Yorkshire filmmaker's LA-based horror movie Headshots released on Amazon in time for Halloween

Chris O'Neill.
Chris O'Neill.

A Leeds filmmaker is hoping audiences will use Halloween to enjoy a scare as his horror movie is released online following success around the festival circuit.

Originally from Adel, the Leeds Grammar graduate Chris O'Neill moved to California and has spent years hustling to get himself recognised in Hollywood, as reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post earlier this year.

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His wife Rochelle Carino, a costume designer and co-writer, persuaded him to make the Headshots, which came out over the Atlantic last year.

Inspired by the number of people who go missing every year in Los Angeles, it follows a young British actress who moves there to be a star, only to cross paths with a serial killer in her acting class - but her family come over to "sort out" the culprit.

Although Mr O'Neill's hopes that his film would be selected to be screened in his home city at next month's Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) have not come to fruition, it is available to stream now on Amazon in time for Halloween on October 31.

Mr O'Neill said: "The positive side of not being selected for the LIFF is that British audiences can now enjoy the film during the Halloween season from the comfort of their own living rooms on a dark October night with the lights out and a cup of tea and a bag of popcorn.

"Headshots brims with tension and is quite realistic in that what happens in the film could happen to you or someone you know, which I believe makes it creepier.

"We wanted to create a realistic horror thriller that you couldn't predict how it was going to end or what would happen, so you're glued to it and surprised as the film plays out. I've not seen a horror thriller featuring a Northern brother and sister duo who show up in LA to go after a serial killer, so that in itself makes the film unique and unpredictable."

Mr O'Neill, who is in his forties and whose family still lives in Leeds, has previously said he believes it is the type of film the "master of suspense" Alfred Hitchcock might be making today if he were still alive.

He began writing feature-length screenplays while at school, wanting to create scripts akin to some of his own favourites, such buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs, British TV comedy shows like Blackadder and horror movies like John Carpenter's The Thing.

After winning a place at the National Youth Theatre, which counts Daniel Craig, Rosamund Pike and Sir Daniel Day-Lewis among its alumni, Mr O'Neill went on to study film at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and San Francisco State University.

He then came back to Leeds and worked in various jobs including roles at banks and selling double-glazing over the phone - but never gave up on his dream and kept firing out screenplays to Hollywood production companies.

His first feature film, Absolute Debauchery, a buddy crime movie he wrote, directed and co-starred in, was also released last year.

Headshots, though, has featured as an official selection at Culver City Film Festival, Olympus Film Festival, Anaheim Film Festival, Action On Film MegaFest Las Vegas, Hollywood Dreams International Film Festival and the World's Independent Film Festival in San Francisco, winning in a number of best film and screenplay categories at various events.

Mr O'Neill said: "Headshots screened in San Francisco last month at a very lovely cinema right across the street from the multiplex where I spent many hours watching - and being influenced by- a lot of great films.

"It was a very emotional moment, surprisingly since rough and tumble Yorkshiremen rarely let their emotions get the better of them, but I was sincerely overwhelmed."

He added: "I made the film for my Mrs, Rochelle Carino, and she gave it the thumbs up, which is the best reaction of all.

"It's not everyone's cuppa and that's fine, but people have really liked it and the awards and festival selections mean we did something right.

"I'm very proud of the film and what we accomplished and now it's out there, it belongs to the audience and I hope they enjoy it. Especially back home.

"Some reviewers have said they'd like to see what I can do next with a bigger budget - me too, as I'd love to have someone else do the catering! Now it's on to the next one."