Swamps, marshes and backwater locations have provided evocative settings for horror films/stories in the past. From King Kong (US-1933; dir. Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack), through the likes of Creature from the Black Lagoon (US-1954; dir. Jack Arnold) and Swamp Thing (US-1982; dir. Wes Craven) to modern low-budget monster flicks such as Frankenfish (US-2004; dir. Mark A.Z. Dippé) and Muckman (US-2010; dir. Brett Piper), the tangled, fecund environment provided by swamplands has been suggestive of monstrosity and secretive biological forms. The fact that such places are often (in fiction anyway) inhabited by homo sapiens best described as inbred does nothing to diminish the Swamp’s association with genetic deviance.
Currently in production — and in fact seeking financial backing — is a film that has all the makings of a genre classic. A concept trailer for The Legend of Oak Swamp: The Mysteries of Ironwood has recently surfaced and more than adequately highlights the potential of Massachusetts writer/director Jedidiah Burdick and his team to realise an ambitious dream: to create a fun, VFX-heavy monster film that has “emotional connection, high concepts, and (surprisingly)… even plot”, designed for a youthful audience but with obvious cross-over value.
Under the auspices of his production company Votary Films, Burdick and his team — including Chris Harvey (VFX Supervisor) and Mikel Wisler (Associate Producer) [check out the full team here] — have put together some amazing conceptual work, including an impressive trailer, hoping to show what can be done with minimal funds and maximum commitment.
15 year-old Colin has just moved to a new town in the middle of nowhere. He meets a girl (Grace, 15) who is everything he wants. She’s smart, brave, adventurous… and driven. Grace, who was raised by her uncle, is determined to uncover the mystery surrounding her missing parents, and quickly draws Colin into her world.
Through a series of events the two new friends (plus another) become lost deep in the heart of an endless southern swamp. They discover the remains of a secret WW2 government research establishment, which ten years prior did genetic studies on cross-breeding species for use in the war. Now the swamp is the home of monsters, in particular a bloodthirsty beast that is the product of military experiments gone wrong, and the three friends find seek safety without leading the beast to those searching for them.
Burdick is determined that the “photo-realistic effects” (largely designed by scifi illustrator and concept artist Mark Beer) will be “a powerful tool for helping the audience connect to the bones of the character-driven story”. Take a look at the conceptual trailer that Burdick and his crew have created and I think you’ll agree that this is a project that deserves to get off the ground.
According to director Burdick: “The time when only big studios could make big visual effects heavy features has passed.” Burdick has already gathered together highly skilled artists — concept designers, modelers, animators, and compositors — from around the world to work on the concept. He firmly believes that “the film has huge potential, and we also believe we know how to make it feel very big, with about 400 visual effects shots for a fraction of what Hollywood would spend on that number of them.” (SciFiPulse.com)
The story style combines the nostalgia of the 1950s, with thrilling sequences dealing with visually stunning mixed species. Sort of “Stand by me” meets “Cloverfield”. Especially appealing to a younger market, the fantasy elements allows for younger lead characters, similar to the approach taken with Harry Potter. We have have genuinely spooky and thrilling sequences, but no blood, and a very triumphant and happy ending. A good amount of plot in this story allows for twists and character challenges, which makes the story much more than merely “escaping the killer creatures. (Official website)
More is needed, however. Burdick is now undertaking the task of convincing others to contribute to the financial furtherance of the project. Given the incredible quality of existing collateral, this shouldn’t be too difficult a task.
This film is now positioned to take-off, [he said] but we have finally reached a point where we must raise the proper seed money to launch us from development to pre-production.
He is now seeking for Executive Producers and investors to carry the production forward.
In the following promotional videos, Burdick talks about the story, the market for the film and how the production is being crafted — emphasising the film’s enormous viability in today’s cinematic world:
This is an exciting project and hopefully, Burdick and his team can gather together whatever they need to complete it. More concept art is in the Gallery below.
- Source: Jed Burdick; Official website; On Facebook; IndiGoGo development site
- Articles on the Film: Enkistudios; SciFiPulse
- Research: Avery Guerra | Writing: Robert Hood