deal locally.” They’re really supportive of everything I was doing, you know, to help fight the drug epidemic. The fact that my movie has a dark drug message in it and all the indie opiate work that I’m doing with my nonprofit [F.I.G.H.T.], they were just willing to come on board and give me the theater.
Do you think that being in the Imax Theater benefits The Habit?
It’s arguably the best theater on the East Coast. The only movies that premiere here are big studio movies like The Avengers, Avatar, Venom, Mission Impossible, Batman. It’s the first independent film and Boston film to ever premiere on Imax on 4K laser.
Jordan’s Imax is one of eight theaters like that in the world. It’s a 525-seat theater with an 80-foot screen. It’s perception. We’re gonna put night vision cameras in there, we’re gonna get audience reactions when those subwoofers in their seats explode and shake when something scary happens. We’re gonna give the distributor a marketing tool.
To be able to give people that experience with an independent horror film, it’s never happened before. Look at the movies that are normally there—$200 million movies—and for me to be there with my half-million-dollar movie, it’s a big deal.
Do you think The Habit draws from your experiences in Boston and New England?
I’m a firm believer in you always write and direct and do what you know. The lead actor [Chris “CT” Tamburello] in the movie is my childhood best friend who grew up in the projects in Charlestown with me. We’re real Boston, so a lot of the dialogue, especially when we improv stuff when we’re acting together, is so Boston. It definitely has a very Boston, New England vibe to it. It’s that time of year right now. Halloween, obviously, is a big deal in New England.
Do you think that your background in the projects gives you an edge?
A hundred percent. Growing up in Charlestown and being a criminal and going to jail and being able to escape out of that definitely gave me a unique set of tools to apply in Hollywood. I can read people, I can call bluffs. I know what people are thinking in the first two seconds I meet them, and once they catch on to that you earn a different respect. I really think that’s something that’s helped me carry myself into Hollywood. It’s the land of dreams but it’s also the land of dream shattering. I like to do that to know that all that shit I went through wasn’t for nothing.