Making this horror film was a pleasure

'Rogue River,' shot locally in 2009, has arrived on DVD

Here's your motivation: You've come to the Rogue River to spread your father's ashes. A stranger offers you a ride and a place to stay for the night after your car gets towed.

It doesn't take you long to realize his helpful nature is anything but genuine, that you've actually just been kidnapped, and no one knows where you are.

Action.

It's a succinct premise for the horror movie "Rogue River," released on DVD last week by Lionsgate Entertainment.

The title isn't coincidental. Cast and crew filmed for a month at several spots along the famed waterway near Merlin, Rogue River and Grants Pass in late 2009.

"You hear these stories about people going missing just in the snap of a finger," said lead actress Michelle Page. "It's kind of one of those stories. It shows you've got to be careful who you trust."

Page, who has acted on a variety of TV shows, including "CSI: NY" and "The Mentalist," plays Mara, a woman who has come to spread her father's ashes in the river, a place he took her several times as a child. There she meets Jon, a seemingly kind stranger played by horror veteran Bill Moseley. After finding out her car's been towed, Jon offers Mara a meal at his home and a place to stay for the night, which she accepts. But her savior and his wife, played by Lucinda Jenney, kidnap Mara in the dark, remote area with little chance of escape. Everything that follows is straight out of a nightmare.

"It's quite twisted," Page said.

Director Jordan McClure came up with the story. His parents moved to Southern Oregon after retiring 7 or 8 years ago. McClure, who lives in Sacramento, was inspired by the area and spun an idea about a seemingly serene environment that hid some pretty dark secrets.

"Those types of films I really do enjoy," McClure said. "The 'don't-take-the-ride' films."

Co-screenwriter Kevin Haskin, already acquainted with Page, sent her a finished script.

"He kept texting while I was reading and wondering how I was liking it," Page said. "I called him as soon as I was finished. I just knew I wanted to play Mara."

Vision Entertainment Group, headed up by Zachery Ty Bryan of the '90s "Home Improvement" TV show, and producer and writer Adam Targum, picked up the script and went to work raising the money to make it happen. It was their first project as a production company.

"It had some really creative and original set pieces that we liked," Bryan said. "It kind of fit into the mold of what we were looking to do for our first project."

And for a first project, it was an interesting choice. Bryan said neither he nor Targum are horror fans.

"(But) the great thing about horror is the genre has a demographic," Bryan said. "It has an audience out there that's very loyal to it."

McClure, however, is a genuine horror fan and was hired to direct. It was his first feature film, a departure from the music videos he was used to filming.

Cast and crew met in Merlin the day before Thanksgiving 2009, rented two houses and went to work. They shot for a month, anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day, and wrapped around Christmas Eve. They shot a majority of the indoor scenes in McClure's parents' house.

Shooting in the late fall and early winter months was difficult because of the weather. Following a rain storm, the moisture froze, icing all the power cables. They lost electricity once or twice. Some days the temperature reached single digits.

"One of the biggest challenges was just keeping all the people involved healthy because of the environment," McClure said.

It was also a challenge from a performing standpoint, Page said. Several of the scenes are very physical. At one point she had to be hospitalized for a concussion but ended up being OK.

"That was rough," Page said.

Despite the challenges, cast and crew said they enjoyed filming in the Southern Oregon wilderness. They said local residents were very hospitable, cooking meals, donating coffee and helping where they could.

"It was just very cool to have that kind of support," McClure said.

"Rogue River" will not be released in theaters but it is available on DVD and through several streaming entertainment services.

McClure said he learned a lot about filmmaking shooting "Rogue River," especially about teamwork.

"I'm a collaborative guy," McClure said. "The more collaborative you allow people to feel, the smoother things can run."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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