Conceived and filmed entirely during last year's lockdown, the horror-comedy centres on six co-stars who learn that their hit TV show is about to cancelled and decide to make their own movie as a result. Unfortunately for them, they choose to make a horror movie and unintentionally summon a demonic spirit with a taste for violence.
Untitled Horror Movie is directed by Nick Simon, who co-wrote the script with McNamara's Shadowhunters co-star Luke Baines. She was originally meant to star in Simon's The Girl in the Photographs, but couldn't due to commitments to Shadowhunters, so this movie provided McNamara with a "full-circle" moment.
"I've been wanting to work with Nick since then, because I think he's so wonderful. He not only has a great sensibility for story, but he's so wonderful to work with as an actor. And, of course, how can you not love Luke Baines? He's one of my dearest friends and the most wonderful person to work with," she tells Digital Spy.
"We were all at a point where we were so starved for any kind of not only social interaction but creative productivity. To experiment and tell a story with your friends, and dive in, and see what happens, it sounded like a perfect idea."
Smartly, even though it was filmed during it, Untitled Horror Movie has no reference to the ongoing global situation.
Apart from one scene, the cast don't meet up and it plays out like a 'screenlife' movie over video calls, but Simon finds ways to freshen it up by intercutting with scenes the cast are filming for their new movie.
It might be the most meta movie made during the pandemic too with each of the cast well-known for TV shows. Alongside McNamara and Baines, the movie stars Never Have I Ever's Darren Barnet, 13 Reasons Why's Tim Granaderos, The Vampire Diaries' Claire Holt and The Umbrella Academy's Emmy Raver-Lampman.
Having gone through similar situations waiting for renewals, McNamara could draw from that for the role. "Something that a lot of people were experiencing this last year was the unknown – and having to cope with that," she explains.
"Obviously, as an actor, that's a lot of what you deal with, particularly in a situation like this, where you're waiting to see if a television show is being picked up to series. There's a lot of just having to deal with all this latent energy of the waiting game.
"I think more what I drew on, though, from being part of a TV series for so many years, is little bits and things that I gleaned from the technical side, given that that was so much of our responsibility."
Since Untitled Horror Movie was filmed during the pandemic, the cast had to not only act in the movie, but also be their own cinematographer, make-up artist, stunt people and the rest.
They might have had experts telling them exactly how to do it before filming (and on-hand during for any issues), but the cast were on their own when the cameras were rolling.
"I always ask too many questions on set. So [I drew on] all the questions that I've asked, and all the things that I've gleaned, and the kindness of crew members as they teach the random actor who's standing in the corner how to do X, Y and Z," McNamara says.
"All the thanks truly goes to Kevin Duggin, who was our director of photography, as he so patiently taught six actors how to light and do sound, and do a lot of these things at 3 in the morning, which I'm used to. But then having somebody go, 'Hey, can you transfer all of that footage onto this hard drive, and also upload it here, and do this, this and this?'
"I'm not the most technically-minded individual. And when you've been throwing yourself around your house, and screaming until 3 in the morning, and then decide to try to not lose all of the footage that everyone's worked so hard on?"
Fortunately, there were no "huge disasters" – such as, say, somebody forgetting to press record – but it was a huge learning curve all the same.
And as much as McNamara missed the "camaraderie" of a typical set, she wouldn't be against filming another movie in the same way. "I think it was a really fun experiment [even though] I'm very much a person who likes to be in the trenches with everyone else," she reflects.
"You become a sort of travelling circus of wonderful people and creatives that are all combining efforts to create something greater than the sum of the parts. When you're doing it all on your own, you learn a lot, but it's arguably not as fun, because half of what I love about doing what I do is getting to be a part of that on-set family."
In keeping with Untitled Horror Movie's unique production, the movie isn't getting a typical release as it's skipping traditional distribution to make it directly available to the fans of the cast.
The movie is getting a worldwide premiere event this Saturday (June 12) with a virtual red carpet, a watch-along party and a Q&A with the cast. It will then be available globally on the likes of Amazon Prime Video and iTunes from June 15.
Whether Untitled Horror Movie ends up getting a strong fanbase as a result of its cast remains to be seen. However, McNamara knows exactly how loyal fans can be given the continued love for Shadowhunters, two years after its finale aired.
"If you had asked me before I started the show if I thought that the fandom would be this strong years after, I would have said absolutely not. But having spent several years with the Shadowfam and watching them – I'm so inspired by them," she enthuses.
"They truly have taken this community beyond the show, beyond our characters, beyond anything, and created something so special, and such a positive force for love and acceptance in the world. I'm just so grateful to be a little part of it.
"I have the utmost faith that the Shadowfam will live on, far beyond the end of the show, and probably far beyond any of our careers. As an artist, that's all you want, to be able to inspire some good in the world, and be a catalyst for some force of humanity. And that's exactly what these lovely, lovely folks have done in creating the Shadowfam."
Untitled Horror Movie has a worldwide premiere event on June 12, before being released on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and other digital retailers on June 15.
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