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Icon of horror literature meets college comedy in 'Killing Poe'
University class takes a twisted turn
Independent flick builds its audience
A captivating literary giant provides the essence of a new film.
“Killing Poe” brings edgy 19th-century author Edgar Allan Poe to a youthful audience.
The plot centers on five students in a class that is dedicated to the horror writer, and which is guided by a detestable professor.
“I would say it’s a college comedy with a dark twist,” said director Nathan A. Jacobs.
When the quintet of students seeks revenge on their arrogant instructor, the daring plan “spirals out of control in true Poe style,” according to promotional material for the movie from Chicago-based Emeritus Productions,
Jacobs, the film’s co-writer, drew inspiration for the project from a radio dramatization of “The Tell-Tale Heart” -- a chilling tale of madness that nicely translates to visual presentation, as is the case with other atmospheric stories from Poe.
“There’s something so incredibly cinematic,” Jacobs said. “There’s something about Poe that connects with people. I think Poe still has this sort of unique niche in terms of the literary world.”
With crafty nods to Poe’s works sprinkled into the narrative, veteran actor Rick Plastina is entrusted with the pivotal role of the lecherous and lascivious professor Reginald Lynch.
“He enjoys making people uncomfortable,” said Plastina, whose acting credits include appearances on popular television series such as “All in the Family,” “Knight Rider” and “Chicago Story.”
He thinks the juicy mix of historic literature and college humor in “Killing Poe” may spell success for a movie that did not spring from a major studio.
“It could be the sleeper of the year,” Plastina, a resident of Oak Park, Ill., said. “I guess it could be described as ‘The Breakfast Club’ meets ’The Sting,’ by way of the master of suspense and macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.”
In “Killing Poe,” the message of “your sins will find you out” is driven home.
The warning circulates in various Poe stories -- such as “The Black Cat.”
It likewise seems to apply to the film’s student plotters.
“I always enjoyed the musicality of his work,” Plastina said of Poe. “There’s a rhythm that happens in his writing.”
In his director’s statement, Jacobs states that “Killing Poe” marks his “first foray into the modern cathedral-making of feature films.”
He likewise points out that aside from the comedy and pop-culture nuggets, his movie, at its core, studies the “sobriety that comes when everything we have is stripped away, and life as we know it has come to an end.”
Cyrina Fiallo portrays the goth-edged Wynona, one of the five students in Lynch’s immersive Poe class at St. Lucy's University.
“She’s not cold-hearted, or anything like that,” Fiallo said of her character, who has to face the lack of parental guidance in her life.
Although saying “Killing Poe” will get the attention of a young audience in the age range of 18 to 32, Fiallo believes it holds a broader appeal.
“I think it really does reach a wide audience,” said Fiallo, who also is an associate producer of the movie. “I would say that it’s a unique film. It does take a surprising turn.”
Fiallo pointed to a good opportunity in Los Angeles that awaits her film: “We were just accepted in the LA Comedy Festival. We‘re excited.”
Fiallo brings her sizable acting experience from television to the role of Wynona. Fiallo has made TV appearances on NBC’s “Community” and The CW’s “Supernatural,” in addition to performing her recurring role as Vonnie on the Disney Channel’s “Good Luck Charlie.”
Others in the cast of “Killing Poe” could help the upstart film gain traction with audiences globally.
“Some of the actors in the film are known overseas,” Fiallo said.
Born in India, Sunkrish Bala plays one of the main students in “Killing Poe.” Bala gained large TV exposure in the part of Caleb Subramanian on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
Osric Chau -- another of the “Poe” students -- has lived in China while working on movies shot in that country. Chau appeared in the disaster epic “2012,” which was a high-grossing motion picture in China.
Matt Bush and Julianna Guill round out the remaining cast of principal performers who portray students in “Killing Poe” http://www.killingpoe.com/.
The independent film was honored by the 2015 Maverick Movie Awards for “Best Ensemble Acting.”
The young, notable cast will get big-city exposure when “Killing Poe” is screened Friday, Nov. 6, at the 5th Annual Chicago Comedy Film Festival http://www.chicagocomedyfilmfestival.com/.
“Killing Poe” has substantial Illinois connections. Jacobs, its director, grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill., and filming for “Killing Poe” took place in the Illinois villages of Deerfield and Mundelein.
The movie does not have an official rating yet from the Motion Picture Association of America.
“But it’ll be PG-13; that’s what we’re aiming for,” Joshua Lourie, executive producer, said.
Lourie said the cinematic comedy is “starting a festival run” that will help determine its future, which includes the prospects of national distribution.
“Part of the movie-festival push is to see what it can do,” said Lourie, noting that the ideal outcome would be widespread release in theaters.
“We’re getting a lot of rave reviews,” he related.
The dark-humor yarn endeavors to make a psychological statement that suggests that “sometimes our own guilt and paranoia become our worst enemy.”
Emeritus Productions is presenting “Killing Poe” in cooperation with Barometric Media, which is based in Canada.