VILLAGE OF ALAMANCE — The town is picturesque and the people are friendly enough, but something is wrong inside the house at 4377 N.C. 62 South.
The Thomas family has come home to Cedar Rock Falls and — like a Norman Rockwell painting on a bad acid trip — things are getting truly strange. In the set-up for “Nevermore,” set for a 2014 release, all the children have vanished and left behind some dark secrets.
“Their little boy starts seeing ‘pretend’ friends. It just goes downhill from there,” executive producer Liliana Kligman, of Café Oscuro Films said, grinning.
“Nevermore” aims for the supernatural sweet spot between popcorn-spilling thrills and character-driven suspense. The 50-member cast and crew will continue filming in the house for the next 10 days and in various Alamance County locations through March 6.
The movie stars Lance Henriksen, best known for roles in “Aliens” and the TV series “Millennium,” actress Valerie Azlynn, of “Tropic Thunder,” and Jason Cook of “Days of Our Lives.” Lauren Sesselmann, a member of Canada’s 2012 Olympic Medal-winning women’s soccer team, also plays a key role.
Local actors fill out the remaining cast, said writer and director Dean C. Jones and producer Starr Jones.
The Joneses are Graham natives who founded Snow Camp’s Original Hollywood Horror Show. They’ve spent 30 years in makeup and effects in Hollywood but recently moved toward making their own films.
They wanted to shoot in Alamance County to help the local economy and to prove North Carolina has what it takes to make successful films, they said. Local ties helped secure shooting space inside Holly Hill Mall, Graham Soda Shop and other local businesses.
“It’s kind of amazing to Dean and me,” Starr Jones said. “We came from a small town like this and ended up working in L.A. on big films. It’s good to come back, to pay back the hands up we got.”The setup inside the village home is impressive. It’s currently for sale and was “pristine” when they found it, Starr Jones said.
By Saturday, crews covered all the walls with photos, framed artwork and religious implements. In the basement, they were aging the brick walls with paint and building props and set pieces. A dirt floor will be added next week.
Most of Saturday’s filming was on the ground floor. The crew blocked several dialogue-heavy scenes between Henriksen’s character, “Father Donovan,” and Azlynn’s “Jennifer Thomas.”
Henriksen plays a concerned priest who “gets caught up … and tries to help this family but just ends up making it worse,” he said. The character’s responsibility and depth make for an interesting role, he said.
“To play a priest is a dangerous role for an actor. They spend a lifetime studying for it,” Henriksen said. “I was in a Catholic orphanage at 5 years old … I have appreciation for that level of discipline. It wasn’t too hard to realize that self as a grown man.”
Azlynn plays the wife of a big city district attorney with a haunted past and the mother of a young son — played by William Pifer of Elon — with some troubling new friends. She compared the role to watching someone unravel.
“It’s about realizing that there’s something else other than what you thought possible,” she said.
Dean Jones said his script and vision look up to the stylish, classic films of Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan and Billy Wilder. He hopes the thought and effort behind “Nevermore” will come through for audiences.
“Things aren’t always what they seem. People don’t show you who they really are,” Dean Jones said. “It’s a horror movie, but there’s a lot of dialogue and it’s character-driven. We want to give it depth and make it interesting.”