Scary movies are legendary for making people want to jump out of their skin or look away… but for only a brief few seconds – because we want to see what happens next and we kind of like the little adrenaline rush that scary movies provide. I think you can always feel better about your life when you know you’re not the one being chased by a 7’ tall man with a loud chainsaw through a corn field maze. This is the premise of the 2020 American horror film, Fear Pharm – about four teenagers that enter a corn maze, which is home to a deranged family. If the 4 teenagers make it through the maze in 2 hours they’ll win the ‘cash prize’. Sounds simple enough… if you can escape the clutches of the family of dermatologists harvesting the DNA of young teens for their special pharmaceutical cream.
Houston Stevenson first discovered his love for acting at the tender age of five and by ten he was avidly making family movies. He studied at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, while landing roles in local theatre productions. Upon graduating from high school Stevenson trained in the UK with renowned acting coach Andy Johnson. He then garnered a scholarship to (AMDA) the American Musical Dramatic Academy and went on to train with the acclaimed Ivana Chubbuck in Hollywood, California as well as Austin Tuck Studio and Rail Town Studio in Vancouver, B.C.
Houston Stevenson’s acting career is on the rise as he takes on the leading role in the feature film Fear Pharm. Houston plays Brandon, your typical all American Jock, an easy-going guy, who’s all about his buddies and high school football. Fear Pharm is being released on DVD and On Demand on September 15, 2020. The pulse-pounding horror film will be available via Apple TV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW and more.
Houston, did not have a problem talking to us and we enjoyed every minute.
“I love the title of this new film you’re in, is this your first lead role in a feature film?”
“Actually, Predators Obsession was my first feature lead role, and it did really well. I’m all about shark preservation and protecting sharks and thought that the film was about sharks. It wasn’t about the shark at all, and instead about a character that was like a shark. I went in there, got the part and was the lead… but I didn’t know it was going to be on the Lifetime Channel. It took off from there and appeared on iTunes, on Amazon and others. I believe it’s had 20 million views so far – and I’ve got the sequel coming up in a month. Fear Pharm was actually the first leading role and Predator’s Obsession was my second. When we did Fear Pharm, it was nothing that I had expected. It was ‘very Indie and very gorilla’, we were in the largest corn field in North America. We were covered in dirt everyday – it was like being on the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We were way out in the middle of nowhere, amongst old barns and gorilla style shooting – it was pretty scary… it felt real.”
“That must help to create more convincing scenes/characters/mindset?”
“It was cool because they put you in a corn maze and they hide all the cameras… and then hire people to chase you with actual chainsaws and other stuff. You’re in character and walking with true fear, you don’t know where the cameras are – and they captured real fear… but, after that – they would bring you into an old rustic barnyard where there was a massive 7’ tall man that handcuffs you to a table, starts a chainsaw and begins to cut it up. The best part about this movie… is that it’s not all gore, like TTCM, it has a lot of comedy similar to the film, American Pie. If you were to mix American Pie with the TTCM, that would be Fear Pharm. It’s about teenagers that crack jokes to each other – there’s sex, there’s drinking and real-life stuff… then the shit hits the fan.”
“How did you get involved in playing the role of Brendon in Fear Pharm?”
“I did the audition, I thought I totally bummed it, then two days later they called me to say they loved it. It was a crazy time – I was in LA and had just finished acting school but I wasn’t getting any gigs, I was driving for Uber and I’d gotten into a big car accident. I went back to Canada to see my parents and lay low for a while; I think I had some PTSD. My agent sent me the script and luckily, I got it. I flew from Vancouver to Sacramento (California).
“I know you have dual citizenship, so are you free to come and go at will?”
“That’s the beauty of it, yes. I’m not sure if I’d have to quarantine for 14 days coming from Canada before going on set. I’ve been lucky because my mom is from Washington originally and moved up to Vancouver where she met my dad, which is how I got the duel. The scary part is, I may be double taxed in the future.”
“You’ve been acting since a young age, in theatre and film. Where does that showmanship come from?”
“I lived near Lions Bay and I guess I didn’t have a lot of friends as a kid. Because we lived so far away from everyone, none of the parents ever wanted to drop off their kids for a play day. All the way up until middle school I’d come home and watch movies. I’d go to Blockbuster and rent 20 movies. I eventually told my parents that I wanted to do the same thing they were doing on TV. From that moment on, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
“You’re playing a jock in this film; did you have to get into shape prior to filming or are you always fit?”
“I’d just gotten out of that crash and it was only about a week later when I’d landed the audition in Vancouver. I wasn’t working out much, so I really had to race to get into shape. In the film, Predators Obsession; it’s about heartache and a guy that loves a girl but she doesn’t love him back. I’d just gotten out of a relationship and it really crushed me, so I used a lot of that pain. I’m more of a method actor, so with this character – he’s a drinker and just wants to dance around with his girlfriend. I had to think back on my high school days when I was done with the sports, what do you do? You go have a few drinks with your buddies and transition from jock to… okay, those guys are all gone now and I’m in the new world and what do you do… you just have a drink and chill. That’s what I was trying to portray in that character.”
“I had heard that you were once lost in the mountains of BC for a night. What happened there?”
