Camden-based author Tess Gerritsen is best known for mystery novels, including a string of books that inspired the TV series “Rizzoli and Isles.” She is now branching out into film, or as she proudly describes it, low-budget horror.
Gerritsen has teamed up with her son Josh Gerritsen to produce “Island Zero,” which tells the story of small seaside community that becomes cut off from the mainland and is terrorized by an unknown killer. She says the idea for the movie project emerged one day while she and Josh were working together in the garden, and she was thinking about the films of her youth.
“I grew up on horror films. I love horror films. And I said to my son, who is doing documentaries, ‘Let’s make a horror film together,’ and he said, ‘Yeah mom, sure.’ That was how it started — it was a family project. No. 1 goal is to have fun,” she says.
Gerritsen says the script took about four months to write, and the story was inspired by a common theme in those early monster films such as “Them” and “The Thing.”
“A lot of it had to do with anxiety around man-made changes in nature. Back then it was the nuclear age making giant flying ants, so now what is our anxiety as a species? It’s global climate change, and I wanted to do something about what comes up from the depths of the ocean when we start screwing around with Mother Nature,” she says.
“The ferry stops coming one day. For some reason everybody’s phone has gone dead. The internet has gone dead. The power goes out,” Gerritsen says, describing the film. “They send a fishermen to the mainland and he doesn’t come back. So this little colony has to figure out what’s going on in the outside world, especially when dead bodies start showing up along the shoreline.”
“Maine is just built for horror,” says Josh Gerritsen, who directed “Island Zero.”
He says while the foggy Maine coast is a great setting, the local accents can be a challenge for actors brought in to play lead roles.
“I don’t want to force an accent on anyone, especially when they can’t pull it off. But more importantly we had the locals from Maine play those roles. I thought that was a good balance of having those outsiders who actually are from outside and then the Mainers play the Mainers,” Gerritsen says.
Tess Gerritsen says she’s not offended that “Island Zero” has been described in press reports as a “low-budget” horror film.
“No, we’re really proud of it actually, because we got a lot of bang for our buck. I intend to always go low budget because it’s easier to make back your budget, it’s easier to make a profit, and this fun challenge of how much can I do with this amount of money. And I would love to get a film industry working in Maine that can actually make a profit and keep on going,” she says.
But for now, the Gerritsens are having fun bringing their first film to the screen, which, by the way, does have the obligatory horror flick tag line.
“Everything needs to eat,” Gerritsen says with a laugh.
“Island Zero,” starring Laila Robins and Adam Wade McLaughlin, will be screened at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Community Little Theatre in Auburn during Lewiston/Auburn’s Emerge Film Festival. Earlier in the day, producer Mariah Klapatch, a native of Camden, will take part in a panel about women in horror.