Big chills on the big screen
“Some legends are best left alone.”
That’s the ominous tagline for the reboot of Blake and Brent Cousins’ 2001 film, “Night Marchers,” which premieres in theaters statewide on Friday. Maui moviegoers can catch the film at the Regal Maui Mall Megaplex in Kahului, where it will run through Halloween.
Growing up on Hawaii island’s Hamakua Coast, the identical twin filmmakers heard the chicken skin-inducing stories of the night marchers — spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors that frequent Hawaii’s sacred sites after dark. On Maui, sightings of the ghostly procession have been reported at La Perouse Bay and Kahakuloa. There are telltale signs: the blowing of a conch shell, a line of flickering torches and the sound of beating drums. Legend dictates that if you hear or see the night marchers approaching, turn and run — and if there’s nowhere to run, lie face down on the ground and remain motionless until they pass by.
And what should you never do? Look at them. Or worse, look for them.
That’s the cautionary tale at the heart of the 2001 film the brothers wrote, directed and produced: A five-member documentary film crew travels to Hawaii in search of the night marchers and mysteriously vanishes — leaving only their footage behind. It was the brothers’ first feature film to make it onto the big screen (they now have seven feature-length films under their belts). Before the cameras started rolling, though, the brothers interviewed dozens of Hawaii residents who had reported sightings or encounters with the night marchers. They say the film was inspired by those firsthand accounts, as well as their own childhood memories.
On the day of the 2001 premiere, the brothers arrived at the now-shuttered Kress Cinemas in downtown Hilo for the matinee showing, and were astonished to find a line at the box office. A few hours later, they say the line was wrapped around the block for the evening showing. Ultimately, given its popularity, the film was extended for another three weeks.
“It was beyond what we expected,” Blake Cousins said. “It was a wild ride — and a dream come true.”
They made a sequel the following year, and nearly two decades later, decided to give the original “Night Marchers” a contemporary update. According to the brothers: “The film begins 20 years later after the original when a Hollywood reality television producer comes up with the idea to pick up the story and travel to Hawaii to hunt for the paranormal legend and document the existence of night marchers. What he and his camera crew experience is far more than they bargained for.” It’s a foreboding premise, but apart from sending shivers up the spines of audiences, the brothers say the film has an underlying message: the importance of respecting other cultures.
Leading the cast are Maui resident Anuhea La and Hawaii island residents Po’ai Suganuma and Keali’i Kanekoa. The brothers handpicked the local actors and the film was shot on Hawaii island, with Brent Cousins as its director and Blake Cousins as its editor (both are executive producers).
“As a local independent filmmaker, I’ve always wanted to create a Hawaiian-style film industry where local actors and producers have films shown on the big screen, made in Hawaii for Hawaii, with an international appeal, while showcasing the islands’ unique culture and majestic locations,” Blake Cousins explained.
To keep things spoiler-free, the brothers won’t reveal any other plot details, but say the reboot of “Night Marchers” is equal parts scary and fun. The 71-minute film is not rated and the brothers say it is appropriate for viewers ages 13 and up.
“Night Marchers” premieres in theaters statewide on Friday. For showtimes or to purchase tickets in advance, visit www.fandango.com or www.regmovies.com and search for “Night Marchers.”