Locally made film holds premiere in Hollywood

October 15, 2022

Locally made film holds premiere in Hollywood

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LOS ANGELES — A movie that was filmed almost exclusively in Mason and Oceana counties had its world premiere this last week at the TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood. “Deer Camp ’86” was one of the first three films shown at Screamfest film festival on Wednesday, Oct. 12. 

The movie was written by Harold David Cronk of Scottville and Eric Michiela of Holland under the pseudonyms Bo Hansen and Riley Taurus and directed by Cronk under the pseudonym L. Van Dyke Sibsoutszen (because sometimes, you just have to be someone else when creating art). It was filmed here in the fall of 2020. 

Jay J. Bidwell (Jacob Heethuis, originally of Shelby) plays Buck.

“Deer Camp ’86” is a super natural thriller/comedy about six guys who drive up to northern Michigan from Detroit to spend time deer hunting. As you probably have figured out, it takes place in 1986. Naturally, their first stop is at a bar and they manage to get into a bar fight and partake in an overabundance of adult beverages. Unknown to them, there is a murder at some point in the night. They eventually find their hunting cabin and then find themselves becoming the hunted as a “forest demon” proceeds to haunt them. I’m not going to give away much more than that. 

The movie is a nice mix of adult humor, suspense and thriller. It also has a social message about the exploitation of indigenous American women.   

The concept of “Deer Camp” came to fruition in the early days of the COVID pandemic when it was clear that many in the motion picture industry were forced out of work (like most other people). Cronk and Michiela had each been developing story lines over the years and they merged their two concepts into a project that became “Deer Camp ’86.” As a result,  many creative people, the majority from Michigan (including several local) were put back to work. The film also invested money into local businesses through lodging, catering and set design. 

The majority of the movie was filmed at a hunting cabin owned by Thurow Farms in Riverton Township. Most of the other scenes were also filmed in Mason County at locations including the former Johnny’s of Custer, Sanders of Custer, Wilwin Lodge (and Woodruff Lake) in Eden Township. An exterior scene was filmed at Murphy’s Tavern in Weare Township, Oceana County. An additional scene was filmed in Tampa, Fla. 

Writers Riley Taurus, left, and Bo Hansen

Fast forward to this past week. Screamfest is known as the “Sundance of Horror.” It is the longest running and largest horror film festival in the United States. Frequently, independent films that are viewed at Screamfest will get picked up by a distributor, which is our hope. This was the first time the film was shown publicly. It’s had some private screenings in Manistee (at The Vogue Theatre), Tampa, Los Angeles and even outside of the cabin where it was filmed. 

A local contingency attended the world premiere Wednesday, including Harold and Amy Cronk, myself and my wife Becky (we served as co-producers of the movie which included scouting and securing the locations among many other duties), Mike and Brooke Anderson (Mike served as art director and created some amazing sets), Paul and Lisa Cooper (Paul assisted Mike) and Jay J. Bidwell who played the character Buck. Jay J’s real name is Jacob Heethuis and he is a 2005 graduate of Shelby High School. Also attending from Michigan was Anthony Spague (cultural adviser from the Gun Lake Tribe of Potawatomi who also played the role of the creature), Zhaawan Sprague (who played the role of Z the bartender), and Janine Sam (who served as a creative consultant). 

Since the filming, some of the actors from the film have had some advances in their careers. Paul Wilson, who plays Sheriff Paulsen (and is also an executive producer) played the part of Carl Glatzel in “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” and recently played the part of Richard Nixon in the upcoming TV series “The First Lady.” David Lautman, who played the part of Egbert “Ep” is currently playing the character Grant Smoltz on “General Hospital.” Noah LaLonde, who played the part of Wes, plays the character Cole Walter in the upcoming TV series “My Life With the Walter Boys.” 

Many people have asked about when the movie will be released to the public. That question can’t be answered yet. We are hoping we get some positive results from the film festival. The movie is also scheduled to play at Horrorthon in Dublin, Ireland later this month, which will give it attention in Europe. In the meantime, there will be a local public screening at The Vogue Theatre in Manistee on Friday, Nov. 4 (more details will come out soon). 

See the trailer here.

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