Sad to say, but in the past few months the pandemic has put a damper on the Hudson Valley’s newfound popularity as a filmmaking wonderland. But the stream of new movies and TV series shot here in recent years hasn’t yet dried up altogether. Slated for release on July 10 via a variety of cable on-demand platforms, including iTunes, Google and Amazon Prime, is a new independently produced supernatural thriller titled A Deadly Legend. It was filmed in Sullivan and Greene County, and producers Kristen Anne Ferraro and Eric Wolf – d/b/a REMcycle Media, Inc. – are based in Wurtsboro. It’s their first feature-length effort.
Ferraro plays the female lead, while Wolf, who wrote the screenplay, portrays a secondary character. With help from the Hudson Valley Film Commission and New Paltz-based Heidi Eklund’s Hudson Valley Casting, they managed, despite a modest production budget, to attach some notable actors to the project, including Judd Hirsch and Corbin Bernsen – both of whom have homes in the mid-Hudson – as well as Lori Petty.
Don’t be misled by the plot synopsis, which at first glance makes A Deadly Legend sound like it could be a retread of cheesy occult horror tropes: “Joan Huntar, a real-estate developer, buys an old summer camp. However, the property has a dark history of supernatural worship and human sacrifice. A celebration weekend turns deadly when construction uncovers the mythical Stonehenge of America. Deadly spirits are awakened and kill to gain control of this supernatural gateway. Unable to escape, Joan and her family must fight for survival and defeat the spirits from beyond.”
More blood libel against innocent Wiccans? Say it ain’t so! In fact, while Wolf had homage to classic gorefests of the Seventies and Eighties on his mind when writing the script, he says that they hired a self-described “historical magick consultant,” Chester-based Deidra Catero of the Magick Grove, to review the film’s portrayals of Druidic beliefs and practices. She made sure that no anti-Pagan religious bias was being expressed. There are evil forces at work in the story, to be sure, but they’re unleashed by what Wolf terms “a rogue Druid.”
Druidism being warped to foul purposes in a defunct summer camp in Sullivan County? The intriguing speculative premise here is that bluestone, used to construct the megaliths at Stonehenge, isn’t indigenous to ancient Britain’s Salisbury Plain, but had to be imported by ship from somewhere across the English Channel. So why not all the way across the Big Pond from the Catskills, thanks to descendants of the Vikings who came to Newfoundland circa 1000 AD? It’s a fun, fanciful way to spin the mysteries of all those strange astronomical alignments of stones found throughout the Northeastern US.
The initial inspiration for A Deadly Legend was a short film that the couple made in 2017 titled She Came from the Woods, which toured the festival circuit and “won several awards,” says Wolf. The short concerned a scary campfire story that comes to life, but the conceptual similarity pretty much ends there.
“We wanted to do a call-out to the great scare films of the past, such as Friday the 13th and Halloween,” Wolf admits. “But we wanted to take a run on some of the stereotypes of the genre. There are no scream queens. It’s got a strong female central cast, as well as a diverse crew. Hardly any of those old horror movies had women directors. So we hired Pamela Moriarty to direct. Not only is she a woman, but she’s half-Thai. This is her first feature. We also wanted to bring the characters to the forefront, with a strong story. It’s not buckets of blood. It’s a thriller, a ghost story, more than anything else.”
Among the target audience for A Deadly Legend, according to Ferraro, are “the hero single mothers out there who can be in their forties and fifties and still kick ass.” Besides fans of those aforementioned slasher movies, she says that REMcycle also has its marketing eye on “a younger audience who loves horror, but also cosplay … a younger generation who are getting into crystals and their own power to overcome negativity.” (The Crystal Connection, a shop selling supplies for New-Age spirituality that’s housed in a former church in Wurtsboro, is the setting for scenes crucial to the development of some of the key characters, she notes.)
Adds Wolf, “This movie should appeal to folks who love ComiCon.”
Along with plot twists, the producers promise plenty of Easter eggs for horror-genre fans; Wolf’s character is surnamed Renfield, for example, after the character in Dracula. And the tone includes what he calls “subtle campiness,” notably in the character portrayed by Lori Petty, whose exasperated call for a beer ends the film’s trailer on a humorous note. You can view it online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJMggkBZoIs.
The summer-camp scenes were filmed on the former site of Camp Jened in Thompsonville, which provided camping experiences for handicapped people in the 1970s and is the subject of Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s recently released documentary Crip Camp. Other Hudson Valley locations used for shooting A Deadly Legend include Lumberyard Studios in Catskill, Woodbourne Lawn and Garden in Ferndale, Wurtsboro Wholesale Antiques, Wolf Lake in Wurtsboro, and several other sites in the Towns of Mamakating, Thompson and Wurtsboro. Check out the new movie on or after July 10 and have fun location-spotting!