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Sewickley native turns paranormal experiences to horror films

| Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, 7:21 p.m.
Kathleen Behun
Kathleen Behun

If you want to be freaked out, talk to Sewickley native Kathleen Behun for a few minutes about her paranormal experiences.

They include, among other bizarre events, a ghostly visitor in a hotel room near a Native American burial ground and “feeling” a suicide victim's fall.

Clearly, Behun has an affinity for the supernatural.

She's channeled some of these otherworldly encounters into her work as an independent film director. Her latest film, titled “21 Days,” came about because of Behun's frustration with major studios failing to produce her projects despite winning acclaim on the festival circuit.

So she wrote, directed and produced “21 Days” herself.

“ ‘21 Days' is about a house that is so haunted, so evil, that no one can live there for more than 21 days,” Behun explained. A group of filmmakers goes in to document what happens and finds out why the house has its reputation. Suffice to say hilarity does not ensue.

The distribution rights to the film, which already has won 14 awards on the festival and comic con circuits, recently were acquired by Gravitas Ventures. It's slated for theatrical release sometime in the spring, she said.

Behun recognizes her status as a female horror film director is a bit of an anomaly.

“There are very few women directors, especially in the horror genre,” she said. “There's a misconception in Hollywood that women can't direct scary films.”

But Behun, a Sewickley Academy classmate of makeup effects guru Greg Nicotero, known for “The Walking Dead,” said she's always been drawn to a certain kind of scary movie.

“The scariest are the ones in the realm of the believable, where you're watching and think it could happen to you,” she said. “That's why movies like ‘The Exorcist' and ‘The Omen' resonate so strongly.”

Behun also found the 2002 adaptation of “The Ring” and “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis to be effective and scary. “They're all about human dynamics that we don't fully understand.”

The next film Behun, who lives near Los Angeles, wants to make is based on a story she wrote called “The Maple House.” Set in Sewickley, it's more of a traditional ghost story, and she would love to film in Sewickley to give it the proper mood, she said.

The Brontë sisters were major influences for Behun, she said, and for her, Sewickley evokes the landscapes of works like “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre.”

“It's not a desolate place, but there are parts of it that have a feeling of isolation. The landscape definitely influenced my writing.”

Kim Lyons is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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