Chicago, Ill. – Nearly 100 years to the day eight unsolved ax murders were perpetrated in Villisca, Iowa, director Stuart Wahlin has announced his next feature film, “Slay Utterly,” which is inspired by the gruesome events in the nation’s heartland. The film is presently slated for a 2013 release.
“Although I’m adapting this piece of history into a modern context, with an FBI agent on the case, the film will be set mostly in rural locales, to retain some of the rustic ambiance that could otherwise be lost in more-contemporary settings,” he explained. “Sometimes a location can almost become another character in the story. I think that’s true here.”
Wahlin said the inspiration came after a recent overnight stay in the Villisca Ax Murder House, where two adults and six children were bludgeoned to death in their beds June 10, 1912.
“It’s a tough thing to walk away from without feeling something very profound,” he reported. “I was drawn there because it’s supposed to be one the most-haunted places in the country, and there’s definitely something there. But this isn’t a film about the paranormal. This is a brutal crime thriller, somewhat in the Thomas Harris ["The Silence of the Lambs,” "Red Dragon”] style.”
Although the Villisca murders remain officially unsolved, despite several colorful suspects also to be portrayed in the film, Wahlin pointed to eerie similarities between these and other ax murders throughout the Midwest during 1911 and 1912.
“Looking back, with what we know now about things like behavioral profiling, these Midwestern murders were all likely the work of one ritualistic serial killer,” he asserted. “That is the basis for my film.”
Wahlin’s “Hand of Glory” premiered in Chicago earlier this year, but the director stated he’s considering pulling the plug on its current festival run.
“It’s nice to receive nominations and all that, but you’re dealing with a very limited audience when you commit yourself to the festival circuit,” Wahlin explained. “I’m looking at releasing it episodically on the web around Christmas, mostly as a means to drum up a little buzz for “Slay Utterly,” which will require a significant budget. We’ll just get better exposure that way. “Hand of Glory” was written and shot as a film-style web series, with cliffhangers at the end of each installment, so I think it just works better as such.”
Although Wahlin has several Chicago-area actors in mind for key roles, he indicated it’s too premature to make any casting announcements.
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