Legend spurs local director's horror film

'Black Eyed Kids' will have world premiere Dec. 20 at Kiggins Theatre

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: World premiere of the new film, “Black Eyed Kids,” by local director Nick Hagen, with actors from the “Haunted Sunshine Girl” Web series.

Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20; doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $5.

Information: “Black Eyed Kids and Kiggins Theatre. “Haunted Sunshine Girl.”

photoTed Rooney plays Mother in "Black Eyed Kids."

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Vancouver director Nick Hagen wants to make sure Clark County residents can see his new horror film, "Black Eyed Kids," before Earth is destroyed.

So he's planned the premiere at Kiggins Theatre on Dec. 20, a full day before the supposed apocalypse predicted by the Mayans, he said.

"When I was looking at dates to release it, I figured we'd better get it out before the world ends," Hagen said with a laugh.

Hagen's eerie horror series "Haunted Sunshine Girl" continues to be a hit on YouTube, with more than 10 million video views and 20,000 subscribers. The movie, a spinoff of that series, has been in the works for about a year.

It takes the characters from "Sunshine" on an adventure, as they investigate the origins of the occult legend of the black-eyed kids.

The story in the film is fictional, but reports of black-eyed kids sightings, especially in and around Portland, are very real, Hagen said.

"Black-eyed kids is an urban legend that's been floating around on the Internet for years now," Hagen said. "I always thought it was fascinating."

In most reports, a small group of kids with all-black eyes approaches an adult who's alone in a car or a house. The kids, usually two boys between the ages of 10 and 13, ask for a ride home or to be let in to the house to use the bathroom or telephone. The adult feels a sense of overwhelming fear before realizing that there's something drastically wrong with the children's eyes.

It's been a fun legend to play with, said Mercedes Rose, who co-produced the film with Hagen through their company, Coat Tale Productions LLC.

"We're the first (film group) to do anything with this black-eyed kids legend," said Rose, who also acts in the production. "We're super-excited for people to see it. It's so creepy."

In the film, Sunshine, played by a teen actress who asked that her name be withheld to protect from online stalkers, has a friend contact her after somebody he knows vanishes.

Suspecting that the black-eyed kids myth has something to do with it, Sunshine and others go to Portland to look for video proof.

"They find (a black-eyed kid), but they discover something a lot more evil than they imagined," Hagen said. "And they try to get out alive."

The film, shot in Vancouver and Portland, is Hagen's third.

His first film is "really bad. Nobody's ever going to see that," he admitted.

His second film, which looks at characters stuck in a remote location during a terrorism scare, has been tied up in distribution issues for a handful of years.

"At this point, I'd just like to get it back so we can put it on the Web for free so people can watch it," he said. "But it looks like it won't be out for a while."

The issues with his second production led Hagen and Rose to go a different route for distributing his third film, "Black Eyed Kids."

The company funded the new film through an $11,000 Kickstarter campaign (which ended up being $9,500 when supporters actually paid up), and it will release it through the "Black Eyed Kids" website starting on Dec. 21 for $5 for a direct download or $21.99 for a DVD purchase, Hagen said.

"My second film was totally a motivator for this," Hagen said. "Sunshine has an audience, and we've really built on that. And so we have a built-in way to distribute the film ourselves."

The film cost less than $12,000 to make. And because the Web series has been doing well, Coat Tale Productions has been able to pay all of its actors and hire from the union, Rose said.

"This is the first film we've done as a production company and as a Sunshine franchise," Rose said. "We're hoping it will be the first of many. We have no shortage of ideas — or actors wanting to work with us."

Rose has been a professional actor for 16 years and has appeared in a number of films and TV shows. She's most well-known for her work as a voice actor in several video games. She recently appeared in a 2011 episode of "Leverage," "The Boys' Night Out Job," and had voice roles in the games "Star Trek Online," "Super Mario Galaxy" and "Tabula Rasa," among others.

She plays Sunshine's mother in "Black Eyed Kids" and on the Web series.

Ted Rooney, a fairly well-known Portland actor who's appeared in "Leverage," "Grimm," "Lost," "Boardwalk Empire" and a host of other TV shows, plays a rather creepy character called "Mother" in "Black Eyed Kids."

Rose and Hagen said they hope the film will be picked up for broader distribution on iTunes, Redbox and Amazon.com once word gets out.

"We're hoping to take the money from this production and start work on our next film as soon as possible," Rose said, adding that the group loves filming in Vancouver.

Hagen said he's already got a few ideas he's playing with, including some other lesser-known urban legends and haunted house explorations.

"I'd like to film as much of our stuff in Vancouver as I can, or in the outlying areas like Yacolt," Hagen said.

Rose, Sunshine and Hagen, along with several other members of the cast, plan to be at Kiggins to answer questions at the premiere.

"We're super-excited about having it in that theater," Rose said. "Plus, it's supposed to be haunted. We'd love to film there sometime."

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.