Maine is scary. Stephen King knows it. Anyone waking up to the year’s first blizzard with a broken snowblower knows it. And moviemakers know it – even if Maine’s baffling refusal to pass filming incentives means that most “Maine-set” horror movies and TV shows are filmed cheaper elsewhere. But just how scary can Maine get? Well, here are some picks for the real-world Maine locations most inviting for a brave film crew to bring to cinematic life. Or death. All story ideas freely given – here’s to Maine finally getting the in-person horror movie legacy it deserves. (Also, I’m up for a “story by” credit and some back-end points.)
Malaga Island (off Phippsburg)
Proposed title: “Malaga,” has the right pronoun (mal = “bad”), and just sounds appropriately ominous
The pitch: A tiny Maine island with an ugly history plays host to a tale of buried secrets, where the past is never as dead as certain people would like to pretend.
The Maine horror: The story of Malaga Island is one of Maine’s most potent true tales of epic injustice. The early 20th-century eviction and displacement of the island’s mixed-race residents by the Maine government involved thuggish white supremacy, the dubious commitment of residents to an infamously cruel mental institution, and even the disinterment of the islanders’ graves. Modern-day horror has come a long way in the genre’s ability to tackle real-world racial issues in ways that delve deeper than using real-world horrors for exploitative window-dressing. A Black filmmaker like Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Nia DaCosta (the “Candyman” remake), Barry Jenkins (“The Underground Railroad”), or “Lovecraft Country’s” Misha Green could find the right, nuanced supernatural take on one of Maine’s most horrific legacies of racial injustice – and how it bleeds into 21st-century America.
Evergreen Ski Resort (Stoneham)
Proposed title: “The Pining” (because of the Maine woods – you get it)
The pitch: A company’s plans to reopen a long-abandoned ski resort deep in the White Mountain National Forest inadvertently reawakens – something – left behind in the decades after the disastrous collapse of the scandal-plagued tourist trap.
The Maine horror: An abandoned resort? In the middle of nowhere (technically on the lonely Maine/New Hampshire border)? Anyone else getting some combined “The Shining” and “Friday The 13th” tingles right about now? Maine’s history of expanding into, and then retreating from, some of our most remote and starkly beautiful reaches has left lots of crumbling structures for the unwary to stumble upon, should they stray from the road. In a slasher/supernatural thriller, an evocatively spooky location (complete with frozen-in-time 1970s lodge interiors) is half the battle. Plus, a place like this would have lots of rusty, forgotten implements lying around.
Pocomoonshine Lake (Princeton)
Proposed title: If you’re not going to rush out to see a monster movie named “Pocomoonshine Lake,” you and I are very different people.
The pitch: A scientific team sent to investigate the centuries’ worth of tales about a giant, snake-like monster in this Washington County lake finds something much, much worse.
The Maine horror: Look, if Scotland can have Nessie and Vermont can have Champ, then Maine can have Poco, which is what I’m deciding is the only name for this mythical (or is it?) Maine monster. One of the things that various Maine governments’ refusal to pass tax incentives for film production in the state misses is the chance to really show off how strikingly glorious Maine can look onscreen, and a part-aquatic horror-adventure monster flick set in the great, dark north is just the sort of thing that could put Maine on the map, cinematically speaking.
Flagstaff (near Eustis)
The title: Taken from Maine singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves song about the location, “Below” is evocatively haunting. (The song itself is a little jaunty for our purposes, but maybe it could play over the end credits.)
The pitch: An illegal diving crew hunting for a secret flooded along with the entire Maine town of Flagstaff finds that something else has been waiting for them.
The Maine horror: Flagstaff, Maine’s Wikipedia page starts with the phrase, “a ghost town and former town in Somerset County,” and that’s a good start. The truth of Flagstaff is even better/scarier, as the formerly active Maine town was intentionally flooded to make way for the damming of the Dead River (also a good name) in 1950, leaving what remains of the place lurking at the bottom of what’s now Flagstaff Lake. Oh, and the place was originally founded by eventual infamous traitor Benedict Arnold, so maybe we work in some shady Revolutionary War ghosts as well.
All around you
Proposed title: “The Disturbed.”
The pitch: After a corporate land-grab opens formerly protected forest to development, construction crews begin to experience an escalating series of frightening events – marked by some very big footprints.
The Maine horror: As chronicled everywhere from Maine’s International Cryptozoology Museum to the book “Bigfoot In Maine” by Portlander and Green Hand Bookshop owner Michelle Souliere, the Pacific Northwest can’t monopolize all the Sasquatch sightings. And while the whole Bigfoot horror genre has been pretty lousy overall (Bobcat Goldthwait’s unnerving, “Blair Witch”-esque “Willow Creek” being the exception), the idea of the possibly mythical whatever-it-is only becoming a menace once its pristine and isolated habitat is disturbed (see title) introduces a lot of thematic weight. Logging, deforestation, human-caused extinctions, and greed reaping a giant, hairy comeuppance has all the telltale signs of a modern Maine horror classic.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.