2014-03-07 / Front Page

South Portland native has a knack for horror

By Tracy Orzel
Contributing Writer

On the set of “The Hanover House” at The Fore River Sound Stage in South Portland. The film was nominated for five awards at the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival. On the set of “The Hanover House” at The Fore River Sound Stage in South Portland. The film was nominated for five awards at the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival. SOUTH PORTLAND – Corey Norman developed an appreciation for horror films at an early age. He was 4 years old when he saw his first horror film, “Cujo” at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In Theater, and has been obsessed with the genre ever since. Now a bonafide filmmaker, the South Portland resident is the one making others scream.

Audiences will be able to watch Norman’s first feature film, “The Hanover House,” at the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival April 4-6.

The film is about protagonist Robert Foster, played by Brian Chamberlain, who hits a young girl with his car on his way home from his estranged father’s funeral. In an effort to save her life, Robert takes the girl to a nearby farmhouse, where his dead father opens the door. Once Robert is inside the house, he must conquer “his own personal demons” if he hopes to get out alive.

Chamberlain, who lives in Portland with his wife, described Robert as “a good guy who’s had a difficult past and is about to go through a lot of stuff.”

The idea for “The Hanover House” came to Norman while touring with his short film, “The Barn.”

“When you have to drive 19 hours to Kentucky or 21 hours over to Chicago, you have a lot of time to just think and brainstorm,” Norman said.

Norman, who lost his father to cancer in 2008, thought about his own experiences with loss.

“I had a pretty easy healing process with it because my father was my best friend, so for me I had no regrets when he passed. I was just very grateful for the time I spent (with him),” Norman said.

This made the 32-year-old director wonder what the grieving process would be like for someone who was estranged from his or her father.

“I thought it would be an interesting twist if your father was all of a sudden dead, but then kind of back from the dead, and so then you have a chance to say all the things that you’ve always wanted to say, but never had a chance to,” Norman said.

He described the film as a characterdriven, “slow-burn” horror.

“It’s very much a throwback to the ‘70s era of horror where it was more about the psychological (aspect) and the tension as opposed to how much blood and gore can I jam into this,” said Norman, who wrote the script in the summer of 2012.

After calling in “every favor known to man,” the finished product cost $22,000 to produce. Without those favors, which included donated color correction services, set construction, audio mixing and equipment, Norman said the movie would have cost upwards of $500,000.

Norman and his wife, Haley Norman, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, have put their heart and soul into the production as well as their life savings.

“You only get opportunities like this once,” Norman said. “We went all in and didn’t think twice about it.”

The movie was filmed over the course of 17 days in January and May of 2013 at an actual haunted house built in the late 1800s and located in the mountains of western Maine.

Norman, who has always been openminded to the idea of ghosts, but not entirely convinced, was woken up in the middle of the night by his chocolate lab and schnauzer pug, both of which were growling at the foot of his bed. When Norman opened his eyes he saw an old man standing over him.

“I could see every feature. He was wearing a gray suit and I’m not going to lie, I screamed like a little girl. I back peddled out of the room I almost broke the lamp in the process and dove into the bathroom until I could calm myself and go back in.”

Some of the crew saw floating colored orbs and the shadow of a little boy during the 12 days the crew worked and slept in the farmhouse.

“It not only felt like we were making a scary movie, it felt like we were in a scary movie,” Chamberlain said. “On the upside it made our job much easier to look scared on camera, I guess.”

Although film festivals across the country have expressed interest in premiering “The Hanover House,” Norman said, “It would only be right to do our big premiere here” in Maine, where he received so much support.

The flick is already on pace to sell out one – if not both – screenings at the three-day festival.

After unveiling “The Hanover House” in Maine, Norman plans to take the proverbial show on the road with Haley.

The pair will spend the better part of the year driving state-to-state, festivalto festival, making a stop at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, one of the largest horror and science fiction fests in North America.

Organizers from the Canadian festival have already requested a copy of the film for next year’s event.

“It’s always a nice thing when the festivals come to you as opposed to you having to desperately hope to be selected,” Norman said.

“The Hanover House” has been nominated as the most anticipated horror movie of the year by www.horrorsociety.com, an independent website dedicated to independent horror film music and art. Norman’s short, “Natal” has also been nominated for best short film, best director, best use of sound or visual effects by the website.

“Natal” will also be shown during “The Hanover House” premiere, making Norman the first director in the festival’s four-year history to have a feature film and a short shown together.

Although his father won’t be there to see his son’s film, Norman said he’d be “beyond ecstatic.”

“He used to be the biggest fan boy of our shorts,” said Norman. “It would have been nice to have him here, but I know at the same time he’ll be with us in spirit at the premiere.”

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