Maine filmmaker hopes to leave audiences ‘Tickled’ with latest horror flick

Corey Norman, a Portland filmmaker who found success earlier this year with his first feature “The Hanover House,” is returning to the director’s chair for a short titled “Tickle.” The film, which just reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, will be part of Damnationland, an annual genre film festival featuring six shorts created by Mainers for the Halloween season.

I had a chance to catch up with Norman to talk about “Tickle,” the difference between making shorts and features, and the recent distribution fail of Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno.”

Q. So judging by the brief summary on your Kickstarter page, it seems that ’80s horror films are the primary influence for “Tickle.” Could you elaborate a little on how you’re working those influences into this film?

A. When we were offered the chance to appear in this year’s Damnationland, we thought it would be a great opportunity to go outside of our particular niche of horror and try something different. As a child of the ’80s I grew up on films like “Cat’s Eye,” “Evil Dead,” “Friday the 13th” and “Child’s Play.” For “Tickle,” we wanted to take some standard troupes from these films, such as that of the baby sitter alone in the house, and bring a Bonfire sensibility to it. Our goal is to create a film that would scare the pants off my 8-year-old self, while providing the gore and hints of humor that would make the 30-year-old me cheer with excitement. I think my wife, Haley Norman, did an amazing job capturing all these elements when she penned the script.

Q. So for this film you’re reuniting with Casey Turner from “Hanover House.” Was this something you both talked about while filming “Hanover,” or how’d it come about?

A. It’s funny how things came together on “Tickle.” Haley pitched the initial idea to me while driving home after work one night last week. Two days later, when Allen Baldwin of Damnationland called to offer us a spot in the festival, we began scrambling to pull the logistics together. Haley and I knew right then that we wanted to bring Casey Turner back, as [she] was such a blessing to have on “Hanover,” and we were ecstatic that she agreed to play the roll of Trudy. Because we built such a good working relationship of “The Hanover House,” we knew she could bring the range that the character needed.

Q. In your career so far, you’ve directed a lot of shorts and now one feature, how does your preparation and process differ when you’re making a short rather than a feature?

A. I actually prepare for a short film in the exact same way that I prepare for a feature. I still work with my full production team, and have the same expensive tastes when it comes to gear, props and wardrobe. The only real difference is that with a smaller-sized script, it affords me more opportunity and time to obsess over the small detail.

Q. What do you think audiences should expect from “Tickle”?

A. People should be prepared to journey back to the ’80s in term of aesthetic, story and the use of all practical effects. The only major difference will be the fact that we’re shooting it in high definition with modern equipment. That being said, we’re aiming to add in some comedic elements to get the crowd laughing before we gross them out with some extreme practical effects that I hope would make Lucio Fulci proud.

Q. So, after “Tickle,” what do you plan to take on next?

A. We have another long-form short called “The Orchard” that we’d like to shoot later this fall. Written by our AC Anthony Wheeler, “The Orchard” returns us to the typical Bonfire style that our fan base has come to love. “Out in the country, Chapman Farms sits, patiently, waiting to be tended. The orchard has been in the family for generations, and the trees have never been so lonely. With no one but Old Man Jack, accompanied by the haunting memory of his late wife, to look after the family’s farm, it’s a matter of faith: you reap what you sow. but not everything is quite as it seems.” Since we’re about to hit our initial Kickstarter goal of $1,200 less than 48 hours into the campaign, we’ve decided to announce a stretch funding goal of $4,000 that would allow us to create both this film and “Tickle.” The best part is that with all current pledges, you would receive both films for the price of one if we hit our stretch goal.

Q. Can you believe what happened with the release of “The Green Inferno”?

A. I am so incredibly bummed out with the distribution nightmare that is “The Green Inferno.” The advanced screenings of the film have left critics excited about Eli Roth as a director. This buzz has had me beyond excited for the release. Couple that with the fact that it’s a love letter to “Cannibal Holocaust” (the name “Green Inferno” is the title of the documentary being made in “Cannibal”) and I’m left as a very disappointed horror fan. I’m holding out hope though that the distribution gods will come through in the end.

There’s still time to kick in and help fund “Tickle.” For more, visit kickstarter.com/projects/942103898/tickle-damnationland-2014.

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