Killers In Our Backyard: Locally made horror film creeps around New England
As a born and raised Rhode Islander, it’s hard to find films or TV shows that invoke the true atmosphere of New England. Most media that’s set in New England is typically focused on Boston, and many big-box representations of New England’s rural areas are just that – representations. That was a refreshing feature of writer and director Michael A. LoCicero’s film The Killers Next Door. Set in a migration from Lincoln, RI to Danbury, NH, LoCicero manages to capture the most nostalgic elements of New England: viewers can frequently see cans of ‘Gansett cracked open, Market Basket-labeled products, and woodsy scenery that can’t really be mimicked by any Hollywood movie set. This is due, in part, to the fact that LoCicero himself hails from Lincoln, and has a family cabin in Danbury.
The film centers around two brothers, Ryan (LoCicero) and Bobby (David S. Pridemore), who take a trip up to Danbury to start fresh. Ironically, Bobby’s idea of a fresh start consists of being released from prison and stealing a car to begin their venture, promising his brother Ryan a stint of ‘honest living.’ Though Ryan seems to be hesitant about trusting his estranged brother, he reluctantly tags along – unaware of the true reason that Bobby wants a fresh start in the middle of nowhere. Along the way, the brothers bump into the married pair of Ro (Rosanna Jimenez) and Sean (Sean Carmichael), who are in for the marital bonding of a lifetime in dealing with Ryan and Bobby. As the respective pairs count their days in their cabins, secrets are unveiled and bonds are tested, which leads to a well-built thriller with some intriguing twists and turns.
Overall, LoCicero’s film is an enjoyable watch if you’re a fan of suspense and thrillers. The plot functions as a not-so-slow burn, jumping into the action without hesitation and immediately making the viewers wonder what the characters’ true motives are. Bobby’s criminality is both written and showcased well in this film – Pridemore does well with playing a typical slimy (not so) ex-con who has some skeletons in his closet (Get it?), and LoCicero himself does well with portraying a brother who truly just wants to give his brother the benefit of the doubt… for a little bit. For the sake of transparency, there are moments where characters are shown to be uncomfortably creepy and sexually aggressive towards women (and at one point, a 15 year old girl) – so be prepared for that in your viewing.
I had the pleasure of being able to ask LoCicero a few questions about his film and its inspiration, including how long it took to bring this film to fruition, his favorite parts of creating the film, and his challenges in the process. Here are his responses:
Maddie Jarvis (Motif): What inspired you to create this film?
Michael LoCicero: When it comes to inspiration, it boils down to a location and an episode from a true crime show. My family has a cabin in Danbury, NH that I often visit. Beautiful property: I knew I had to write a script with it as the backdrop. The thriller genre and true crime shows are usually my go-to… so working around a rural cabin in the woods setting wouldn’t be a stretch. The Killers Next Door (formerly titled Respite Road) had influences from the films In Cold Blood and Straw Dogs, but one particular episode of “CBS 48-Hour Mystery” called “3 Days before Christmas” is what really stood out for me.
It was about these two men who break into a family’s cabin in Utah — they rob the place, open the family’s Xmas presents, wait for them to come home so they can attempt to burn the place down and then force these two teenage girls in the family to help them escape on snow mobiles.(Crazy, right? They were caught, by the way!)
The episode mainly followed these guys and their course of action throughout this little crime spree. It was interesting to imagine what could have been going through their minds as they made these terrible decisions. So I wanted to write a story where the focus was more on the antagonists and what drives them to commit these crimes.
MJ: How long did it take to put this film together?
ML: From writing the script all the way to us releasing the film in January… a little over seven years. Producing a feature-length film takes a long time. But making it on a micro-budget and when it’s your FIRST film was like an eternity. Even with limited funds and resources, I still vowed to only release this movie when it felt truly ready and complete. Learned so much along the way, which will definitely save us time on the next go-round!
MJ: What was your favorite part of making the film?
ML: I had a blast shooting it. The cast and crew we assembled for this were an extremely talented and versatile team. And they had to be. This film was quite daunting to make, but we powered through it and I’d like to think we had a lot of fun overall. It was incredibly humbling to have all these people, including my family, friends and business owners from the town of Danbury as well, all coming together to support and help me see this project through.
MJ: What was the most challenging part of making the film?
ML: While it was my favorite part — the production itself, especially when we were shooting in NH, was also the biggest challenge. We were working on a very tight schedule, the weather didn’t always cooperate, and our resilience was constantly tested throughout. Trudging equipment up hills and through thick wooded areas is no easy task. But again, the team we had were real pros and by the end of the shoot, I felt confident we had some great footage.
MJ: Do you have any upcoming films, or current works-in-progress?
ML: As we were prepping for the release of TKND with our distribution team, we made a short film called “Time, Space, Motion, and Kissing.” A beautifully written script by my friend and former college professor, Craig Handel. It was a one-night shoot, and we challenged ourselves by getting it all in a single shot. Another wonderful, collaborative experience thanks to the cast and crew, Gregory Rourke and the folks at the Parlour in Providence who were gracious enough to let us have the perfect location for this story. That’s now completed and being submitted to film festivals, so be on the lookout for that. We also have a script lined up as the next feature in our slate. Still in early stages, but follow our JL Pictures pages on Facebook and Instagram for updates. And to see the trailer and find direct links to The Killers Next Door, please visit our website www.killersnextdoor.com
Learn more about The Killers Next Door and its cast at its IMDb page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6850670/