The Movie Waffler Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - BUS PARTY TO HELL, Plus Director Rolfe Kanefsky Interview | The Movie Waffler

Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - BUS PARTY TO HELL, Plus Director Rolfe Kanefsky Interview

Revellers en route to Burning Man are besieged by a Satanic cult.

Review by Michael Vaughn


Directed by: Rolfe Kanefsky

Written by: Rolfe Kanefsky, Michael Mahal (Story By), Sonny Mahal (Story By)

Starring: Sadie Katz, Tara Reid, Elissa Dowling, Devanny Pinn, Selena D, Aaron Groben, John Molinaro, Heidi Moore, Nailya Shakirova, Robert Rhine

From the director of The Black Room (2017) and the star of Sharknado comes one hell of a nasty ride.

Ready to party their asses off, a group of young people board a bus, their destination the infamous hippy festival Burning Man. As you might expect however, their bus breaks down, leaving them hopelessly stranded in the desert. But that is the very least of their worries when they discover they are besieged by a group of blood thirsty and horny Satanic cult members.


Are you a fan of blood, kinky sex and Tara Reid battling Mummies? Well you might just want to hitch a ride to Hell in Rolfe Kanefsky’s off the walls midnight horror romp. This film really starts out with one hell of a bang opening in a desert wasteland. Reid comes out swinging with machete in hand and her wonderfully mad cap cameo is certainly one of the film's highlights. I only wish she would have been in the film more.


While Reid is great, it’s Sadie Katz (Blood Feast) who really steals the show. Katz dives into her role with gusto and you cannot help but be transfixed by her and the character she plays. It's clear she enjoys her work and her natural ease and beauty makes her a scream queen to look out for.

Not to park the brakes on this bus but the film does have some issues. The plot is inventive, but I just wish the film would have focussed on fleshing out the plot more than just showing off flesh. Some plot holes abound and it felt like a mythos was set up but could have been taken further in terms of world building.


Still, Bus Party to Hell packs enough blood, nudity, wild humour, insane fetishism and just plain WTF? moments to make it an entertaining ride. Clearly Rolfe is a hardcore horror fan and his film, while not without issues, is just earnest and enjoyable enough to gloss over any faults. It’s the perfect movie to crack open a cold one, gather a group of friends and totally unwind. Not perfect, but Rolfe and company crafts an inventive indie flick that pulls zero punches.

Bus Party to Hell is on VOD now.


Interview with director Rolfe Kanefsky

Bus Party to Hell, where did the idea come from?

Well, the producers, Michael and Sonny Mahal, called me up with the basic idea of a group of people on a party bus that breaks down in the desert and they get attacked by a cult, getting killed off one by one. They originally saw it as a kind of Hostel meets The Hills Have Eyes type of story. When I heard the concept, my mind immediately went to that great 1976 movie, Race with the Devil starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates. So, I considered this Race with the Devil without the race. I was also inspired by some other flicks of that time like Satan's Cheerleaders and Bloodsucking Freaks with a good sense of humour. I consider Bus Party to be a splatstick horror comedy with the fun energy of the show Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

The destination on this party bus is Burning Man. Have you ever been to the festival?

No, I haven't but I know about it and watched a lot of videos about the festival. It was my idea to have them going to Burning Man but encounter a kind of “Evil Anti-Burning Man” cult of crazies. That was fun and I was able to pepper the script with a lot of references to the real festival. There were some crew people who worked on the film who have been and loved the whole idea. They thought I hit a lot of the points. Little things like “Don't MOOP?” which is a real expression meaning “Mess Out Of Place.”

You of course have the lovely and talented Tara Reid in a cameo.  Tell me how her casting came about?

That was all Michael Mahal. He reached out to her manager and raised the money to meet her rate. She was fun to work with and a good sport about it. I think she had a good time fighting the mummies. At our premiere screening in Vegas last October, I sat next to her and she loved the film. She thinks this could become a franchise, which I know the producers would like as well.

This production had a lot of snakes and snake handling. That must have been interesting to direct?

