Director Renny Harlin and I go way back. No, the Finnish auteur behind such fun popcorn fare as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea is not a close personal friend of the family and he and I don’t commiserate over a cold beer every now and again while our respective spouses chew the fat about this or that. Instead, I know Renny Harlin primarily the way everyone else around the globe does: through his body of directing work. Still, there’s a little edge I feel I might just have over the Johnny-come-lately cinema buffs out there that only crashed the Harlin party after the directors ascent into Hollywood Royalty. Because in 1987, at the tender age of fourteen and with the wind of a full one year subscription to horror mag Fangoria propelling my sail, I stumbled upon a little seen gem of a horror flick called Prison. The premise was simple enough. The vengeful ghost of a convict comes back from beyond the grave (insert maniacal laughter) to settle a score with his prison’s new governor. The production values weren’t that hot, but the cast – featuring a pre-stardom Viggo Mortensen – was pretty good and the script from C. Courtney Joyner was very much on point. Most importantly the director, a young guy named Renny Harlin, obviously had more than a modicum of talent and he made a limited budget work inexplicably to his advantage. Others noticed what my adolescent eye caught and before too long Harlin had been assigned to direct an entry in one of my all-time favorite horror franchise’s, A Nightmare On Elm Street (Part Four, to be exact). Walking into an ice cold Alabama movie theater with my best friend on a hot summer’s day to view the latest exploits of one Freddy Krueger, I had an advantage over most other attendees that day in that I was already semi-aware of Harlin’s small oeuvre up to that point. In other words, I had a hunch that this latest installment in the Elm Street series was going to be something kind of special. And it was, in an altogether fun and popcorn sort of way. Later on, as Harlin really entered the Hollywood mainstream and began working with budgets larger than that of most tiny nations, I felt a sense of proprietorship; I had known this guy’s work for so long that I couldn’t help but lament his lost halcyon days as a low budget director. It felt like a loss to the world of horror movies as Harlin got further away from his gonzo, candy-confetti early efforts and to be for sure I never had as much fun with any of the subsequent Elm Street flicks as I did with the fourth installment.
According to our fedora wearing horror aficionados over at The Hollywood Reporter, director Renny Harlin is coming full circle and jumping back full-tilt boogie into the world of horror films with an upcoming project called The Refuge.
The Refuge is the story of a United States military veteran who returns home completely altered after a traumatizing tour of duty in Afghanistan. While there, the erstwhile Sergeant Rick Pedroni suffered what can only be called an assault by a strange and mysterious source. His superiors chalk this up as shell shock, ordering him to undergo trauma therapy. Rick’s Better Half discovers that, rather than PTSD, her husband has actually been possessed by an evil spirit and she must now race to uncover a solution to rescue him from his condition.
“I love making horror films because of the visual opportunities and character studies they offer,” Harlin said in a press release announcing the new film. “The Refuge is a terrifying journey into the deepest corners of the human spirit. It’s not just a regular horror film about a haunted house or a merciless killer. It’s an examination of what can happen when an evil, demonic spirit possesses an innocent mind.”
Highland Film Group is doing the honors with the handling of worldwide rights for The Refuge while Harlin is not only directing but also producing alongside fellow gremlins Yariv Lerner, Rob Van Norden, Gary Lucchesi, Michael McKay and Lori McCreary.
No official release date as of yet on The Refuge, but just knowing that it’s out there waiting in the wings sends a delightful chill down my spine that I’ve not experienced since 1987. Good to have you back in the world of smaller horror films, Renny. Now how about we go grab that beer?