When Kyle Cerilli was a kid, he was mildly obsessed with everything horror.
Nothing too scary, but anything kid-friendly with a monster — "Goosebumps," "E.T.," "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" — was right up his alley. In fact, he loved the horror genre so much that before long, he started writing movie scripts himself.
"That's what he really enjoyed doing," Kyle's dad, Vin, remembers. "So that's what his focus became: writing and film."
When Kyle was 6, he received a frightening diagnosis: muscular dystrophy.
Muscular dystrophy is a progressive disease that would, over the course of his life, strip Kyle of the freedom to walk, talk, run, and play; to laugh, hug, eat — and even breathe.
With Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Kyle's physical functions declined throughout his childhood. By age 12, he was using a wheelchair. Despite his muscle-debilitating disease, Kyle never gave up. "Kyle was just the same as any other kid," explains Vin. "His wants, his needs, his desires, everything growing up was the same as any other kid."
So as any passionate person would do, Kyle continued to pursue his dream of filmmaking. Over the years, he worked at a movie theater, started a production company with his friends (aptly named Morbidly Amusing Productions), and attended Rhode Island College for degrees in both creative writing and film.
Enter "Slimebuck," the last script Kyle was working on when he passed away at age 30 in 2014.
In classic kid-friendly horror fashion, "Slimebuck" is the story of a boy who finds an alien in his home while his parents are away. It’s "E.T." meets "Home Alone," complete with mad-scientist burglars and a very real puppet monster (at Kyle's insistence, nothing is computer-generated).
"At the end there, it became very difficult," recalls Vin, noting that Kyle typed most of the script with one finger because he had lost all other strength in his body. "Kyle passed away on April 7, 2014. At that point, he was bedridden and couldn't move for himself any longer, but even that day he was still tweaking his script. Talk about dedication and strength and will. He's the strongest person I've ever known."
After Kyle died, his parents were determined to see "Slimebuck" through to completion.
They picked up where Kyle left off, teamed up with Kyle’s friend, director Tom DeNucci, and just over a year later released the completed 20-minute short film.
"A movie is a movie, but this story is about Kyle getting to have the last word — not muscular dystrophy," Vin says.
Vin and his wife, Annette, are doing everything they can to ensure Kyle's dream of a feature-length film is fulfilled, even with Kyle not here to finish it himself.
"That's what this is all about," stresses Vin, "building awareness of the movie, Kyle's story, and muscular dystrophy."
Vin hopes that his efforts to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy will help other families affected by the disease.
"If it's accepted by everyone a little more," he says, "then the child who's affected is going to feel a little more comfortable."
Of course, Vin also dreams of a time when there will be better therapies for muscular dystrophy and maybe even, one day, a cure.
In telling Kyle’s story, Vin also hopes to share the urgent need for treatments and cures for diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Although higher standards of care have allowed patients like Kyle to live into their late 20s to early 30s, the disease is still 100% fatal.
If you're a fan of family-friendly horror, be sure to check out the "Slimebuck" short film and website. The crew is also working on a documentary about Kyle.
And check out this video for more on Kyle and "Slimebuck":