Horror flick to be shot in Old Saybrook
Walt Platteborze, Register Correspondent

OLD SAYBROOK — The picturesque lighthouse that the town features on its official seal will
serve as the tranquil locale for a new film.

But this nautically based picture promises to be anything but nice.
"‘Hell’s Beacon’ will be straight horror," says producer Andrew Gernhard. "That’s a new turn for

Gernhard’s Bristol-based independent film company, Synthetic Cinema International, plans to
shoot "Hell’s Beacon" between Aug. 9 and 30 in various spots around town.

It will be the first film of the horror genre set in Old Saybrook since the 1971 cult favorite "Let’s
Scare Jessica to Death," which utilized a rambling Victorian house that stands on Middlesex
Turnpike near Interstate 95.

The town has provided locations for more conventional films, such as "Parrish," starring Troy
Donohue and Connie Stevens. Part of that 1961 film was shot at the Terra Mar hotel on Saybrook

According to the script synopsis for "Hell’s Beacon," the story involves the infection of the
lighthouse keeper’s wife with an alien virus from a crashed meteor. A group of partying young
people happen upon the scene and the bloody fun begins.

Gernhard said about 90 percent of the movie will be shot in Old Saybrook. "The town has a great
look to it" for a seacoast-based film, he says. He compared it favorably to the Martha’s Vineyard
setting for the Steven Spielberg classic "Jaws," adding that Old Saybrook "has the same feel but is

Another reason for choosing the location, Gernhard said, is that his parents, Daniel and Marian
Gernhard, are town residents.

Gernhard has two other features to his credit: campy horror flicks "Trees" and "The Root of All

"Trees," filmed in Litchfield, Terryville and other Northeast Hills locations, parodied "Jaws," with a
rogue white pine in the role of the great white shark. A forest ranger, a botanist and a lumberjack
named "Squint" join forces to stop the havoc being wrought upon unsuspecting campers.

"The Root of All Evil," which debuted in March at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, is the sequel
to "Trees."

While "Trees" had no big names in the cast, Gernhard and co-producer Michael Pleckaitis for the
sequel signed on Ron Palillo, a Cheshire native who played Horshack in the 1970s TV sitcom
"Welcome Back Kotter," and Brandi Lynn Coppock, a former Playboy model with screen credits.

Gernhard said no stars will perform in "Hell’s Beacon" — "except the monster." Local talent
auditioned last week for possible roles in the film and callbacks will be held this week for a half-
dozen potential performers, he says.

The low-budget horror flicks are made primarily for release to the worldwide video and DVD
market, after being shown in regional independent theaters, Gernhard said. "The Root of All Evil,"
in fact, will be on the big screen this weekend at the Forestville Theater in Bristol, he says.

Wilma Asch, the town’s economic development director, says her commission is "very pleased to
be welcoming … Gernhard and his company."

While the town gets no direct remuneration from the filming, it will bring in extra business revenue
and increase the town’s economic visibility, even though it’s "blood and gore and monsters," she

Gernhard met two weeks ago with police, fire, public works, parks and recreation and Chamber of
Commerce officials, Asch, First Selectman Michael Pace, and Guy Ortoleva, director of the
Connecticut Film Division, to plan various aspects of the shoot.

"We wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page," Asch said.

©New Haven Register 2007