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The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

By Gary Wien

originally published: 08/25/2018

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”

Wells wrote and directed the psychological suspense/horror thriller, The Luring, which has its World Premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, September 15 at 7:00pm.  In the film, Garrett is a guy trying to recover a lost memory about his 10th birthday.  He was found that day in a non-responsive state, which led to an extended stay in an institution.  After years and years of one psychologist after another, he was contacted by someone in Vermont who might have the answers.  Garrett and his girlfriend head up to his parents’ vacation home and soon learn there are some memories that are best kept forgotten.

The Luring is a highly entertaining but rather disturbing film.  Wells takes advantage of classic horror and suspense elements such as darkness, isolation, and strange noises to create a film reminiscent of The Shining.

“When I was a kid, I was watching all these horror films because they were taboo or I wasn’t allowed to watch them,” said Wells.  “There’s a safety in horror because you’re scared in the safety of your house or in the theater.  It’s nice to kind of walk that edge.”

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

The film begins with a hint of the evil that exists inside a Vermont house.  We see a family interested in the house, which has been on the market for a long time.  Everything looks great, but the price seems too good to be true.  



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As the parents discuss financial terms with the realtor upstairs, their young son is left alone downstairs.  Wells does a fantastic job framing such an everyday occurrence -  a family checking out a house for sale - and turns it into an incredible scary experience for a boy all alone in a strange place. 

As it turns out, that opening scene was not only the first part of the film shot, but was used as a way of raising money for the rest of the film.

“What we did was shoot the hook - the scene that hooks people into the film,” explained Wells. “We shot the first ten minutes because that was all we could afford.  It cost us about $10,000.  We then went to private investors and said look at what we can do.  I thought it was a great way to raise money because investors want to know about your project and they want to make sure you’ve got skin in the game as well.  So, when I said I put my own money in it, investors felt more at ease giving their money to the project since I was also taking a risk.  That beginning scene has a special place for me because if it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have made the film.”

Wells had previously directed corporate projects, a few short films, and a documentary about his father, but this was his first full-length original project.  It turns out that the idea for the film was inspired by a very specific location - her mother’s vacation home in Vermont.  It’s actually a strange story.  His parents got divorced, but remained best friends.  His dad lives in Vermont and his mother remarried and bought a house near his father’s. Unfortunately his stepfather passed away and his mother said she had to sell the house.

“In the back of my mind, I always wanted to shoot a film there,” said Wells.  “I was leaning towards a horror film - not because the place is creepy, but at night there are no lights overhead so everything is lit through lamps, which creates a lot of contrast and shadows.  So I always thought if I was going to ever shoot a film there, it would be a horror film.”

Unfortunately, the house was going on the market, which meant Wells had to quickly write the script and convince his mother to let him shoot a film there before it was sold.  He came up with the beginning and ending, then found a nice way to tie the entire film together.  He met Brian Berg who was interested in doing a feature film. Berg became the producer and was able to raise most of the money.  

The walk through for his mother’s house took place three days after they wrapped up shooting the film.  A week later, the new owners were moving in.

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

“It’s funny because I’m sitting there directing one day and the next when we wrap, I’m scrubbing the floors because it’s mud season in Vermont,” recalled Wells.  “It was humbling to direct a feature and then be scrubbing the floors because the walk through was coming up in a few days.  It was a quick turnaround and I definitely did not want to disappoint my mom and have her regret letting me shoot a film there.”

When you see enough independent films you begin to notice that one of the biggest differences between a good indie film and a bad one involves the actors.  The Luring gets terrific performances out of its leads (Rick Irwin, Michaela Sprague, and Molly Fahey) and its supporting characters, but especially from the children in the film.  Children in indie films often wind up looking somewhat between an afterthought and a weak link in the overall picture.  But in The Luring, the kids excel, which is crucial because they often play important large roles.

Wells said one of his favorite jobs was being a counselor at the YMCA where he dealt with kids all of the time.  He says he loves the imagination of kids and considers himself a big kid.  Still, he knew it was a bit dangerous to have child actors play such an important part of a film.

“I was nervous going into it because when you work with kids it is a little more unpredictable,” said Wells.  “The way that I direct them is using the less is more approach.  Some directors feel like they always have to talk or direct, but if your actors are getting it just shut the hell up and let them do it! Your name will be on the marque as the director, but you don’t always have to prove that you know what you’re talking about or have a grandiose way about you.”

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

Berg and Wells made sure the actors had good, healthy food on the set and good accommodations. This was especially important as a way of keeping the children content to be on a set for hours at a time.  Wells notes that it’s easy for kids to be excited on a film set for the first 20-30 minutes, but far more difficult when they have to stay ready for up to the rest of the shoot.

