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Exclusive photos and comments, plus trailer: Southern ghost story “THE HOPEWELL HAUNTING,” coming next week

Monday, June 5, 2023 | Exclusives, News


The filmmaker drew from family experience for this supernatural spooker.

THE HOPEWELL HAUNTING, written and directed by Dane Sears, is coming to VOD and digital platforms next Tuesday, June 13 from Dark Sky Films. Sears also produced with Lee Thongkham, and Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, the duo behind THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD, BUTCHER BOYS and KILL OR BE KILLED, served as executive producers. “I worked on BUTCHER BOYS and KILL OR BE KILLED,” Sears tells RUE MORGUE, “and I had met Duane back in 2001 because we were both huge fans of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I stayed in touch with him over the years because I could see that this guy knew what he was doing. When it came time to make my first feature, I of course would get Duane’s input on the story and script because I trusted him.”

The movie’s synopsis is as follows: “When a mysterious and frightened young couple [Timothy Morton and Audra Todd] arrives in the small town of Hopewell, they immediately flee their rural, dilapidated home in terror. With nowhere to go, they turn to an elderly, jaded preacher [Ted Ferguson] for help. After he begrudgingly agrees to bless their troubled abode, he finds himself face to face with the unknown in what locals have dubbed the most haunted house in Kentucky.”

“My biggest inspiration for this film came to me many years ago in my youth, when my mom told me stories about the time my great-grandmother went to stay with her cousin’s family in this rural farmhouse around 1919,” Sears explains. “Because of the strange and horrifying noises that plagued the family every night, they would all sleep in the same room! Being curious, my great-grandmother decided to stay with them one weekend so she could see for herself what this family was complaining about. Well, sure enough, she experienced the creepy phenomena, and it scared her so bad that she never went back.

“The family eventually moved from the house not long after because their infant had started to develop strange sores all over its body,” he continues. “The doctor actually claimed it was ‘witched,’ but as soon as the family moved from the house, the baby suddenly died. This story stuck with me since childhood, and as I got older and started writing more, I decided to somewhat blend those events with the story from my 2007 short film also called THE HOPEWELL HAUNTING.” 

Sears’ goal with the feature was to create something different from the typical screen ghost stories turned out by the studios. “I had been so let down by those films. In Hollywood, there is jump scare after jump scare, the haunted houses are usually located in some California city and the elements are just so unrealistic and different from the supposedly true ghost stories that I grew up reading. Coming from a small town in Kentucky, I thought of haunted houses as the ones that were miles from civilization and engulfed by nature, which I would see every time my family drove through the countryside. I just wanted to show audiences a haunted house like they had never seen before and really play on the senses, with strange and creepy noises coming from the darkness at all hours of the night.”

Graves recalls that Sears first showed him and Meeks the HOPEWELL HAUNTING short during the making of BUTCHER BOYS. “Justin and I were blown away by it,” he says, “as it reminded us of the gritty backwoods shorts we were making with Kim Henkel 20-plus years ago. We wanted to help in any way we could to get the feature off the ground. Dane worked on the script for a while, and eventually returned to Texas to work with us on KILL OR BE KILLED. We had a look at his script then and really connected with the story–and even more, the chilling backstory that inspired it.

“We’ve always been drawn to regional horror yarns that are deeply rooted in history, legend and lore–especially those of the slow-burn variety, dripping with tension and atmosphere,” Graves adds. “In a way, it reminded us of WILD MAN, our first film, which was based on a tall Texas tale of the cryptid variety. So this all kicked off a multiyear journey that eventually brought THE HOPEWELL HAUNTING to life, and marked our first experience in the producing realm. We couldn’t be prouder of the finished product. It’s a perfect slice of hair-raising drive-in style fare, with a 1930s backdrop that’s both beautiful and terrifying, all served up with an unsettling TEXAS CHAINSAW glaze. What’s not to love?”

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and in addition to his work for RUE MORGUE, he has been a longtime writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. He has also written for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM,, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM, MOVIEMAKER and others. He is the author of the AD NAUSEAM books (1984 Publishing) and THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press), and he has contributed documentaries, featurettes and liner notes to numerous Blu-rays, including the award-winning feature-length doc TWISTED TALE: THE UNMAKING OF "SPOOKIES" (Vinegar Syndrome).