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Area filmmaker releases fourth feature-length movie; thriller streaming on Amazon Prime

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Les Sholes, in front, poses with cast members of "Mental Whiplash," his latest feature film. They are: (back row, left to right) Dave Kary, Josh Rosebrough, Benny Irvine and William Gregg; and (middle row, left to right) Liz Lee, Laura Nelson, Tina Wilkening and David Brown. Submitted photo

Area filmmaker Les Sholes has released his latest feature-length film, “Mental Whiplash,” which is streaming on Amazon Video on Demand.

Almost all of the film, 95%, was shot near Larimore, said Sholes, who wrote, directed and produced the 78-minute movie. He plays a leading role in the film, which also features nine other actors from this area -- some of whom will be recognizable to local theater-goers, he said.

The low-budget thriller, “Mental Whiplash,” is about a man who goes camping after working a night shift, though his wife has warned him that he needs to get more sleep or he’ll start seeing things that aren’t there.

When the man goes for a hike at the campsite, he starts to experience horrible things and unwanted guests, Sholes said.

“As the movie unfolds, we find out he should have taken his wife’s advice," he said.

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“We shot everything outside -- on a highway and gravel road and leading to a campsite,” he said.

“We wanted to make it a little bit more dark,” so filming only in black-and-white gives the audience “more of a horror experience -- more 'surreal,' I guess, is the word,” he said.

The final scene, filmed in the former Deaconess Hospital building in downtown Grand Forks, shows the man being wheeled down a hallway on a gurney, beaten up and injured, and surrounded by medical staff.

The film’s end “is kind of a surprise,” Sholes said.

Films to his credit

The filmmaker, who resides on Golden Lake, west of Hatton, N.D., owns Fat Cat Productions, which produces films and public service announcements.

“Mental Whiplash,” his fourth feature movie, took two weeks to film and another 12 months of “intense, creative editing,” he said.

Sholes enlisted Joshua Rosebrough, a sound specialist who earned a film production degree from Huntington (Ind.) University, to assist in making the film.

Rosebrough, of Grand Forks, was given the creative freedom to edit the film and “produce the eerie sound effects throughout the movie,” Sholes said.

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Rosebrough and his father, Chris Rosebrough, recently won two awards, including the Audience Choice Award, at the Dakota Film Dash festival for their short, comedic film, “Weekend at Murphy’s.” Their accomplishment was featured in the April 10 edition of the Herald.

Sholes has also garnered recognition for his work.

His film, “Excind,” which was shot at an old farmstead near McVille, N.D., won an award as the Best Horror Film at the New York City International Film Festival a few years ago. Because of that award, it was screened at the Marche’ du Film, Festival de Cannes in Paris in 2016.

Since its release, “Excind” has been rented and viewed in the United States, the United Kingdom and China more than 68,000 times on various video-on-demand platforms, Sholes said.

“Letter Box, a movie review site, stated that ‘Excind’ is one of the best horror movies of the last decade,” he said.

Breaking new ground

For his next project, Sholes has explored a new style of filmmaking in “The Novel Movie,” a feature film he describes as a narrated mystery-suspense art film told through photos and illustrations.

The film has been 13 years in the making, he said.

With the new concept, he experimented with Photoshop, whereby the photo becomes a sketch and “it gets darker and darker,” he said.

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Employing a six-member cast, plus a few extras, “The Novel Movie” was shot at several locations, including an old farmstead near Ada, Minnesota, Miller’s Grocery in Hatton, on a rural highway and a home in Grand Forks.

Sholes is planning a premiere for “The Novel Movie” in September at the Empire Arts Center.

In deciding how to release “Mental Whiplash,” Sholes considered another video-on-demand platform but settled on Amazon Prime.

“When you go to Prime, you get on a carousel; people can look up ‘horror films.’ You can watch it for free, ” he said. “You don’t make as much money, but more people see it.”

To view “Mental Whiplash,” go to www.fatcatproductions.co to buy or rent the film. Those who have an Amazon Prime membership may view it without charge.

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