Lempo - a Thunder Bay horror story

September 2023

You are sitting around a twilight campfire with some of your friends. The conversation has died down and the night sky is utterly black. A chilling moan floats across the waters and there is a crack in the bush beside the camp. Is it a rabbit? A fox? A serial killer? A demon?!

“I grew up telling ghost stories around the bonfire at camp,” says writer Tina Petrick. “As an adolescent, I was obsessed with Greek mythology and I loved watching slasher films on VHS, like Hallowe’en and the Friday the 13th films. It was a rite of passage for me - watching those films then bragging about how brave I was to my friends on the school bus!”

This fascination with horror has led Tina and her sister, film-maker Laura-Lynn Petrick, to their first collaborative project, a horror film called Lempo, based on the Finnish spirit of the same name.

“As a writer, I knew I wanted to play around with magic realism, local legend and folklore, and to delve into the spiritual elements of setting,” says Tina. “However, some stories are not mine to tell, so I struggled how I could play with magic realism set in my hometown while steering clear of cultural appropriation and acknowledging my settler ancestry.

I had gotten obsessed with a computer game during the pandemic called Crusaders Kings 3. You choose a ruler to play and role play your dynasty’s reign through the Medieval Ages. I’d often play as a High Chieftain in Finland and their starting religion is Ukonusko, or Finnish paganism. It inspired me to research Ukko and the Kavela (a Finnish epic) and through this rabbit hole, I discovered Lempo, who was once considered a Finnish deity of love and fertility but was transformed into a devil-like character by Christians during the Crusades. Then, the idea dawned on me: I could write a horror film about the demon Lempo, who followed my Finnish ancestors to camp at Thunder Bay. And that’s how the idea for Lempo was born.”

Tina pitched the idea to her sister, a prolific director based in Montreal, and Laura-Lynn was immediately on board.

“Horror is a new territory for my work,” she says, “I was excited to take this project on as it seemed challenging and terrifying. It was a step out of my comfort zone, and that’s where the magic tends to happen. The horror genre is also a great way to explore societal fears and anxiety and explore the unknown – all new concepts for my normally ethereal/documentary-like work.”

The decision to not only set the film in Thunder Bay, but also film it here, seemed like a natural step.

“We both have a deep connection to Thunder Bay,” says Laura-Lynn. “I love the landscape, wilderness and vistas of our region and have always found them to be hauntingly beautiful. This decision to film in Thunder Bay seemed natural, as my sister and I are both very comfortable here and we have a great network of artistic friends who are all very keen to help make films come to life. Ultimately, I really wanted to showcase the beauty and mystique of this region to those that aren’t familiar – it’s an untouched gem.”

“From an artistic perspective, it’s important to write what you know best,” says Tina. “So, writing something set in my hometown could be based on my lived experience and that authenticity and truth would elevate the work such that the project could have universal appeal. This striving for authenticity made it a no-brainer to set the film where it takes place.”

The Lempo itself presents an interesting evolution, from Finnish deity of love and fertility in the original Ukonusko to a demon intent on bringing cruelty, wickedness and death under the Christian religion. He commands the demon spirits of the forest and uses arrows, spear and axe to wreak destruction on those who cross him. The trailer shows glimpses of the demon with axe in hand, slipping between the bare and blackened branches of the boreal forest.“I rarely watch horror today,” laughs Tina. “That being said, the genre is deepening and there is some exceptional horror I’ve enjoyed over the past few years like Get Out, Midsommar, and The Witch – horror that is almost literary, exploring the horrors of our real world through metaphor.”

Filming a project of this scope in Thunder Bay also presented its own set of challenges.

“At first the challenges were confirming the crew for the film, getting the gear sorted and figuring out how we’re going to pull it all off in under a week,” says Laura-Lynn. “But with the help of this amazing network of local filmmakers like Connor McMahon, Nolan Dennhardt, Adrien Harpelle, and Scott McKay (a local cinematographer), it quickly became simple. We also had help from our artist cousins Christian and Kyle Bociurko and local artist Shannon Bateman. Our entire team has been extremely helpful and generous with their time and skill set on this project. Our actors were mostly local friends (a mix of artists and musicians) who expressed interest in the early days, so we got lucky! Filming with this eclectic group of talent was really fantastic and I’m so glad we decided to film in our hometown.”

“Honestly, the biggest challenge to filming in Thunder Bay is the mosquitos!” Tina laughs.

The community has rallied around this project, with Heartbeat Hot Sauce and The Chanterelle sponsoring production, and restaurants Bay Village and Nomad donating food for craft services. The local media has been amazing in helping the sisters share their story, and family and friends have stepped up to the plate to help them pull it all off on a micro-budget.

“It truly is a family affair,” says Tina. “Our mom cooked lasagna and perogies for us to have on hand for craft services, several family members appear in the film and acted in various capacities on set.

Our parents and aunts let us take over their properties to film. We are immensely grateful for it all! While we were filming on a dirt road, vehicles would drive by and express their support! It was great!”

The film is now officially in post-production, and the sisters hope to have a cut of the film by end of October (perfect for Hallowe’en!) Then, they intend to submit it to film festivals with the goal of attracting investors for a feature length version of the film.

That said, they’re always looking for additional sponsors and partners, so you can go to www.lempothefilm.com for more information.

And maybe, stay out of the woods for just a little while. You never know who, or what, the Petrick sisters have awakened…

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.