New movie by director with Union County roots to be shown on Shudder

·4 min read

Aug. 26—LONDON — A 15-year journey and a single word.

Each have helped create what might be a Halloween hit this autumn for Chris Hatton, a movie director and writer with deep Union County roots. Hatton is the director and cowriter of "Raven's Hollow," a fictionalized story of legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe that is receiving positive reviews. The film is about Poe's days as a cadet at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, which he attended in the 1830s before mysteriously dropping out.

The streaming service Shudder will be carrying "Raven's Hollow" starting in late September. This week, the film is debuting in London at FrightFest, an annual film festival at Cineworld Leicester Square, where moviegoers view dozens of the world's latest horror films. Time Out's London-based digital magazine rates Hatton's work as one of five "must-see" films at FrightFest, which runs through Monday, Aug. 29.

"If you like your chills to come clad in period garb and with a gothic vibes this Shudder-produced reimagining of the life of Edgar Allan Poe will be for you," writes Phil de Semlyen, Time Out's global film editor.

Hatton's film opens with Poe and four other cadets on a training exercise in upstate New York when they are drawn by a gruesome discovery — the sight of a young man who has been beaten and tied to an upright board. Poe, played by William Moseley, approaches the dying man and asks what happened. He responds with one barely audible word — "Raven" and then dies.

The utterance sparks a search by Poe and the four cadets that takes them into a forgotten community where they find a township guarding a frightening secret, Hatton said.

A 1986 graduate of Imbler High School and 1991 graduate of Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, Hatton said he believes viewers will be mystified by "Raven's Hollow" until the end.

"I would be surprised if anyone gets ahead of the story," he said.

Hatton, who now lives in Singapore, said he began working on the script of "Raven's Hollow" 15 years ago. In this span he also directed and wrote scripts for "Battle of the Damned," which stars Dolph Lundgren and was released in 2013, and "Robotropolist," released in 2011. One of Hatton's earliest movies was "Sammyville," whose fictitious story is based in the small community near Elgin, which the movie is named for.

"Raven's Hollow" was filmed in 2020 Latvia, a country on the Baltic Sea, during a 30-day period in autumn at the height of the pandemic. The cast had to stay in a confined area near the movie set throughout the film's shooting due to the coronavirus. This meant the cast spent a lot of time together.

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"It drew us closer together," Hatton said. "It felt like family."

Hatton made "Raven's Hollow" after becoming intrigued with Poe's story and his time at West Point, which Poe attended after serving in the Army. He was at West Point for only seven months before he left following a court martial when he was tried on charges of gross neglect of duty and disobeying orders.

Hatton said what Poe experiences in "Raven's Hollow" is totally fiction and is not meant to suggest what really happened.

Hatton said he sees Poe as a fascinating historical figure. He said Poe, best known for his 1845 poem "The Raven," one of the most well-known ever written, is a tragic figure.

Poe received little money for his works, including "The Raven," because laws that fully protected artists' financial rights were not fully in place in the United States.

"At one point, he may have been the best known writer in the world but he had holes in his shoes," Hatton said. "He always struggled to pay his bills."

Hatton said his film reflects Poe and his work in many ways, including elements of horror and detective fiction. Poe wrote many works of horror and was among the first to write detective fiction. His 1841 short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is considered to be one of the first pieces of detective fiction.

Hatton said that as a writer himself, he has long been inspired artistically by Eastern Oregon's landscape.

"The vastness and the scale of the beauty," he said. "I love it there."

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Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at {span data-sheets-value="{" data-sheets-userformat="{"}541-624-6016{/span} or dmason@lagrandeobserver.com.