Elder Island, a horror movie filmed in Livingston County, among other Michigan locations, is being released this week by Midnight Releasing for worldwide distribution. As of Feb. 7, it will be available on Amazon, iTunes, VUDU, Vimeo, YouTube, X-Box, PlayStation, Flixfling and Vubiquity.
The movie, billed as a “new 1980s style feature-length supernatural/horror film,” is based on the true story of a murder that took place on Beaver Island, located in Lake Michigan, in the mid-1800s.
The Reverend James Jesse Strang, leader of a break-away Mormon sect, led his followers to settle Beaver Island in 1848. More specifically, he set up his own kingdom, declaring himself King of his 12,000-member Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Strang apparently took his role as King a bit — or a lot — too literally, and eventually so alienated his followers that many left the sect — and a few others decided to assassinate him in June, 1856; he died three weeks later.
Elder Island takes this basic plot and runs with it. The film opens with Professor Moore, who has researched a series of strange disappearances of various people from the island. The rumor on the Island is that Strang has returned from the grave to take grisly, bloody vengeance on his killers’ descendants. Said descendants keep this dark secret to themselves, naturally. But before long, the Professor is found cut up, and one of the documentary crew members is missing. The remaining two crew members have a horror-of-a-time getting off the Island.
The debut film by director Darrin James, a Michigan native and Eastern Michigan University alumnus, and producer Fabricio Cerioni, has garnered positive reviews. One reviewer describes Elder Island, “a well-constructed, low-budget variation on the usual stalk ‘n’ slash fare….The movie is populated by a range of well-acted, unglamorous characters, who together build up a very believable small island community with a hidden secret. It’s also splendidly edited…and there’s an air of growing tension which many more ‘professional’ films don’t achieve.”
Another reviewer calls it a “rather cool genre movie,” comparing it to the classic horror film, “The Wicker Man.” “But Elder Island stays pleasantly far away from just replicating the shocks of old, rather tells its story as a piece of survival horror with a healthy amount of well-executed on-screen action and meanness.” This reviewer notes that “the lovely Michigan settings help enormously….”
Elder Island was filmed in the summer of 2015 in Brighton, Ferndale, Beaver Island and Livonia. It stars Michigan natives Danny Hicks, Timothy Quill and Donavan Darius; almost all of the crew-members also are Michiganders.