Nain Rouge legend explored in horror film
Emmy-nominated Detroit-based independent filmmaker Sam Logan Khaleghi would rather make movies in the D than in Hollywood.
“I love where I’m from and there’s generally more authenticity in the efforts of those who want to help you in the storytelling process,” said Khaleghi, 37, of Detroit, an alumnus of West Bloomfield High School, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Northwestern University.
Khaleghi’s latest movie, “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” — which he directed, produced, co-wrote, and co-starred in — was recently released on various streaming services, such as Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Metro-area personalities co-star in the film.
Nathan Mathers, rapper Eminem’s younger brother, plays a detective in the film, four-time platinum recording artist/composer Swifty McVay of the Detroit-based hip-hop band D12 plays the mayor of Detroit, and retired Lake Orion police chief Jerry Narsh portrays the Lake Orion police chief in the film.
Also, Fox 2 News’ Jay Towers plays a DJ, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard plays Sheriff John Wayne, and boxing legend Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns and his manager Jackie Kallen (who was played by Meg Ryan in 2004’s “Against the Ropes”) make cameo appearances.
Khaleghi said he wore many hats on “Devil’s Night,” which was filmed over a period of three years on weekends and when everyone was available. In the midst of all that, people were also working on other projects, including Khaleghi.
“It was necessary on this endeavor because this film served as a proof of concept for myself and a few others involved, answering the question, ‘Can we make a micro-budget film on a budget of passion and attain distribution?’” said Khaleghi.
“Devil’s Night” marks Khaleghi’s first collaboration with Cinedigm Corp., the nation’s premier independent film distributor headquartered in Los Angeles.
“Cinedigm is the production house that’s distributing the film,” said Khaleghi. “They’ve been a key partner in this.”
The movie centers around the Nain Rouge, also called the Demon of the Strait. The Nain Rouge (which is French for “red dwarf”) is a Detroit urban legend about a red-faced demon whose presence is a harbinger of doom. As the legend goes, the Nain Rouge first attacked Detroit’s founder Antoine Cadillac in the 1700s when French explorers crossed paths with the demon upon settling in the city.
The Nain Rouge has become a fixture in Detroit’s contemporary culture. Each spring, the city hosts a costume parade called the “Marche du Nain Rouge,” where the Nain Rouge is traditionally chased out of the city. At the parade’s conclusion, an effigy of the Nain Rouge is destroyed, banishing the evil spirit from Detroit for another year.
“I was familiar with the urban legend and the local folklore as a story that was shared for hundreds of years and changes constantly as time moves forward to adapt,” said Khaleghi. “I think like any other creature of urban legend, such as Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, it’s the excitement over the possibility of what some people conceive as fiction and some think to be real.”
“Devil’s Night” was filmed primarily in Detroit and Lake Orion. The Detroit Historical Museum and the Packard Automotive Plant are featured prominently in the movie. There were also some scenes shot in Wixom and New Baltimore.
“I loved the small town aesthetic that reflects small town America outside of a big city,” said Khaleghi. “We couldn’t possibly shoot something like this that has such deep roots in Detroit on a soundstage in Hollywood.”
In “Devil’s Night,” Billie Jean Finnick (Jesi Jensen), a military veteran who is now a Lake Orion police officer, investigates a string of grisly murders connected to the Nain Rouge (Jesse Dean, a stuntman and longtime collaborator of Khaleghi). Jensen herself is a military veteran, having served four years in the Virginia Army National Guard as a heavy equipment operator.
“I wanted to put the strength of the narrative in the eyes, actions, and reflections of a powerful female character — that was the goal,” said Khaleghi. “(Jensen’s) military background played a big aspect of bringing her to the front of the line during the audition process, but ultimately it was a mutually shared consideration, and she was referred by another actor attached at the time.”
Added Jensen: “I’ve always liked strong female roles. Billie Jean was a hero, curious, and stubborn — that’s something I can relate to and have fun bringing to life.”
Jensen, a Virginia native who once lived in Illinois and currently lives in Oxford, enjoyed filming in Detroit.
“It was beautiful, I loved it,” she said. “The locations we shot at were amazing. I grew to love the city the more I got to know it.”
For Jensen, the most challenging part of filming “Devil’s Night” was the fight scenes.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears were truly shed during those fight scenes – by all parties,” she said.
Jensen also underwent police training with Narsh to add to her skill-set. Working with the Lake Orion Police Department, the Lake Orion Fire Department and other law enforcement officials — whom she called “real-life heroes in uniform” — was the best part of filming “Devil’s Night.”
“They were all so incredibly involved and supportive of the film,” she said. “They brought realism, skills, and resources that made this movie possible.”
For Khaleghi, the most challenging part of filming “Devil’s Night” was being persistent in filming it over a course of three years.
“I’m excited and elated to have been able to make this movie,” said Khaleghi. “It was such a long adventure. We wanted to bring this movie to the finish line, so when we did I was elated. It was a labor of love on a budget of passion.”
'Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge'
Streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes, and also available on DVD (which has special featurettes) at Walmart.com and BestBuy.com.