Shawn Macomber / Nashua Telegraph / October 16, 2005
Recent happenings in Canisborough, N.H., are enough to make even the most lenient pet owner start demanding the imposition of a draconian leash law. But if they get serious they're going to have to get some big leashes and brave dog catchers.
That's another way of saying that New Hampshire has been the perfect location for a werewolf movie for years - spooky evergreen forests, tough glacial-deposit terrain, rural homes, actual wolves - but the state is just now getting its due with Hudson filmmaker Rob Roy's "Lycan Colony." The film premieres at Chunky's in Pelham on Sunday, Oct. 23, with a concert/film screening/Halloween costume contest extravaganza.
"Let me say first of all that I am an animal lover," Roy mischievously intoned during a recent phone interview. "No werewolves were hurt during the making of 'Lycan Colony.' "
Ever since Universal Pictures released "The Wolf Man" starring Lon Chaney in 1941, the old gypsy woman's curse, "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright," has captivated imaginations and spawned countless imitations.
Some have been grand - "Dog Soldiers," "The Howling," "American Werewolf in London" - and others have been dismal - "Cursed," "An American Werewolf in Paris," "The Howling" parts two through six. The mythology itself has nonetheless been too strong to die at the hands of any one film success or failure.
In this vast canon of lycanthrology, it is a bold statement indeed to promise to bring something innovative and new to a werewolf picture, especially for a film with as modest a budget as "Lycan Colony." Yet Roy is making that very claim and promises his film will back him up.
The fictional N.H. town of Canisborough is the setting for "Lycan Colony," which was filmed in various locations around the Granite State, using local actors and music.
"I've always loved werewolf movies, but I'm tired of seeing the same storyline over and over again," he said. "The werewolf is always a sick tormented beast. He's always the bad guy. In 'Lycan Colony,' we filled a whole town with them. Some are good, some are bad. None of them are these simple monsters that show up for five minutes at the end of the movie. They're the life and blood of a modern town, and much closer to us than we're used to seeing in these movies."
"Lycan Colony" also eschews most of the typical trappings of werewolf films: silver bullets, gypsy curses, wolf-killing canes, wolfsbane.
"The colony in my film has a much more tribal, pagan background to it," Roy explained. "It's a totally different mythology."
Modern horror movies have abandoned any interest in pushing boundaries or challenging audiences, Roy said.
"Horror is huge right now, but it's all old hat," he said. "Studios throw massive amounts of money at all these filmmakers and what do they get? Every five seconds something pops into the frame with a loud noise to jolt people. It's all shock, no suspense. I hope people feel something more when they're watching my movie than cheap scares."
Even a rough-cut trailer of the film suggests Roy has been successful by that and many other measures. At times it's difficult to believe this is the 38-year-old father of two's first full-length feature.
It's a story that's all the more inspirational when one learns that taught himself every aspect of filmmaking - from make-up effects to building his own camera dollies, animatronic heads and blood sprayers to building his own blue-screen shooting area in his garage - while shooting the movie.
Roy's always been a do-it-yourself kind of guy. When he couldn't afford to record his music at a high-priced studio, he built his own.
When he couldn't afford to have someone shoot a video for his band, he started building his own video studio.
"If you can't afford to do something, you can either give up or find another way," Roy said. "I've always worked hard to find another way. The Internet becomes your best friend at that point. If you don't try, you'll never know what you could have done."
The work paid off. In 2003 Videomaker Magazine voted one of Roy's videos Best Video of the Year. That was all the encouragement he needed to start shooting short films and before long the horror/action/fantasy aficionado started dreaming up his trip to Canisborough.
The computer-programmer-cum-filmmaker spent a year making the costumes and writing the script for the 90-minute movie, and then four months of "marathon filming" in Hudson, Bedford, Goffstown, Merrimack and Manchester.
"Everyone has day jobs, so it could be tough coming up with a schedule that fit," he said. "Some weekends, we'd only get one scene done because we'd be shooting scenes over and over again to make it look like we had a lot of different camera angles. It was an exhausting process."
Roy effusively praised his cast - which included his own 7- and 18-year-old sons - for their patience and devotion to the project.
"I wrote the story, but they brought it to life," Roy said. "We had our arguments and disagreements, but they all brought so much to the characters. When I look at the script and then at what's on the screen, I am honestly just amazed by the quality of their work.
Watching clips with the actors for the first time was definitely a surreal experience."
Local actors aren't the only ones set to benefit from "Lycan Colony," however. Roy also used the film's soundtrack as an opportunity to shine the light on several local bands including Milford's Sloppy Jo, Manchester's Rose, Randy "New Hampshire's Lou Reed" Martin, Manchester's S.U.Y.T. and - surprise, surprise - the Rob Roy Band. All of the soundtrack bands will all play the Pelham premiere, as well.
After the premiere, Roy plans to seek wider distribution for "Lycan Colony" and press DVDs of the film to sell online. (The buzz around the film is already so good, he's received a couple dozen pre-orders.) Several other projects are in the works for his Wit's End production company, not all horror films, either.
Of course, the door is left open for a return to Cainisborough, as well.
So after spending a year steeped in werewolves, has Roy figured out why the allure of the lycanthrope remains so strong?
"I think it's just the beast within," he answered. "These creatures are sexy, scary and they cannot be controlled. That's what we were trying to get to with 'Lycan Colony': The sensual underbelly of animalistic human beings and what happens when we surrender to that."
Information: Visit www.witsendpro.com/lycancolony/.