In the 1980s and '90s, Kansas City filmmaker Todd Sheets made dozens of nanobudget horror movies that paid homage to the grindhouse cinema he'd loved as a kid. His titles included Goblin, Moonchild and Zombie Bloodbath, and he enjoyed some casting coups — Violent New Breed featured blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite). Sheets was building the kind of career that earns directors cult fans and derision in equal measure.
Then he stopped.
Sheets has put out nothing since 2000's Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon.
He has stayed busy, most recently running Jackalope Radio (jackaloperadio.com), which features a wide variety of broadcast and podcast programs. Among the shows is his own series, Nightwatch, about horror and the paranormal.
But last April, Sheets had heart surgery, and the experience convinced him that it was time to return to his calling. So he started shooting House of Forbidden Secrets, in which a shopping-mall security guard (Antwoine Steele) discovers that he has been patrolling the site of a 1930s brothel where a massacre occurred. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't learn this from a history book.
Sheets says new technology and a new pool of talented local actors, many of whom were children when he went on hiatus, should help him make House of Forbidden Secrets stronger than anything in his earlier filmography. He has done much of his shooting inside offseason haunted houses the Beast and Macabre Cinema, which have the creepy atmosphere he needs.
"The radio thing really took up my time," Sheets says. "I wanted to do more growing as a filmmaker. I'd made so many movies. Some of them I was proud of, some of them I definitely was not. All those really early movies, I disowned. I didn't want to make any movies I wasn't proud of."
Sheets invited The Pitch to watch him work. Here's what a day of Forbidden Secrets looks like.