A brand new Independent Film Channel production will be released on April 4 that puts a stirring, supernatural twist on a legendary North Carolina phenomenon — the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights. The director and producer will bring the film back to its Burke County roots before it hits theaters across the country, and “Alien Abduction” will premiere at Marquee Cinemas in downtown Morganton on April 1.
Director Matty Beckerman of Los Angeles said he was inspired to create this film by the remoteness of the North Carolina mountains, having learned about the perplexing lights as a child while visiting his grandparents in Blowing Rock. As a director, he decided to use the mystery of the mountains and the myths behind the Brown Mountain Lights to create an unnerving tale.
“We would often get lost on some of the back roads. I remember sitting in the car and daydreaming about what would happen if we really got lost,” he said. “What would happen if our entire family got lost? That was the inspiration. That’s where I started.”
THE LEGEND OF THE LIGHTS
Known for his research into things unexplained, Joshua P. Warren — an Asheville native who spent more than a decade conducting his own investigations on Brown Mountain — released a guidebook that summarizes the myths and theories behind the phenomenon.
“The mountain is a phantasmagoria of strange tales, but ultimately it is a vast blank slate. It is the tracing board for all manner of human adventure, exploration, wonder and imagination,” Warren said in the guidebook. “Regardless of what they are, the mere concept of the Brown Mountain Lights makes them important.
For more than a century, researchers and investigators have developed a vast array of theoretical possibilities that could explain the lights — ghosts, UFOs, conspiracy theories and scientific explanations.
“And in this Internet age, when the whole universe seems right at our fingertips, how refreshing it is to have a good, old-fashioned mystery still quietly waiting to be solved, right here in our own backyards,” Warren said.
Most published research has been inconclusive, and the element of the unknown provided Beckerman with an opportunity to create a wild and unnerving piece of fiction that he said will grab the attention of the audience from the beginning.
The 85-minute science fiction thriller was filmed in parts of Avery, Buncombe, Burke and Watauga Counties in 2011 and uses a found-footage format to tell the story of a family camping trip to Brown Mountain. Beckerman describes “Alien Abduction” as a psychological thriller that does not rely on blood and gore to stir emotion.
“Sometimes the things you hear affect you more than the things you see,” he said.
Beckerman said test audience members commented that “Alien Abduction” incorporates creative experiences similar to that of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Signs” (2002), which starred Mel Gibson. The film features interviews with Warren and scientist John Caton, the two people most associated with investigating the lights.
Because “Alien Abduction” was based on local legend and filmed here in western North Carolina, Burke County Tourism Director Ed Phillips said Morganton is the perfect place for the film to make its debut. Phillips, who was instrumental in organizing the premiere, said he feels the event and the film will generate renewed interest in the mysterious lights.
"Even though the film is spooky and scary, it will definitely bring attention to the lights. We already have a business in Morganton offering guided tours to try to see the lights," Phillips said. "IFC Films is distributing this worldwide. It's a big deal.”
Before its nationwide release, “Alien Abduction” will be screened at 7 p.m. on April 1 at Marquee Cinemas, located at 101 S. Green St. in downtown Morganton.
“This will be great for tourism. The movie is fiction, but the lights are there — they're real. Anyone can go to see them."
Beckerman and producer Cathy Beckerman will travel back to North Carolina for the premiere and will host a question-and-answer session immediately following the premiere.
“Making this movie in Burke County and being able to debut the film there is a special moment for me. I believe people are going to really react to it,” Matty Beckerman said. “People will see this worldwide and it will draw attention to the Brown Mountain Lights.
For more information on the film and to purchase tickets to the premiere, visit www.alienabductionfilm.com.
For more information on the BML phenomenon or to read from Warren’s guidebook, visit www.brownmountainlights.com.