“We’re an ultra low budget film, but Brian and I made sure that everyone was going to be happy,” added Wells.  “There wasn’t going to be an excuse for them to give us a bad performance.  I think that’s important because I’ve worked as an actor myself on sets where I’m like, ‘oh God, can this day please be over.’ Either they’re giving you food that you don’t want to eat or the conditions were just crappy.  It changes your mood on the perception of the project.  When you treat people with respect and common decency, they’ll give it back to you.”

Another key aspect of the production that they did not skimp on was the sound and the score. It didn’t take Wells long to realize it was going to be difficult relying on royalty-free sounds and music for the film.  Thankfully, Sean Hamilton (who provided the sound design) knew Al Creedon who did scoring for films.

“Sean said, ‘You might want to talk to him because having a score for a film is ultra important’” noted Wells.  “And the real score made the film so much better because it’s personalized, it’s specific for the film.  I’m so glad that we did it.”

Many of the best horror films take a simple premise that nearly everyone can relate to and show how horrifying things can be in that situation.  Realism is what makes horror films so scary and The Luring thrives on showing the warped side of reality.  It’s scary and absurd in the ways The Shining showed both reality and the supernatural.  If you liked that film, you’ll love The Luring.  It builds upon many of the same themes with the addition of modern twists, and it introduces a new voice to the genre.  One that has quite a lot to say.

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont







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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert. Don’t miss the fourth installment of Harry Potter in Concert when NJPAC hosts the full-length film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, projected in high-definition on a giant screen, with Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle’s masterful score performed live by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 
Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- For an entire week, Hopewell Theater will celebrate Halloween with, Fright Fest, a mini fest of classic Halloween horror films from October 25 - 31, 2018. The slate of films are icons of horror cinema, and will be displayed in all their gory glory on the big screen. 
Golden Door International Film Festival To Present A Screening of "The Pretender"
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- One of the most popular sports films in history is Rocky - a film that mirrors the real life experience of professional boxer Chuck Wepner from Bayonne. A new independent film called The Pretender takes viewers inside the life of Mike Kunda, a “Rocky” fanatic since the movie’s release nearly 40 years ago. The film explores Mike’s fascination with the Rocky Balboa character and how it continues to impact his life, and the lives of others, in interesting and unimaginable ways. The film screens as part of the Golden Door International Film Festival on Sunday, September 23rd at 12:00pm at the Landmark Lowe’s Jersey Theatre (54 Journal Square Plaza) in Jersey City, NJ.
"Therapy, Bro" To Screen At Golden Door Film Festival
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Open Iris Entertainment’s Therapy, Bro will be screened at the Golden Door Film Festival on September 22, at 1:00 PM in The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre. The short comedy film stars Wally Marzano-Lesnevich (Almost Paris), Francesco Nuzzi (Star Crossed Lovers), Heather Brittain O’Scanlon (House Broken), and Garry Pastore (HBO’s The Deuce) and was directed by John Hedlund (Three Minutes to Air).
2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.


Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
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The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont
“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”
REVIEW: "Searching"
A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.
REVIEW: "The Children Act"
Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.
New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 Preview
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  The Festival runs on select Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings. For the complete schedule visit www.NJFilmFest.com. Here is a look at the screenings for September.

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Newark Black Film Festival

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​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.


Winners of the 2018 New Jersey International Film Festival Competition Announced!

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​​​​​​​Passes are now on sale for the 10th annual Lighthouse International Film Festival, which takes place on an idyllic barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean: Long Beach Island, aka LBI. – Some film buff trivia: it’s where one of the infamous Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 happened, which inspired the infamous “Jaws.”








Event calendar
Saturday, Sep 22, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Porchfest @ Booskerdoo, Asbury Park - 12:00pm

Carl Chesna & Co. @ Hotel Tides, Asbury Park - 1:00pm

Echoes @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Cole Swindell @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

GRUPO NICHE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The History of Motown @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Drake Bell @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

Classic Stones Live feat. The Glimmer Twins @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Opera Theatre of Montclair Presents Hansel and Gretel @ Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair - 4:00pm


Oscar D’León with Tony Vega and Los Hermanos Moreno @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

SunDog Band at Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ @ Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ, Paterson - 9:00pm

Celtic Thunder X @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Young Person's Concert @ River Dell Middle School Auditorium, River Edge - 1:00pm


Tigerman record release show for “Descend Into Savagery” @ Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Hubby Jenkins @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Incorruptible @ Ritz Theatre Company, Haddon Township - 8:00pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Theatre Brut Session 2 @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 2:00pm

Evita @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Claire, Anton et Eux" @ Class of 1970 Theatre, Whitman College, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

HUMAN ERROR by Eric Pfeffinger @ West Windsor Arts Center, Princeton Junction - 8:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Assisted Living: The Musical @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 3:00pm


DANCE

SWAN LAKE - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 7:00pm

SOLE Defined @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm


LITERATURE

Monthly Saturday Writing Retreats @ Tiferet Journal, Bernardsville - 9:00am

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