As the cold Maine autumn creeps up on us, we pull our coat collars tight, keep our heads low, and listen for – something – approaching through the fallen leaves. We know it’s coming, and we quicken our steps in tingly dread.
Yes, “Damnationland” is sneaking up fast.
The fifth annual installment of the Maine-made horror anthology film series will have its world premiere on Friday, Oct. 17, at the State Theatre, and then will show all over the state (and out of state for the first time this year), bringing Maine film fans the yearly opportunity to get their scare on, just in time for Halloween. Begun in 2010, the “Damnationland” films have attracted the best and brightest (and perhaps most sinister) of the Maine film scene for its lineup of Pine Tree State chills. I spoke with co-founder and filmmaker Allen Baldwin for the lowdown on this year’s movies.
Director Corey Norman (“The Hanover House”) helms the 1980s slasher throwback “Tickle,” resurrecting the classic horror scenario of the baby sitter, the little kid, and the requisite unexplained noises in the night. Says Baldwin, “It’s quintessential ’80s horror, right down to the Spandex and leg warmers.” Plus, he adds, the “Tickle” weapon of choice is a sickle, one of the photogenic array of weapons adorning this year’s “Damnationland” poster, designed by co-producer David Meiklejohn.
The Brown Brothers (Tadin and Ranin) bring us “Dark,” about a man (portrayed by Maine acting mainstay Erik Moody) dealing with his inner demons – if, indeed, that’s what they are. Baldwin’s cagey on this one, saying “This one especially has some weird stuff I wouldn’t want to give away.”
Director Barry Dodd is next, his “On A Country Road” involving a cab driver, an escaped maniac, a raging rainstorm – and a very isolated Maine country road. Says Baldwin, “This one stars Sharon Smythe Lentz from (classic Maine-set horror soap) “Dark Shadows,” who flew in to be in the movie.”
Jason Bosch’s “Driver’s Seat,” about a good Samaritan who finds that an accident victim may not be as helpless as she thinks, continues the vehicle-based horrors. “There’s a lot of automotively driven (sorry) films this year,” says Baldwin, adding that this one makes great use of a very recognizable Maine spot – Hussey’s General Store in Windsor. “It’s the store that says ‘Bait, Ammo, Wedding Dresses,'” Baldwin explains. “It’s something a lot of Mainers will recognize.”
Jenny Anastasoff’s “Sui Generis,” a “Twilight Zone”-style psychological thriller, marks the director’s first behind-the-camera effort, after a long tenure as a performer. Says Baldwin, “Jenny’s been a longtime champion of local film, and we’re so excited to have her first film – “Damnationland” has always reached out to female directors, and she’s great.”
Tom Wyatt’s “Anima Sola,” is about, well, as Baldwin describes, “It’s kind of ghost-ish… a man haunted by a ghost? Hell on earth. Earth as a hell.”
And topping all this off are interstitial short-shorts from the good folks at Through The Door Productions. “There are seven interstitials, short films between all of the longer films,” Baldwin explains. “One minute segment each, culminating in a twist.”
This year’s “Damnationland” sees the franchise continuing to expand, with showings all through the month. As to why the series has been so successful, Baldwin says, “I feel like we’ve always focused on quality. There are two ways to support local film – quantity and quality. Something like the 48 Hour Film Project is about quality – there are more people making films in Portland than ever before. But “Damnationland” is really for showcasing the best.” Asked about how the horror elements have continued to attract Maine’s elite filmmakers, Baldwin demurs, saying, “We steer away from the ‘h’ word. It’s more about dark, sinister, thrilling, films for a dark season. It’s more about tapping into our dark sides and seeing what’s there.”
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
SPACE GALLERY, Portland | www.space538.org
Wednesday, Oct. 15: “Wetlands.” Already-infamous (and acclaimed) German coming-of-age story about a young woman whose sexual awakening involves escalating fascination with every aspect of her body’s various…fluids.
SOUTHERN MAINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 2 Fort Road, South Portland | www.damnationland.com
Wednesday, Oct. 15: “Damnationland” Retrospective Screening. Hey, it’s more “Damnationland!” The evil geniuses behind the Maine horror institution are holding greatest hits screenings of some of the past shorts, so head to SMCC and get ramped up for this year’s terror! (See www.damnationland.com for details… if you dare!)