Washington County, with its deep woods and profusion of far-flung, isolated small towns, is the stuff of horror writers’ most evocative dreams. Stephen King knows it, and the rest of the world is slowly catching on. Just ask actor Paul Cram, a Minnesota native who is in the middle of filming the Maine-made horror thriller “Anniversary,” largely in the remote town of Wesley (population about 100). “It looks just amazing,” enthuses Cram, “The locations are just stellar. I didn’t know that Maine was so beautiful but it is just stunning.” That, even though much of the filming in Wesley was done at an abandoned motel. Like I said – creepy.
As, reportedly, is the movie, written and directed by Maine’s Jim Cole of Gum Spirits Productions (www.gumspirits.com), which – well, I’ll let Cram explain: “It’s a thriller film with some definite horror elements. A professor hires a photographer and his assistant because he’s putting together a dissertation on small towns that are isolated from the outside world. They come into a very small town – one of those towns that really hasn’t been touched by the outside, and in the interviews with the town, things get really odd. The stories from the townspeople don’t add up – different people say different things … but a lot of missing children is a constant. I play the assistant – my character interacts the most with what appears to be these pale creatures lurking around the town. And that’s all I can really tell you …”
For Cram (www.paulcramactor.com), “Anniversary” is just the latest stop in a busy career that has taken him all over the country. What lured him to the Maine woods?
“I worked on a film in Minneapolis and Jim was working as the DP a few years back and then he contacted me,” Cram said. “I was excited – I was impressed with him, his approach, his attitude. He was pretty laid back, which I appreciated. I’ve worked with some really over-the-top, violent directors – most from L.A. So it’s good to have someone you can trust. Plus, I was excited when I read the script. I read a fair amount of scripts and this was a nice feeling of ‘oh, it’s done!,’ instead of being a trudge.”
Filming in Maine has been a positive experience for Cram as well. “The vibe here in Maine reminds me a lot of Minnesota – good actors, good crew, and people know their stuff. I get the impression that there is a real community here in Maine. As an actor, it was fun to be up in Wesley, the local little store where we would go in for lunch and dinner – the owner Tina would make us our meals. It was so fun to hear her talk – and she got business from this. I get the impression that it can get hard up there, and we were happy to bring some business.”
Hear that, Maine legislators debating tax incentives for filming?
As to “Anniversary” (which is also filming in Standish, Auburn, Sumner, South Windham and other locations), Cram has nothing but great things to say about his cast mates, including Portland mainstay Ian Carlsen, and says he hopes the film will hit Maine screens sometime later this year. (Watch this column for details.) Meanwhile, look for him in the upcoming post-apocalyptic horror film “Dust Of War” alongside genre icons Tony Todd (“Candyman”) and Doug Jones (“Pan’s Labyrinth”): “I’ve got one scene, but it’s a memorable one.”
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.