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Elizabeth Báthory inspires local psychological horror film

HAMBURG — Elizabeth Báthory, a historical figure from 16th century Hungary, is infamously known for murdering her servants and drinking and bathing in their blood. She is also the inspiration behind local psychological horror film “Elizabeth Bathory,” which will be screened at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 6 at the Hamburg Palace Theatre.

“A compelling story has been told in essentially one location; most of the film is presented in a dungeon ... aka a cellar in South Buffalo,” said Hamburg resident Tilke Hill, who stars in the film as a character named Katarina.

Hill began acting when she was 12 years old. She went on to graduate from the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where she majored in performance. She received her undergraduate education from Fordham University in The Bronx, N.Y. and is currently working toward a master’s degree in theater and performance from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The film project began in 2012, when the idea of Báthory sowed the production seed. One year later, Elizabeth Nixon, the writer and director of the film, proposed another idea to Hill and Nixon’s brother Andrew, who worked as creative feedback for the screenplay. Vampirette Báthory conquered.

“Right from there, [the Nixons] started writing,” Hill said. “We shot the entire feature film in five days in May, which is completely unheard of.”

Also starring in the film is Kathleen Denecke, a Hamburg High School graduate who will play Anika. Adah Hagen will play the supporting role of Zofia. According to Hill, the person who will star as Báthory has yet to be announced, and will be a surprise.

“Elizabeth Bathory” was completed and premiered in October. The majority of the film was shot in a basement in South Buffalo. Other scenes were taken on a farm in the Niagara County area, in front of a green screen at the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center and in a dilapidated building on the lower west side of Buffalo.

“You wouldn’t really know about it, because it kind of looks scary,” Hill said, about the worn-down building.

Attention to detail was the most significant factor that assisted in maintaining time period authenticity in this film, according to Hill.

Katie Ambrose, a graduate of Hamburg High School and a photographer for “Buffalo Spree” magazine, set the tone for the era with professional hair and makeup. Faces were made pale and washed out and circular blush was applied, a technique that is not common in modern times.

The writing and lighting of the film contributed immensely, Hill added.

Funded through two Kickstarter© campaigns – for pre-production and post-production – the money raised helped to pay Director of Photography Don Burns, rental kits for lighting and food. After days spent filming 16 – 17 hours at a time in a basement, Hill said that “the attention to detail that human beings cannot survive on sugar and coffee” was significant.

“I really think it was the collaborative effort that made the movie a success because we made it in such a short time, and with so little money,” she added.

Hill said that she used knowledge gained from working as a producer on another film, “Brandonwood,” which was written and directed by John Fink and filmed nearly entirely in the Southtowns, during the filming of “Elizabeth Bathory.”

“I thought I could essentially really use what I had learned from that experience and apply it this time,” Hill said.

She also transposed her expertise from her time spent living in Los Angeles, Calif., where she stayed for five years until she moved back to Hamburg, due to illness.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities here, which is really cool,” Hill said. “Now, when you’re living in L.A., it’s a different kind of a hustle. I don’t know if I would have been able to dedicate the time that I had dedicated to either one of [the films], or am still dedicating, because it’s a big job being a producer.”

“Elizabeth Bathory” has been accepted into the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival; that screening will take place at the end of April.

In addition to her work with film, Hill, along with her colleague Kate McCarthy, teaches manifestation workshops at the Be Healthy Institute, where Jill Chiacchia is the director and founder.

After the Hamburg screening, an after-party will be held at that institute, located at 40 Main St. in Hamburg, walking distance from the theater. Hors d’oeuvre will be served, in addition to wine and other beverages.

Tickets to the screening will be available for purchase at the door; the Hamburg Palace Theatre is located at 31 Buffalo St. in Hamburg.
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