Independent filmmakers are, by necessity, adaptable creatures. But, for Maine director Corey Norman, this week has been especially trying. “Things are definitely crazy,” sighs Norman into the phone. I can practically hear the shrug on the other end. There’s nothing else to say.
This week was supposed to be Norman’s moment of triumph, a gala victory lap, with the world premiere of his two-years-in-the-making Maine horror film “The Hanover House” finally screening for the gathered audiences – of the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival. The same LAFF whose founder Joshua Shea was arrested, accused of possessing child pornography last week, leaving the promising festival a shambles.
Some filmmakers, like Norman, made the preemptive decision to withdraw. While Shea made no formal announcement about the festival, a publicist working on the event confirmed it is canceled.
Luckily, another Maine movie venue has stepped up to save the day.
“The Hanover House” and fellow Maine horror flick “How to Kill a Zombie” will have a dual world premiere on May 9 and 10 at the venerable Saco Drive-In (thesacodrivein.com), a development Norman cites as a perfect solution on several levels. “Some of my favorite memories with my dad are of going to the drive-in every weekend and watching ‘Cujo’ from the back seat,” says Norman. “In the ’70s and ’80s, horror and the drive-in went hand in hand. Now, a horror film double-header? I’m almost overly excited.”
“The Hanover House” promises drive-in thrill-seekers some of the same atmospheric chills Norman’s Bonfire Films – which produced eerie shorts “The Barn” and “Natal” – are known for. “Ultimately, ‘The Hanover House’ is a horror film,” explains Norman. “Some people get immediately turned off by that, but we tried to make it more than just a typical blood-and-guts horror film. It’s about a guy (lead actor Brian Chamberlain) who’s feeling very lost and abandoned in his life, getting a chance to reconnect and have a chance to say all the things he wanted to say. Really it’s about a boy’s interaction, or lack thereof, with his dad and how that formed him into a man. The house is a representation of his fractured psyche, and he has to face his own personal demons as he tries to survive.”
Norman is full of praise for his cast: Along with Chamberlain, he singles out leading lady Casey Turner and the impressive roster of recognizable Maine talent (Andrew Sawyer, Ian Carlson, Matthew Delameter, Daniel Noel and others), all of whom, he enthuses, serve to enrich the film immeasurably.
“Brian and I spent about 40 hours trying to discover his character – he brought so much depth. And when Casey came in to audition, I was crying in just a few minutes, and then literally stopped breathing. I was tapping my wife’s leg under the table, I was so excited we’d found her.”
Haunted though “The Hanover House” may be (and Norman and other crew members claim to have had some actual suspiciously spooky encounters while filming in the home that is the film’s main location), the production has had a stunning run of good luck throughout its journey to the big (drive-in) screen – even if it didn’t look like good luck at the time.
“The tagline of the movie is ‘The house gets what it wants,’ and there’s really been a lot of serendipity making it,” says Norman, citing everything from the chance finding of the perfect location to the unexpected generosity of both online backers (the film was financed partly through a Kickstarter campaign) and peers, who donated equipment and services, to some other things perhaps not quite so explicable.
“The original ending was so bad,” Norman explains. “None of us were really feeling it. Right then, half the pipes in the house started bursting. We were forced to stop for four days and we totally revamped it – the ending changed from being forced and cheesy to a kind of tender moment. There were so many encounters like that on set that it wasn’t even funny.”
And now the ability of “The Hanover House” to turn bad news into good continues, with the film (already receiving interest from several other film festivals and a write-up in Fangoria magazine) giving Norman the big drive-in world premiere he could only have dreamed of in the back seat of the family car.
“Ry (Russell, Saco Drive-In owner) has been so great. We’re still looking to make the double feature an event – barbecue, the whole works. We think it’s going to be a real fun experience.”
Keep watching the film’s website (www.thehanoverhousefilm.com) for details and then come out and catch a double-bill of exciting new Maine horror.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.