A mad sea captain murders his wife 100 years ago. Their house burns to the ground. Years later, a new home goes up on that same island plot. Owners experience footsteps, fleeting shadows, music in the dark.
Whooo, ooo, oooo.
Time to call in The P.A.R.A. Force.
And that’s how “Back to the Beyond” begins.
The new movie starts filming May 20 on Long Island, a 45-minute ferry ride from Portland. Kevin DiBacco of New Gloucester is directing the script by younger brother Ralph DiBacco of Gorham. Ralph, who uses the pen name Raffaele, wrote the movie as a sort of homage to the black-and-white, late-1950s series “One Step Beyond.”
A character in the film even references that this same haunted house was behind an episode titled “The Captain’s Guests.”
“I grew up on shows like ‘Night Gallery’ and ‘Circle of Fear;’ of course, ‘Twilight Zone,’ shows that were more psychologically scary,” Ralph said. He caught “One Step Beyond” in reruns in the ’70s. “Hopefully, that’s the outcome we achieve.”
His tag line for the movie posters: “They thought it was fiction. They were wrong. Dead wrong.”
“Back to the Beyond” is the brothers’ second feature film, after 2008’s “Willows Way,” a movie that went straight to DVD in 50 countries. For the first, they reached entirely into their own pockets for seed money. For this one, the budget is about the same, $25,000, but they’re hoping for some outside help. The investors they’d hoped to attract with the last film’s success never came.
“In this economy, everything’s got to be a sure thing and film is probably the biggest gamble as an investor you can take,” Ralph said. “Some (independent filmmakers) take $80,000 out on credit cards. That’s the old days. You can’t even get a credit card anymore.”
Instead, they put out the call for fan-funding this spring.
Fifty dollars snags a T-shirt, a DVD, a mention in the end credits and, for many, a role as an extra.
For $500? All that and an executive producer credit.
“We’ve done better in the last month than we have in the last two years prior,” Ralph said.
On Friday, their website listed four executive producers, six associate producers ($100 donors) and two personal sponsors ($50 donors). Money will be returned once expenses are recouped.
A restaurant scene he wrote for the beginning of the film was intended to feature friends and family in the background. That and a ferry ride have been ideal spots to put extras, he said.
The movie follows the six-member P.A.R.A. Force as it travels to the island to investigate a house with reported anomalies. An open casting call last summer saw 150 show up for auditions.
“We had people from Texas, Seattle, I think a couple from Los Angeles,” Ralph said. “I don’t know if it was the subject matter that attracted them or if the movie industry is really slow right now. They came from all over the place.”
The brothers cast people from every New England state. Some of the Maine actors: Bill “The Bone Driver” Murphy, the former 106.7 FM deejay, musician Regina Lucchese and Bill McLean, on TV now in an energy-saving light bulb commercial.
McLean of Monmouth said he was attracted by the part and the reach of the DiBaccos’ last film.
“I thought, ‘Hey, a way to get my face out over the world,’” he said.
He plays Dr. Richard Bourne, a psychology professor and the team’s skeptic, “which is funny, because in real life I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said.
McLean expects the six-day island shoot to be “the toughest shoot I’ve ever done, no question about that.”
To help with the budget, it’s being filmed in a house owned by a New Hampshire cast member’s father. Cast and crew are staying a few doors down at an inn whose exterior will double in flashback scenes as the original sea captain’s house.
“Back to the Beyond” will aim for a PG-13 rating. They plan to have it edited by fall, but have been approached with distribution offers that may move that date up.
“It’s going to be hard to beat the reach of our first movie,” Ralph said. “The only way we’re going to top that is if we do worldwide theatrical, or maybe theatrical in two or three countries, and direct to DVD in the rest.”
It’s been nerve-wracking, and exciting, as the shoot draws near, he said. Some details will come together at the last minute, some might not come together at all. One item so far left hanging: What the PARA in P.A.R.A Force means.
“We were going to have a contest,” he said. That just never happened. “If anybody can come up with something that makes sense for PARA, we’ll use it. Leave it up to the people.”
Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send ideas, photos and bilingual sea monkeys to firstname.lastname@example.org.