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PRINCETON — Princeton filmmaker John Swanson has transferred his appreciation for old horror movies into his own artistic pursuits.
On Halloween night, the Apollo Theater in Princeton will screen “Unearthly Harvest,” which Swanson wrote, directed and produced, as well as “Threshold,” in which he acted.
Swanson originally released “Unearthly Harvest” in 2003. The 71-minute film features local actors and was shot in a Tiskilwa home and several local parks and businesses.
“It’s a supernatural thriller centering on the mysterious deaths of several people living in a haunted house. But it’s more than just a haunted house story; it’s also a love story, too. It’s about two people who have to fight against all odds to survive,” he said.
“I wanted to do something that’s no longer being done. All you’re getting now is special effects and little story in them.”
Swanson said his film was designed to be a tribute to the low-budget, “off-beat sci-fi” films by Roger Corman that he grew up watching.
“I gave my film that ’70s look through my camera work, lighting, and directed it in that style. They don’t make films like this anymore, so I did,” Swanson said. In “Threshold,” still a work in progress, Swanson moved to the other side of the camera to act. The movie, which is only about 20 minutes long, was shot in May in Armstrong, Mo., with the Stephens College Summer Film Institute, he said. Swanson said the film is based on the “Castle Doctrine.”
“The Castle Doctrine says a man can protect himself from intruders if the intruder makes him feel threatened and the intruder passes the threshold,” he explained. The story features Hank, “a train-hopping young man,” Gil, “a stubborn old man about to lose his land to the government,” the town sheriff and a documentary film crew.
“They all collide as Hank crosses the threshold,” said Swanson.
Swanson plays Gil, a man who will do anything to keep his land and home. “There’s a road coming in and there’s a lot of pressure on him to get out, to sell, and he’s just stubborn. He just will not do it. He will do anything to keep it, which makes for good drama,” he said.
“Unearthly Harvest” and “Threshold” will be shown at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Apollo Theater, Princeton.
Voluntary donations will be accepted in lieu of admission and donated to Nightmare on Fairgrounds Road and the Bureau County Fair. Moviegoers are encouraged to come in costume. There will be some giveaways including memorabilia from “Unearthly Harvest.”