MICHIGAN CITY — Concealed in a desolate central Indiana forest is a small cemetery notorious for eerie sounds and sightings of supernatural apparitions and orbs. A group of friends, fascinated by the paranormal, carelessly hold a ritual and begin experiencing paranormal activity that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
That’s the premise behind a new micro-budget horror film co-starring Michigan City resident and La Porte native Leonard Sales, who plays John, a skeptical observer of the ghostly happenings who must be convinced of their reality before the horror can end. Shot throughout Indiana, “Dark Ground” is set for a theatrical release at 7 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Edinburgh Pixy Theatre.
Admission is $10.
Sales, who previously starred in a short film about La Porte serial killer Belle Gunness, said his involvement in the latest project came about after he learned of the horror aspects of the production and its basis in true events.
“I’ve always been interested in the darker nature in film, especially the horror genre,” he said. “Every time I watch a horror film or YouTube video, or read a scary story, I always feel a sense of comfort. Watching something scary compels you to conquer your fears.”
In “Dark Ground,” the characters and events are based on what allegedly occurred during several visits to a cemetery by the filmmakers. According to Chris McDaniel and Craig Whedon, writers and directors of “Dark Ground,” they made the film to give an accurate account of what happened during those visits. They said the paranormal incidents changed their lives.
McDaniel went on to write two books based on paranormal events and ghost stories, and even created Creepy Legends, a paranormal research team. He also starred in several episodes of “Monsters in America” as a consultant to stories. Whedon had a career in education, but said he always felt what happened in the cemetery needed to be told.
The filmmakers described “Dark Ground” as a retro paranormal thriller. The film also stars Christian McDaniel and Austin Fisher, as Chris and Craig; and Thomas Brown II, Elaine Marie, Che Jim, Ricky Iniesta, Haley Weston and Sara Jacobs.
Sales said the movie, made on a budget of only $10,000, was shot in only seven days. He said the independent nature of the production and lack of studio financing created certain difficulties, namely in the late release of the feature.
“It was shot in 2015 and it just got a theatrical release later this month,” he said. “There were a lot of hurdles with post production, editing, looping with the dialogue. But we finally got it pushed out and it’s a really satisfying feeling.”
This is Sales’ first full-length feature. He had only starred in short films and commercials before.
Another challenge for the actor was playing a real-life person.
“There was so much depth in this character, and I got to create this really intricate detailed backstory, especially in his beliefs,” Sales said. “I got to dive into a different aspect of another person’s life and it’s more critical when you play someone who exists to not do a disservice to them, but also to try to be true to yourself. It’s walking a fine line.”
Sales said you never want to offend someone when they see you playing them on screen, but you also can’t fight certain instincts as an actor to portray the character in the appropriate way for the story.
“So my character, John, he’s kind of the one person in the group of friends that doesn’t believe what’s happening,” he said. “So I’m basically making fun of everyone. I don’t buy what they say. I don’t believe in the paranormal stuff. And it’s everyone else’s mission to make me believe.”
But after a series of ghostly events, his character does begin to change his mind.
So what else is Sales up to? He’s currently hosting a podcast called “Entertainment Underground,” and has a role in the independent film “Singh,” about Gurinder Singh Khalsa, who was denied access to an airport terminal after refusing to remove his turban in 2007. The film also stars Khalsa, who plays himself.
For more about the showtimes of “Dark Ground,” visit the Pixy Theatre’s website at theedinburghpixy.com. For more information about Sales, visit his Internet Movie Database profile at imdb.com/name/nm6872118/.
The Edinburgh Pixy is located at 111 South Walnut St. in Edinburgh, Indiana.
—From staff reports