Crookston natives’ new horror film ‘LOON!’ debuts Friday at River Cinema
Movie explores mystery of “killer loons” in northwest Minnesota lake country
EAST GRAND FORKS – An independent, horror movie, “LOON!,” by Crookston natives Kale and Charles Eickhof, opens Friday, Jan. 20, at the River Cinema for a two-week run.
Described as a tongue-in-cheek mystery about “killer loons” in Minnesota lake country, the 85-minute film is “a natural horror movie made by lake people for lake people,” according to a press release.
The Eickhof cousins wrote, filmed and produced the movie, which features an all-local cast. Kale Eickhof, a videographer, directed the film which was shot entirely in northwestern Minnesota, mostly at Union Lake near Erskine. Other locations include Crookston, East Grand Forks and Bemidji.
Filming took about 16 days in the summer of 2020, said Charles Eickhof, who stars in the film, along with Mario Schisano and Anna Huck, both of Crookston. About 30 other area residents, including recruited family and friends, were also cast members.
The post-production aspects of the project, notably special effects enhancement, licensing the original musical score, and “adding finer details,” took considerably more time than the actual filming, he said. Most of the editing work occurred in a garage at the family’s residence at Union Lake.
In post production, computer-generated imagery (CGI) made the scenes of loons attacking lake residents come alive. This work was done by freelancers in Los Angeles and elsewhere around the world, Charles said.
The story is set in a lake environment that seems peaceful until loons begin to terrorize residents with a series of bizarre and violent attacks, according to a news release. “Soon they realize that nothing is as it seems and that the answer may be more horrifying than they could have ever imagined.”
It’s a stark contrast to the image of the loon, the Minnesota state bird, which has become an iconic symbol of the tranquil environment that typifies the outdoors in the North Star State.
In creating the film, Charles and Kale were influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 natural horror-thriller film, “The Birds,” Charles said.
The Eickhofs’ first film, “played like a movie,” he said. “It has a lot of the elements needed to qualify as having a good story, with the different steps involved, the climax and a resolution.”
Charles, 24, works for Eickhof Columbaria in Crookston. Kale, 33, who lived in Grand Forks and attended Sacred Heart School, is a professional videographer in Los Angeles.
The cousins have been going to Union Lake all their lives. Their family has owned residential property there for generations.
Sitting around at their lake place during the pandemic lockdown, the idea for the film grew out of a conversation about movies, including “Titanic,” with Kale’s mother, Joyce Hagen.
“She mentioned the name ‘loon-panic’ and loons are kind of an ongoing theme at the lake,” Charles recalled. “We thought wow, what if we made a movie about loons, and it really just snowballed from there.”
The film “started off as a pandemic project,” Kale said in a news release. “We figured we could either watch movies or write a movie. So we wrote.”
Lovers of independent films, in particular, will enjoy the film, “just because of the low-budget nature and the sweat-equity kind of endurance that it takes to create one. … It’s got kind of a horror-comedy side to it,” Charles said. “It’s kind of quirky and fun in general; I think it’s something that anyone can like.”
“LOON!” was recently shown at the Grand Theater in Crookston.
The Eickhofs plan to attend the Friday, Jan. 20, screening at River Cinema, but there is no formal event.
Plans are in the works to show the movie in early February at other locations, including Fargo, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, Charles said.
He and Kale are exploring options for “LOON!” to reach more audiences through streaming and video-on-demand platforms.