photo1 The list of American motion picture directors, past and present, does not contain the names of many women. It’s even thinner when it comes to women who direct horror movies.

Keep your eyes on Hope Muehlbauer, a talented Niagara Falls teenager who knows what career she wants to have. Hope’s goal? She wants to be a filmmaker, and the 13-year old is already on her way.

She also has the best answer to the question: How did you spend your summer vacation? She spent hers making a movie, although “making” might be too simple a word. She produced, directed, wrote and stars in it.

An eighth grade student at the Gaskill Preparatory School in The Falls, Hope’s first film to be shown to the public in a screening space is a thirty-minute horror thriller called “Zombie Kids: The Movie.” She does have a YouTube channel called ZombieKids13, on which a preview of her film is available.

“Zombie Kids” will have its world premiere on Saturday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m. at The Screening Room Café in the office complex section on the eastern end of Northtown Plaza at 3131 Sheridan Drive in Amherst. The showing is billed as an “all ages event,” and will include a one-hour meet and greet with Hope and the cast after the screening, during which pizza will be served. Admission is $5.00.

photo3

Hope’s parents, Michelle and Tom Muehlbauer, are huge horror movie fans, a passion that has filtered down to their daughter. The family enjoys watching television’s “The Walking Dead” together. Both parents gave the okay to Hope when she expressed the desire to make her own zombie adventure.

This past summer, she wrote her screenplay (in longhand), rounded up some friends, held a casting call promoted on Facebook, auditioned potential zombies from all over Western New York, and made the movie in her Falls backyard and neighborhood. The shoot took four days.

The film’s storyline is pure Hollywood gold: A group of kids are forced to battle a zombie outbreak just as their summer vacation begins. With their parents out of the way, the children combat the living dead on their own.

I talked to Hope over the telephone and discovered a wonderfully self-assured movie person. I didn’t write “potential movie person” because there’s no doubt in my mind that she has what it takes to succeed. I’ve talked to hundreds of stars and directors, many of whom don’t have half of Hope’s confidence and personality.

She told me the fact that her parents enjoy horror films inspired her. Whenever Hope watches one, she “wants to be in it.”

She thought it “would be fun to make a zombie movie.” Her favorite is “Dance Of The Dead” from 2008, which is directed by Gregg Bishop. Hope says she’s seen it at least “50 times” and likes it because it’s “scary, serious, funny, and exciting.” In Bishop’s feature, zombies attack a high school prom, and it’s the students who couldn’t get dates who are the only ones who can stop them.

photo2Hope also served as the cameraperson on “Zombie Kids.” During the scenes in which she had to act, her father held the Canon EOS Rebel T3i SLR digital camera. Tom said that the production was very chaotic in terms of dealing with all the kids, and “not having much time, or, of course, much money. But everyone did their best considering the circumstances. I am extremely proud of my daughter.”

Hope’s mother Michelle, who acts as the film’s publicist, told me that she is “beyond proud” of her daughter. She is “elated.”

For her part, Hope, who edited “Zombie Kids: The Movie” on a computer, already has an idea for her next film. Like all good writer-directors, she’s keeping the story a secret for now.

Movie reviewer Michael Calleri can be contacted at moviecolumn@outlook.com.