Connecticut stages Ireland in horror film

Connecticut is no Ireland, but in director David Gregory’s movie viewers will not be able to tell the difference.

Plague Town, a low-budget horror film directed and co-written by Gregory and John Cregan, was filmed in Connecticut over the past year. Last night, it returned to its roots for a Halloween premiere double showing in New Haven at the Criterion Cinemas.

After the first screening, Gregory, actresses Josslyn DeCrosta and Kate Aspinwall, and co-producer Daryl J. Tucker spoke about the film to an audience of 120 people while crowd lined up at the door for the next showing.

The movie, which features a cameo by Yale assistant professor of philosophy and classics Barbara Sattler, chronicles the plight of an arguing family as they wander through a remote area. As they search for a safe haven, they run into a village populated by homicidal children.

The filmmakers selected Connecticut for its affordability and landscape, Director of Publicity and Marketing Stephanie Marlow said.

Tucker, a Connecticut resident, drove Gregory around the state to help him decide on the location. Gregory said he viewed Connecticut’s stone walls and verdant fields as a surrogate for Ireland’s scenery.

“He took me all over the state. It was perfect,” Gregory said. “It still was a place that was melancholy and had a lot of mist.”

To maintain the Irish feel, the filmmakers cast members from an Irish Club in Hartford. The film benefited from its location in more ways than the filmmakers had initially expected, Tucker said.

“We got some amazing results from people in the state that I don’t think we would have gotten if we had shot in a major metropolitan area,” he said.

Production for the film was based in North Haven, minutes away from the Yale campus. They did not shoot in New Haven, Gregory said, because it was too urban.

During the shooting of the movie, Connecticut locals were buzzing about the film, Marlow said. Thirty of the audience members were students from Bunnell High School in Stratford, where Aspinwall attends, said her classmate Samantha Nania. Another Connecticut resident interviewed said she came because she had heard of the “really, really scary movie” with “no gore” on the news.

As for the audience outside of Connecticut, Marlow said she expects the movie to attract both typical and atypical horror fans.

Gregory agrees: Plague Town is different, he said.

“The monsters in the film are killer children,” he said, unlike the standard vampire, zombie or mummy film. “It was an angle I thought would be interesting enough and vaguely taboo to stand out from other low-budget horror movies.”

Making a horror film appealed to Gregory because it is “the one genre that has remained popular since cinema began without going out of style,” Gregory said. “You get that feeling of being terrified or disturbed or even repulsed in a way that is actually not physically threatening to you.”

He added that he hoped the audience would get “a real pre-Halloween kick out of it.”

Despite the film’s showing at Criterion — blocks away from central campus — five Yale students interviewed said they had not heard of the movie.

Plague Town has already been screened in San Francisco, Hollywood, New York City, Dublin and Belgium. It will be screened in Italy and Santa Monica later this year.

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