“Yes, it was on the Baden Powell Trail. I was going up it and had spotted this thinner trail but thought they perhaps, hadn’t maintained it for awhile and it got thinner and thinner. That trail took me to all these forks in the road and it started getting dark, it was getting close to winter and there happened to be a huge cougar population in the area. Once it was dark, you couldn’t see anything – I hunkered down beside a tree on a slope. I didn’t get much sleep and managed to find my way back to the trail the next day and got out.”
“Have you ever drawn on a terrifying moment like that for a scary scene in a film?”
“Absolutely, for the Predators Obsession and Predators Obsession 2 that I’ll be filming soon, it’s about a guy that basically goes on a killing spree, he’s a total psycho – much like Christian Bale in American Psycho. I want the audience to love him though, because he’s broken hearted and I want to connect with people that’ve gone through a breakup. I had just broken up with my ex before filming and before I’d go on set, I’d go through photos and texts of her that I wouldn’t dare look at otherwise. As we neared the end of the film, I had called and texted her to ask if we could work it out and part of me hoped she would say yes… but sadly the answer was no, I don’t want to be around you; which was great because I felt the pain and rejection from it and would jump right into a scene, where I was rejected in the movie – which made it a lot easier for me.”
Houston continued to share a couple other techniques he’s used in his films to help put him into the characters head space. He’d walk around a chicken coop in only his boxers and rubber boots listening to Marilyn Manson’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ at 3 am to help put him in a dark place, since he was going to be tied up to a gurney a short time later. For another scene where he was running through a corn maze and his legs were slashed with a machete wielding madman, he would spend all day walking in his boots without socks in order to produce large blisters. Before the scene he would cut them open and would be experiencing true pain as he limped away in the scene, which made for a more realistic portrayal. Although Houston has been trained by the best in the business, he admits that he didn’t learn it in acting class but rather, has discovered and built his own set of method acting tools. From the late great Heath Ledger to Daniel Day Lewis, actors have been known to go to extremes to stay in character.
“In saying that, have you ever had difficulty shedding a character after wrapping on a film?”
“(Laughing) Yes… after the Predators Obsession, where I had been using all my pain from my ex-girlfriend, who BTW never came back to me. I came back home and it took me a couple of weeks to snap out of it. My character is really longing for love and searching for his missing piece that’s going to make him feel complete. You’re putting yourself through that day after day on 16-hour days, so after a while you start to believe that you’re that character. When they say ‘that’s a picture wrap’ and everyone claps hands, it’s not so easy to shed that sadness, I suppose… and I’m gonna be sad again in the next coming months when I do the sequel.”
“Are you currently dating anyone?”
“I was… I was dating a girl from Russia that was also an actor, but it just didn’t work out between us and I believe she wanted to focus more on school. It crushed me a little bit but I’m in the midst of using that pain for the next Predators Obsession. Although I wish things would’ve worked out between us but for the sake of the art/role, I’m kind of happy things came to an end, especially before shooting because I have to start transcending into that character.”
“Have you ever been frightened by a paranormal event?”
“Yes I have… I was probably 7 or 8 years old and it was around 3 am. I remember being super thirsty and I needed water, so I was going downstairs and it was pitch black. I had to feel my way down by hanging onto the railing as I made my way and into the dark kitchen, along the cupboards before finding a glass and pouring some water. When I had turned to go back up the stairs… two glowing balls were floating at the top landing. They were the size of basketballs, were white and looked to be filled with smoke. They weren’t illuminating anything around them, it was as if the light was absorbing into itself. They hovered there for awhile before one floated on top the other one – and then shot down the hallway and over the railing to downstairs. The other one seemed to stare at me for a while before it also shot down the hallway and followed the other one.”
“If you weren’t acting, what else would you be passionate about?”
“I think I’d be passionate about investigating the paranormal and making a show on it; I’m quite fascinated by it all.”
“Do you play any instruments?”
“I used to play the drums when I was a kid and was listening to a heavy song by Green Day after watching videos on Youtube of rock stars bashing up their instruments. I think it looked so cool and exciting – I was 12 and I kicked over my drum set… it broke and my parents refused to buy me another one (laughing). I wish I’d never kicked it over, I might’ve been a rock star.”
Houston continued to share an incredible memory of his when he was only 15. He had gone on Holidays and hung out with Nick Mason (drummer for Pink Floyd) and his son before Nick had invited Mick Jagger over. He said that Mick had turned to him and Nick’s son and asked, (English accent) ‘Would you guys like to come out to the bagh tonight? They went to the bar, which was empty… and Mick and Nick started jamming out on stage. Looking back, he said it was an incredible experience.
“If you had to compete in one or the other, karaoke or mud wrestling, what would you choose?”
“Ohh, karaoke! Karaoke for sure, hands down! As a matter of fact, I would do some karaoke tonight if I wasn’t stuck on Salt Spring Islands.”
“What’s the best part about being an actor?”
“When I’m on set, in a character – I’m away from all the other stresses in my life, whether it’s paying bills, following up with a meeting… it feels like you can let go from who you are and you get to be somebody else entirely. For me, that’s a complete high. When I get to let go of Houston Stevenson and become somebody else for 1-3 months, for me its like a rebirth and it’s my favourite part about it.”
Houston Stevenson is slashing his way into the cult classic family and loving it… which is really the journey – loving what you do.