Boston producer-director Johnny Hickey to debut new streaming found footage project Dark is the Night
Longtime Dig readers may recognize Charlestown native Johnny Hickey from our extensive coverage of his indie flicks, Oxy Morons and Habitual, or from the anti-opioid shorts that we teamed up with the filmmaker on before the pandemic.
While Hickey’s films are widely known as psychological drug thrillers, you could also categorize them as straight horror. His interests have run dark since the start of his career, and so it’s no surprise that his latest project, a multi-part streaming series shot for ScareNetwork.TV, goes straight for the guts and gore.
“Growing up around here, I heard about all these horrifying things, especially around Salem and the witch trials and all the negative energy around that, but when I really started looking into it and reading the history it turned out a lot of the stories are even scarier than I realized,” Hickey said about Dark is the Night, which has its first episode premier this week. “That’s why the series is turning into such a screamfest—we’re going out there to film this stuff and we’re really getting the absolute shit scared out of us. It couldn’t feel any realer.”
All eight episodes of Dark is the Night are being filmed in Massachusetts cities and towns, with content “based on eerie New England history and familiar folklore.” More from Hickey’s team below:
In 1641, the first witch hunt in America started when midwife and medicine woman Margaret Jones was accused of practicing the dark arts. After being found guilty of having a “malignant touch” among other strikes, she was hanged from a tree in Boston in 1648. More than 380 years later, the crew from the Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) YouTube show goes searching for her spirit on the same cursed grounds and at the shuttered Danvers State Psychiatric Hospital where the subsequent Salem witch burnings took place. Things start off fun, but what began as a lark for amateur poltergeist sleuths soon spirals into a dark world consumed by mayhem and madness.
In addition to researching and shooting in some of the region’s spookiest locations, Hickey is also filming every scene of every episode in the dark. The approach has made for a pitch-black dynamic even edgier than in his prior feature films, which were both heralded for their chilling effects.
And the whole project is being shot locally with actors from the region:
Additional installments, including one which drops on Halloween, will ratchet up the fear factor and incorporate additional historic and contemporary tall tales, legends, and tragedies—from paranormal phenomena around the Bridgewater Triangle, to missing persons found in the Charles River, to mysteries surrounding the Franklin Park Zoo lion cages and the abandoned airbase in Weymouth.
Dark is the Night stars a local cast of Chris Munichiello (Weymouth), Ally Doody (Gloucester), Stanley Bruno (Revere), Lauren Veiga (Brockton), Wes Pearson (Plymouth), and comedians Dave Russo (Malden) and Tommy O’deed (Somerville). The series will also feature loads of celebrity influencers such as Jordan Wisely, who is best known for his championship wins on MTV’s The Challenge and for acting roles on shows such as The Black List. Additional appearances from Justina Valentine of Nick Cannon presents Wild ‘n Out who will appear in episodes alongside UFC Middleweight Punahele Soriano and Big Brother MTV alum “Paulie” Calafiore. Hickey is also still casting for the final episodes, as the series is still in production as the first parts air.
“Most directors start with shorts and work their way up to longer pictures, and in that time they get to experiment a lot,” Hickey said. “For me it was the opposite—I started with Oxy Morons, and since that and Habitual were made as one-and-done releases, I played it safe in some respects. Not this time though; for Dark is the Night, I’m messing around with everything, from lighting to unscripted narrative to things that we can do on the fly for this kind of found footage production that we wouldn’t dream of doing when there is a hundred-plus person cast and crew to drag around with you.”