We have a lot of creepy-crawlies in this movie and all of them are real. We did not go the CGI approach. We have snakes of all sizes, scorpions, lizards, spiders, a “wolf dog.” Most of these we got from a pet store, and the handlers came down to supervise but they weren't trained so it took a lot of patience to get what we needed; plus the big scene occurs inside the bus with strobe-lights, which made focus difficult and the lights would cause our “animals” to freeze when we needed them to slither and move. Long story short, it took a lot of time to get the pieces we needed to make the sequence work.

Speaking of creepy crawlies, how did the cast take to all the various bugs, spiders etc?

That was tricky as well. Everyone has their own phobias when it comes to snakes and spiders. None of them were dangerous except for the scorpion; that was poisonous, but could sting you. Certain actors were comfortable with certain critters while others were terrified. Stefani Black, who plays Lara in the film, is terrified of snakes, so I kept her towards the back of the bus to only deal with the spiders, which she was okay with, except for the one that started to crawl towards her crotch, which is in the movie.

What would you say was the most difficult aspect of this shoot?

There was nothing easy about this shoot. It was 11 days straight with no days off. We were shooting in Valley of Fire and a Pro-Gun range for much of the shoot. It was very hot during the day and we suffered through wind sand storms at night. When the bus first gets attacked by the cult members, we had about 30 people with stunts, effects, and action all shot in one long night. Somehow we pulled off 80 set-ups, which is now my personal record. I had two units going at once and was bouncing back and forth to get all the coverage. We killed off about 15 that evening with blood effects and gags. The film was designed to start fast and really never stop. I considered it a little like Speed. Once the action begins, you can't let up, so the audience just goes for the ride. If you stop to think how insane all of this is, the film won't work. Just buckle up and hold on for 82 minutes of madness!

I gotta ask how Elissa Dowling liked wearing that praying mantis head?

Little known fact: Elissa loved the praying mantis head because she actually made it herself for this movie. Elissa had been working in an f/x company and it was her idea so she designed and created the head. I heard our wardrobe department didn't like it and didn't want her to wear it but she insisted and I thought it was fun. So, that's all Elissa and that head is one of the reasons she stands out in the film. I have worked with Elissa many times now. She was in my last horror film, The Black Room, and in my crazy musical 'Adventures Into The Woods'. Elissa was supposed to have a bigger role in Bus Party to Hell but there were scheduling conflicts so I only got to shoot with her for one day on this one.

What would you say was the weirdest or most surreal moment on this shoot?

Probably the big cult blood orgy towards the end. We got lucky and had great weather that night. All the actors and extras really got into it. The crew absolutely loved it. Hot chicks making out with themselves and various body parts of the recently deceased. If you like horror flicks with boobs, blood, and beasts, Bus Party delivers in spades! It doesn't pull any punches and is most definitely NOT RATED. But since the film also has a very good sense of humour throughout, I think we get away with the extremes without being too offensive. And hey, if you're going to watch a movie called “BUS PARTY TO HELL”, you should know what you're in for. It may not be “high art” but it's great “art if you're high.”

Finally, what projects do you have in the works?

Got a bunch at the moment. I have two movies I wrote that were shot earlier this year already. Automation, about a robot that gets violent in an office building, starring Elissa Dowling and Sadie Katz. I also wrote my sixth Lifetime thriller, Intensive Care, about a female doctor who saves a man's life who becomes dangerously obsessed with her. I have a vampire flick that I co-directed coming out later this year entitled Sunset Society, the last film starring Lemmy from Motorhead. And I'm currently in pre-production on my new horror film that starts shooting in Vegas on May 1st entitled Art of the Dead. This is from the same team that produced Bus Party and Tara Reid is back as well. It also stars Lukas Hassel, Robert Donavan and Alex Rhinehart, who were all in The Black Room. I'm very excited about this one. It's about an art collector who buys seven special paintings at an auction and takes them home to his family. The paintings represent the seven deadly sins and they start to have a very dark effect on all the family members, corrupting each one with one or more of the deadly sins, whether it be greed, pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy, or wrath. This project is my homage to the great Rod Serling television series Night Gallery. I think it's going to be a very cool horror film and something you really haven't seen before. So, keep on the look-out. We hope to have the film completed by this coming November.

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcastnamed their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @castle_anger.

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