Portsmouth : Hub Of New England Movie Culture

Epping Cinema NH



During the early silent era of film, it wasn't unusual to find films made in the New England states, such as New Hampshire. Early New England films, such as Benedict Arnold (1909), Battle of Bunker Hill (1911) and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1914). New England's scenic backdrop and seasonal climates encouraged filmmakers to shoot pictures there and the lack of complicated equipment and regional, rather than national, distribution made it possible. Vitagraph, Lubin and Edison were just a few of the major companies to record their films there. The Man Without a Face (1993), Message in a Bottle (1999), In the Bedroom (2000) and State and Main (2000) are a few of the modern films which opted to continue this trend.

Recent films have been more likely to play up the dual natures of darkness and light, urbania and isolation, penance and redemption and hidden things. Horror has been a part of New England's history of film almost from the start, going back to the 1900 release of Uncle Josh in a Spooky Hotel. New England horror film and one of the genre's most esteemed authors, H.P. Lovecraft, began within a decade of each other. His stories, primarily published in pulp magazines, drew considerably on New England's isolated towns and landscape, which often masked something dark and foreboding just below the surface. His novel, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" was the first of numerous Lovecraft film adaptations, the title renamed by director Roger Corman as The Haunted Palace (1963). From 1967's The Shuttered Room to 2011's Whisperer in the Darkness, some thirty films have been adapted from Lovecraft's work, several set in sleepy New England towns. The author also inspired a number of other authors and filmmakers to use his established created universe (the Cthulhu Mythos) in their own works, including director John Carpenter. Carpenter used the fictional, Lovecraftian town of Hobb's End, New Hampshire as the setting for his homage to the author, 1995's In the Mouth of Madness.

In a similar vein is famed horror author Stephen King. King makes use of his native Maine as a frequent setting for weird goings-on. "[Stephen King has] probably done more to shape popular culture images of New England than anyone since Eugene O'Neill...and has an obsession with looking behind the picket-fences facades of the small town," notes historian Michael Sletcher. Both Lovecraft and King heavily used the supernatural in their stories, possibly drawing on the literature written by predecessors like Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," for instance, tells of a meeting with the Devil in the woods outside colonial Plymouth, which, itself, draws on the tragic time in New England known as the Salem Witch Trials. Films such as Maid of Salem (1937), The Devonsville Terror (1983) and Warlock (1989) all are based on the terrible events that transpired in Salem at that time.

Other genres have explored the lighter, or at least more natural, aesthetics New England offers, as well. These include New Hampshire filmmaker Louis de Rochemont's socially conscious films, Lost Boundaries (1949) and Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951), about racism in and labor issues in New Hampshire, respectively. eastern New Hampshire movie theaters dot the map and Portsmouth is home to the iconic New Hampshire Film Festival. One will find that similar events take place every year throughout New England, preserving the independent spirit of filmmaking.

Film in New England, as it happens, is benefiting from technological progress. Phil Hall, an actor, journalist and historian living in New England, has attributed the digital video revolution with spurring a new wave of filmmakers in the region. Hall adds, "Theaters around the country need to exhibit movies that are going to turn a profit;" a decision by movie theatres in Portsmouth, New Hampshire between a big-budget movie or "a no-budget movie made in Vermont, their choice is clear." A soon up-and-coming theater company nearby eastern New Hampshire is O’neil Family Cinemas. With modern benefits provided by the internet, filmmakers from New England are seeking to rival Hollywood once again and they just might.