A few scant years ago, folks who visited the SilverScream website, set up to promote JimmyO Burril’s musical tribute to horror films throughout the ages, came face-to-face with a grinning, leering cacophony of color and sexuality named “Chainsaw Sally”. She was an over-the-top diva obsessed with horror movies. Geeks felt at home and fell in love.
Sally would also appear in-the-flesh at screenings of “SilverScream”. This was even better. The crowds went wild as she shimmied on stage and hinted at the gruesome murders she had committed herself. Applause for Sally almost overshadowed the applause for the film she was promoting.
Inspired by the success of the character, played by his wife, April, Burril decided to write a script around the creation. The result: the obviously-titled “Chainsaw Sally”, one of the most slickly-made and most enjoyable independent films of recent years.
“Sally is basically a combination of ‘Tank Girl’ and all the basic slashers (Leatherface, Jason, Freddy, etc.), mixed into my own personality,” says April Burril. “The movie version isn’t all that different from the ‘onstage’ persona in my view. In the movie, we are simply allowed to view more details about Sally herself—home life, Clark Kent-style ‘secret identity’, character background—as well as actually watch the killings that the live character and web character talk about so freely. Character development was fairly simple—she’s really just me with the volume turned up and no regard for those pesky anti-murder laws.”
April appears in “SilverScream” as a number of characters, most memorably that of a vampire bride who sparks the tribute to “Psycho” in a number called “The Bates Motel”. Similar to the incarnation of “Sally”, “SilverScream” began its life on stage, originally conceived as a live production before evolving into a movie. Welcome to the world of the modern arts.
For Burril, bringing the movie-version of Sally to life posed its own set of challenges. “It was very much a new experience. I’d been performing the live stage show of “SilverScream” almost every year since 1997, in a wide variety of locations for both shows and rehearsals, so the filming of it carried a lot of very familiar territory in it. I didn’t even feel too terribly out of place
dancing out in someone’s backyard for some of the location shots. “Chainsaw Sally” was, however, completely new and my first straight acting movie. It made me a bit nervous, but working with acting veterans like Gunnar Hansen, JimmyO Burril, Mark Redfield, and David Calhoun helped out a good bit. Everyone was very supportive and there was always advice available when I wanted it.”
Another challenge came about biologically—a few weeks into pre-production, April announced to her husband/director that she was pregnant. The decision was made to move production up, rather than delay shooting for a year or more, which, one can imagine, increased tension, particularly on the production end… which is nothing compared to how it affected April herself!. “I was actually pregnant throughout the entire shoot. Script writing started in early August and one week in, I found out about the coming baby. My advice to JimmyO was ‘write fast.’ The shoot was fairly tiring, but when you love doing something, you’ll push pretty far before giving in to sissy things like eating and sleeping. Of course, I had more than my own health to think about, so I had to be a lot more careful than I normally am during a show. It was nice to vent the extra frustrations brought on by wild hormones in a shower of red corn syrup violence, though.”
Not surprisingly, given the previous statement, April is as much a horror fan as her onscreen alter-ego, though, perhaps, not quite to the psychopathic end that “Sally” takes it to. Though one does find it easy to imagine her chasing her husband around the backyard doing late-night reenactments of “Halloween” (though it is hard to picture the “Wolverine”-like JimmyO in the Jamie Lee togs worn by Sally’s transvestite brother in the “CS”). “Oooohhhh, yes, I’ve been into horror stuff for—well, since I can remember,” she purrs. “Abso-tively, posi-lutely. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays—tied with Christmas, and the scary costumes were always the most fun. I lived for the time of year when Halloween specials started playing on the TV—this is in the old days when we had no cable and VCRs didn’t exist for the common household yet. Yes, I’m that old,” she adds, making her, if the math holds, somewhere around her late ‘20s. (We aging Gen-Xers forget that two decades really isn’t that long compared to things like evolution and erosion.) “During the rest of the year, I settled for the occasional black-and-white or, if I was lucky, a Hammer film to get some afternoon airtime on the weekends. As soon as I was old enough to read ‘big people’ books (ie., around 4th grade), I snuck my mom’s copy of Stephen King’s ‘Night Shift’ off her bedside table and that opened up the wide, wide world of literary horror to me. I’ve been a basket case every since. Thank you, Mr. King.”
Get the rest of the interview in part two of APRIL BURRIL: THE WOMAN WHO IS CHAINSAW SALLY>>>