Beware, Ye Faithful, of ‘The Sudbury Devil’ [New Blood Drops]

Writer’s Note: The ‘Indie Spotlight’ isn’t dead! Just renamed! Welcome, Blood Babes, to the first edition of ‘NEW BLOOD DROPS’! In this series, I’ll spotlight single productions and creators that either have projects dropping soon or if their work particularly quenched my bloodthirst for indie horror. Look forward to many more in the future! Now, let’s get this horror show on the road!

Historical Horror — Who doesn’t love a good period piece filled with ghosts and ghouls? Billy the Kid dueling Dracula! Military men dining with cannibals! Townspeople beheaded by ghosts! Mohawk women brutalizing colonists! A melting pot of features for every possible palette!

Well, okay, astute readers might have noticed that the above examples actually have a pretty specific theme: American history. There are two reasons for this, the first being that I like my history with a home turf tinge to it. Nothing wrong with world history, I enjoy it, but there’s just something about cowboys and tax evasion that tickles me. Second, today’s Spotlight deals with the early days of American colonization. The real early days. I’m talking thankful turkey dinners, Puritans, and WITCHCRAFT. And where there’s witchcraft, there are witch hunts… and, more importantly, the witch hunters.

Andrew Rakich — best known for his historical discussion YouTube channel, Atun-Shei Films — has wrapped production on his first feature film, with the goal of being as authentic to the timeframe as possible. From the wardrobe to the setting, to even the pronunciation of words—fans of his channel (like myself) know that authenticity is the name of his game. The title of his upcoming picture: The Sudbury Devil.

The Sudbury Devil

(Directed by Andrew Rakich; Starring Benton Guinness, Linnea Gregg, Josh Popa; 2023)

“In the late 17th century, a pair of Puritan witch hunters travel to a small Massachusetts town investigating rumors of devil worship, and are irrevocably transformed by the ungodly forces they encounter.”

Ah yes, a wholesome tale of witch accusation and good ol’ Christian love. I’m sure everything will turn out swimmingly.

Of the film, the filmmakers said:

The Sudbury Devil is set in 1678, two years after English colonists wiped out the indigenous people of New England in King Phillip’s War. All its characters bear scars from that brutal conflict, and their collective trauma has instilled a profound terror of the mysterious forests that hem in their isolated colony. They regard their settlements as bastions of godly light, poised to conquer and civilize a continent of demonic darkness. In this story, the darkness strikes back to punish New England for its sins. At once both a no-holds-barred folk horror gem and mischievous indictment of America’s foundational rot, The Sudbury Devil is a seductively fun bit of witchery. Fully immersive to history, it can boast of being the first film ever made to feature actors speaking in period-correct 17th century accents.”

17th-century accents? I wonder what those sound like.

Sounds like we’re getting a double helping on this flick of historical AND folk horror! Two fun sub-genres that are no strangers to one another, but only because they go together like… like turkey and stuffing! Like wet-weather rye crops and a seizure-inducing fungus! Like an unwanted populace of propertied widows and other undesirable women, and a paranoid, patriarchal society on the constant saber’s edge of dissolution! Too soon?

I had the pleasure of asking Rakich about the film’s conception, and his answer spared no details:

“I wrote the first draft of the script around Halloween 2019. At the time, I was an unemployed French Quarter tour guide with a YouTube channel nobody watched and a languishing film career. But this weird, sort of trashy horror story… just poured out of me, and I immediately got excited about it, because it was set in a time period I’d wanted to make movies about for a decade, and it contained enough story that… it could be filmed on a shoestring budget.”

I, too, would get excited about making a film set in one of my favorite time periods. Someday, my Theodore Roosevelt vs. Bigfoot movie will happen. Someday…

Rakich said, “During our crowdfunding campaign, we asked for a total of $6,000. The timing for that crowdfunding was disastrous. It was March 2020, and COVID hit with full force halfway through. Donations dried up completely. We were set to film in May, but within a week it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. It was unbelievably demoralizing. Filming ended up being delayed for nearly two years.”

An all-too-familiar story for much of the indie industry, unfortunately. I’m sure there are lots of us who can more than sympathize.

“But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Two really amazing things happened. First, my YouTube channel blew up, which was great because I badly needed income during the pandemic, and also money for the film started flowing in again, most of which were from fans. We also got some larger donors who footed a large portion of the budget.”

Ah, the best thing that could happen to an indie creator—receiving a budget! Love to hear it every time.

“Second, the delay gave me a long time to rework the script,” he continued. “The rewrites really clarified the plot, dimensionalized the characters and coalesced what had been scattershot folk horror craziness around a powerful central theme — namely, America’s foundational rot.”

In case you didn’t know, our history books tend to leave out some certain details about our past. You know. Big details. Much of Rakich’s channel concerns those often-occluded details, so I feel pretty comfortable assuming he’s going to do well with this heavy subject matter.

“So, armed with a larger budget and a much tighter screenplay, the cast and crew converged in Massachusetts for principal photography in April 2022. We filmed at a historic home near Plymouth, the Josiah Keith House, then moved to the mountains of Hampshire County for the rest of the two week shoot,” Rakich said. “It was an exhausting production, but it went shockingly well and everyone had an undeniable sense that we were making something special…. The year and a half since has been spent on post, and now we’re all set for our premiere in September at The Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts.”

A premiere happening on September 9th, 2023 that has COMPLETELY sold out. Always a pleasure seeing indie horror getting so much support!

Rakich’s also trying to get a roadshow going to play at arthouse theaters across the country, and potentially outside of it. He also suspects the film will be streaming not too long after, given that they’re currently entertaining offers from reps and distributors. So be sure to follow The Sudbury Devil’s social media pages to keep up to date on when and where it pops up!

As always, I’ll keep you updated once I am. Until then, keep your Devil’s sacraments deep in the woods, out of the Church’s sight, and haunt these nights safely, Blood Babes.

Until next time…

Ciao, friends!

Giallo Julian’s Twitter – Facebook – Letterboxd



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