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Opinion and Insight

Hijacking Nightmare: From Tequilas to Horror During Shoot in Mexico

The Ambassadors, 2 years, 11 months ago

Halbo van der Klaauw, Founder at The Ambassadors creative production outfit based in Amsterdam

Hijacking Nightmare: From Tequilas to Horror During Shoot in Mexico

Being asked to create a film in the vibrant surroundings of Central America felt like a dream come true for the team at The Ambassadors, who are often found in far-flung corners of the globe thanks to its creative outlet, The Playground.  But when a gang of outlaws, a drive-by and a hostage situation are thrown into the creative mix, you get something quite special indeed; like a Sundance Festival film award.

Picture the scene. It was 2002 and The Ambassadors was working with acclaimed director Jeroen Mol on a Playground project called ‘Cheap Ludes’. Besides a wicked storyline, the production itself turned into a real-life horror movie as the crew was kidnapped and taken hostage in broad daylight within the sprawling urban jungle that is Mexico City. What started as a normal day on location quickly turned nasty the minute that a group of Mexican gangsters noticed the team filming just a few steps away.

In what seemed like a millisecond, the gang drove by and dragged the crew into a van, disappearing off into the hustle and bustle of the city centre, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust behind them. The crew, always calm under pressure, complied with the gang’s requests, and after brief stops at several ATMs around the city, the team was released just as quickly as they were abducted, thankfully, with no injuries to speak of. Returning to Amsterdam shortly afterwards, the team was minus a few camera lenses, but had the type of story that quickly becomes the stuff of industry legends. Despite their high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled, not so run-of-the-mill tour of the city, the team was able to celebrate a job well done when ‘Cheap Ludes’ was selected for the 2004 Sundance film festival.

Besides the real-life horror, the storyline for the short action comedy is relatively surreal as well. The film begins with an everyday scene from the life of a strange looking creature. He rummages around in his kitchen, is busy with a kettle and walks into the bathroom when he realises, with great panic, that he is out of toothpicks. A device often used in science fiction film convention, the appearance of the character remains hidden to evoke a feeling of strange curiosity, mystery or even fear – and thus, it’s difficult to get a good glimpse of what the creature looks like as a whole. 

Over the coming frames, the viewer’s mind is set at ease and reassured that there’s no reason for the creature to panic as, in a flash, it is revealed that the creature has no head - or at least, its head is inserted in the other end of its digestive system, so to speak.  

Watch ‘Cheap Ludes’ below…