Homemade Horror

Feature film 'The Forlorned' is based on local author's book and shot in the Flathead

By Molly Priddy

It’s more common than ever to find a sticker reading ‘Made in Montana’ on merchandise and food items in and out of the state, but rarely does that denote a sense of horror and suspense.

But that’s exactly what the team behind the film “The Forlorned” is looking to do with the new movie, which is based on local author Angela J. Townsend’s book and features a Montana actor in the lead role.

It was also shot entirely within the state, with most of the filming taking place at an abandoned mansion in Kalispell.

“It really is a fantastic project,” Townsend, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, said. “There’s a couple things that we have going for us that most film people don’t have.”

Most films made entirely in Montana with a new company would start with a modest budget, she said, making it difficult to catch the attention of movie studios. “The Forlorned,” however, has a $10 million budget.

“We’re definitely not low budget,” Townsend said.

The movie is based off Townsend’s forthcoming novel of the same name, which is scheduled to hit the shelves of major national book retailers across the country on July 21.

In it, protagonist Tom Doherty is lured by an advertisement to fix up a lighthouse and nearby buildings on an island. When he first sees the building, he can sense something sinister lurking; little does he know he was the only applicant for the job, since the locals wouldn’t dare venture there.

While working there alone, he learns why the locals fear the island. Soon, he’s receiving ghostly messages and visitations, giving him a deeper view of the island’s evil past. His journey there makes him confront demons, both of the personal and more literal nature.

Colton Christensen, born and raised in Montana, takes on the role of Tom. His casting was very intentional, Townsend said, because not only does he have the acting chops for the role, but he’s also a product of local talent.

“I wanted to give one young person that starring role, to give it to a Montana native, and I love Colton Christensen,” Townsend said. “He’s such a good kid and I just wanted him to have that role, I wanted to give him a hand up like someone gave me.”

One of those people who believed in her when she was just starting out was Dale McGarvey, the Kalispell-based trial lawyer, who along with his law practice is known for supporting the arts, she said.

McGarvey is also an executive producer of the film, and is president of the company that brought “The Forlorned” to life.

Award-winning writer and director Andrew Wiest wrote the screenplay and directed the film, and Townsend said the equipment used on the film is “absolutely dynamic.” One of the camera operators worked on such major films as “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings,” she said.

Townsend is the author of multiple, well-received works, including the novel “Amarok,” and the pieces “River of Bones,” “Angus MacBain and the Island of Sleeping Kings,” “Angus MacBain and the Agate Eyeglass” and “Moonflower.”

She wrote “The Forlorned” in 2003 as a donation for the Retinoblastoma International organization and the cancer-treatment hospital that helped save her son’s life when he was ill.

“I just wanted to give back for having them save my son,” Townsend said.

After the rights for the book went through three publishers, Townsend took them back, and the book will be published by Crimson Tree Publishers. Once Wiest was on board with the project, they got rolling, she said, and production began last October.

Townsend said she expects premieres across eastern Montana and in Missoula in late September, before a fall release date for the movie.

And as someone who was born in Missoula and raised in Bigfork, being able to publish a book and then make it into a movie filmed in the Flathead fulfills a goal for Townsend.

“It’s very special to me because Montana is so close to my heart,” she said.

For more information on The Forlorned, visit www.theforlorned.com.

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