The newly released film "Death Blood 4" is ultra-camp, and it's fun as well as being bloody. But strikingly, the sci-fi B-movie pays homage to Pleasanton, filmed almost entirely here and including highlights of downtown favorites.
"I see us having two potential audiences," filmmaker Chris De Pretis said. "There is the B-movie crowd, and there is the Pleasanton crowd."
"Feedback has definitely been a mixture," he added, "but we went into it knowing full well it wasn't for everybody. I have heard some people want more death and more blood. But reaction has been pretty positive from Pleasanton folks."
The full title is "Death Blood 4: Revenge of the Killer Nano-Robotic Blood Virus," and it tells the story of teen Cindy Shane, who teams up with a space alien, a pizza boy, a comic store clerk and a talking TV to defeat an evil police chief and nano-robots that control humans. The horror movie even includes that old standard -- the terrorizing of a babysitter.
"My biggest fear is people will watch the movie and take it seriously. It's supposed to be silly and over the top," De Pretis said.
Much of the work downtown was done in the middle of the night, but one scene shot earlier drew attention.
"When we filmed at the old gas station on Main Street, there were people everywhere, and they asked about it," De Pretis said. "One kid was on his phone looking for 'Death Blood 1, 2 and 3.'"
"Death Blood 4" is the one and only of the "series," although it gives a nod to the imaginary others.
De Pretis, 32, moved to Pleasanton as a toddler, went to Vintage Hills Elementary, Pleasanton Middle and Amador Valley High schools. He served in the Army, then moved to Los Angeles where he studied film.
"I've had an interest in being a filmmaker back from when I was a teenager and took video courses at Amador," he said. "I worked doing music videos and some B stuff in Los Angeles."
Five years ago De Pretis and his wife Alejandra returned to Pleasanton, and last year they bought a home in Livermore. By day, he produces corporate videos for a company in San Ramon but he wanted to make a full-length feature film.
"I do enjoy campy science fiction and horror films from the 1980s, and part of me said that somebody back in the '80s had to go through that effort for me to enjoy," he said. "I thought I could pay it forward."
Also, since the project was a learning experience, De Pretis decided against subjects that were personal or serious.
"I didn't want to take something I felt strongly about and mess it up through my lack of experience," he explained. "I thought making 'Death Blood' a B-movie was a way to work without the pressure to reach a certain standard."
Most of the crew members were coworkers who felt the same.
"At the end of the day it is a silly sci-fi movie, and we could have fun with it," De Pretis said.
He partnered with Darwin Clark, another Pleasanton native, and the endeavor took about two years. De Pretis wrote the script at the end of 2017, and the two of them scouted out locations.
"What was really humbling about the whole process is how much the community came together to help us out," De Pretis said.
Scenes include Meadowlark Dairy, Lions Wayside Park, the Veterans Memorial Building, Pleasant Plaza, Inklings Coffee and the old gas station, although the closest video store they could find to use was in Oakland.
De Pretis talked to Pleasanton Police Department ahead of filming downtown.
"I just wanted to let them know we had a guy dressed up as Big Foot and a young lady with a sword," he said with a laugh.
The hometown feature was a family affair for De Pretis. Some scenes were shot in the home of his parents, Cindy and Matt De Pretis; his wife Alejandra was co-producer; and his sister Tess stars as Cindi Shane.
"I thought for that lead role, even though Tess is not an aspiring actress, I saw the value in having someone I could rely on," De Pretis said. "It was fun for us."
Auditions were held in two days, and 80 professional actors came to read and agreed to perform in exchange for credit.
"I produced this movie with family and friends and did the whole thing for about $3,100," De Pretis said.
Giraffe Space Studios in Livermore lent them a digital cinema camera and some scenes were shot there. The climax takes place in a parking garage -- the structure Amador Valley High shares with Valley Community Church.
The filming was done in 27 days the summer of 2018.
"It was a physically exhausting period of time, every weekend we were working," De Pretis recalled. "Even in the movie now we can see the haircuts changing -- it totally adds to the B-movie effect."
But post production was even more challenging, he said, as they edited about 11 hours of footage into the 90-minute finished product.
Last summer upon completion, a private premiere was held at the Vine Cinema for cast and crew, and De Pretis began to submit "Death Blood 4" to film festivals.
"Then COVID hit and a lot of festivals kind of disappeared," he said. "We kind of sat on it for six months, not knowing what was going to happen, then said, 'Let's just work to put it on Amazon Prime now.'"
The movie met its specs for quality but they needed to create closed caption files, and it was released July 17.
They earn pennies for every hour the film is streamed, De Pretis said.
"What we're excited about is less the financial aspect but that anybody in the country can watch it," he said.
De Pretis and Clark consider the movie to be a sort of love letter to Pleasanton.
"We wanted to capture some of our favorite sites, places we just kind of love about the town," De Pretis said. "Wherever our careers take us, we have this one movie where Pleasanton plays a character."