Sheets Pulled Off Society’s Faults in Falls Native’s Award-Winning Short Film
Bart Sullivan, 08-07-2019

A newly transferred deputy, played by Morgan McLeod, awaits a dangerous assignment in The Thing About Beecher's Gate
Sam Scourfield
Tradition is often to blame for things that may seem outdated at best or dangerous at worst. People may even complain that outdated or dangerous things need to continue because “it has always been that way.” Tradition, however, is not always an acceptable justification, such as was illustrated in the classic American short story “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson—required reading in most schools and/or colleges because it so effectively indicts tradition for tradition's sake. Similarly, the theme of tradition is explored in The Thing About Beecher’s Gate, a short horror film directed by Jeremy Herbert and Cuyahoga Falls native Sam Scourfield

Beecher’s Gate tells the story of a newly transferred deputy, played by Morgan McLeod, who has been given the assignment of monitoring a mysterious shed in the woods. Having been given the job because he has the same “qualifications” as his predecessor, the deputy is not given any information about the task other than to stay the night. The assignment, he discovers, is actually a sacrifice to strange floating sheets known as the “Reds,” to whom the sheriff has been sacrificing deputies for years. To the dismay of the sheriff, however, it is his son, Clancy, who is ultimately sacrificed, and the deputy stops the tradition from continuing.

While this simply-produced film about floating, murderous sheets might be scary enough on its own, Scourfield explains that the Reds are an allegory for hatred and racism in America. “This town is entirely ‘fine’ except for that pesky old tradition they’ve been doing forever... So the Reds represent the invisible hatred of the town that demand blood,” he said. As shown by the sheriff’s son, some people may give into the ideas of their relatives, thinking that their family couldn’t be capable of being racist, but instead finding themselves becoming part of the hatred.

“That’s how the hate groups we based [the Reds] on work. Under the sheet, they’re strong and many and imposing. But why do they wear them? To hide their identity, because they’re scared of being recognized for their hate,” Scourfield explained. “Shooting only scares them for the moment, until they can scurry off to regroup. The only way to truly stop them is to burn the sheets. To destroy their hiding place."

Aside from the film’s embedded allegory, its cinematography and specific camera angles create a perfect balance, keeping the antagonists of the film hidden until they are needed to drive the plot forward. For a 25-minute film about a killer who can move in and out without being detected, there is often too much emphasis placed on showing the character as soon as it reappears. For Herbert and Scourfield, the focus is instead on McLeod, letting the Reds do even more damage without being in the viewer’s face

The directors’ history in films has come a long way to arrive at Beecher’s Gate. “I grew up in front of the VCR. I wanted to make movies since I could pick up a camcorder. It just took me a while to come to an appreciation of horror, a genre I now love direly,” recalls Herbert, whose other films he worked on with Scourfield—Killer Deal and The Childish Thing—reflect his love of horror movies just as Beecher’s Gate does.

Scourfield grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, the filming location of Beecher’s Gate, and the influence is clear throughout the film. “I think growing up in a small town has made me gravitate towards stories about small towns. There’s something really genuine about movies that take place in a town where everyone knows your name. They feel like home,” Scourfield said. He explains that he grew up watching movies with his grandma and taking photos, then he found a group of talented friends in college and latched onto filmmaking. “They got me through a lot of hard times, and I find making movies is a great way to get out of your own head for a bit and pretend nothing else matters but getting the project done,” Scourfield said of his friends and film crew. “As hard as [short films] can be to pull off, they’re always fun and there’s few things I’d rather do than make something with my friends on a hot and sticky Ohio summer night.” Currently living in Boulder, Colorado, Scourfield is making plans to return to the Falls for his next film in order to play a bigger part with the rest of the crew living nearby

The Thing About Beecher’s Gate has been accepted into nearly 15 different festivals, most recently winning Best Cinematography at the Kent State Film Festival. It also won Best Horror Short at the PA Indie Shorts Festival, 4th Best Horror Short, Best Cinematography in an Ohio Film, and Best Actor for Morgan McLeod at the International Horror Hotel in Hudson, plus Best Horror/Sci-Fi Short and Best of Fest at the Canton Film Festival. It is still in the running for awards at Austin Revolution, GenreBlast IV, and Scares that Care, all happening in August.

“Everything we do comes from our small collective of movie makers, so it’s hard not to let [our lives] ooze into the movies we make,” explains Scourfield. Based on this most recent film and its multiple awards and nominations, he still has many more movies to put life into, all of which will add to the wall of awards.

The Thing About Beecher’s Gate can be seen at the GenreBlast film festival on August 29 in Winchester, VA and at Austin Revolution in Austin, TX on September 6 in Austin, TX. Beecher’s Gate is currently not available to stream, although the directors’ previous film, The Childish Thing, may be found at http://www.truindie.com.


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