What would you do if your neighbor turned out to be a serial killer? That’s exactly what happened to Black Fly screenwriter and director, Jason Bourque. Black Fly, an independent dark thriller, screened at the 2015 San Diego Film Festival earlier this month and is inspired by true life events of Canadian serial killer, Noel Winters.
Write What You Know
When Jason Bourque was a teenager living in rural Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, he and the rest of the town discovered there was a serial killer living amongst them. Jason was captivated by this true life horror story that it inspired him to write his first screenplay, Black Fly, almost eighteen years ago. “I was haunted by it,” Jason explains during a special Q&A after the screening. “Noel was very liked in the community, very charismatic type of guy, who you’d want watching your back. At the same time he had this temper. And when he was drinking, he was prone to these acts of violence, but when the double murder happened, we had no idea that he was capable of that.”
The Summers Are Great, But The Winters Will Kill You
During the early 1980’s New Brunswick, Winters killed and dismembered four people, some stuffed in garbage bags which were later found at a local dump. Unlike the U.S., Canadian media does not “glamorize” serial killers, to this day there is very little information found online about his crimes. Jason adds that, “He was never really in the press although he did horrible things. Even today there’s bodies that pop up that people think, ‘oh it’s Noel.’ He’s more appropriated into the culture of this small town. They still joke that ‘The summers are great, but the Winters will kill you’ because his actual last name was Winters.”
After the bodies of a Montreal couple were dug up in a shallow grave near his home, 34-year-old Winters reportedly committed suicide at the Dorchester Penitentiary, where he was being held. Even his death was clouded with controversy. According to Jason, “There’s a lot of talk that a biker gang actually did it.” This is because it was later revealed that Winters was also a hit-man for a biker gang. A lot of these details appear in one way or another in Black Fly. “I took a lot of creative license with it,” Jason explains. Indeed, Black Fly captures the mystery and horror that haunted the small town in its own unique way.
Bringing The Characters To Life
The story is told through two brothers, Jake and Noel Henson, both haunted by a troubling past who reconnect, and set off an unfortunate series of violent events. The film was shot with a very tight budget in 14-days with an “unknown” yet dedicated cast. Matthew MacCaull who plays Noel is a “working actor” whose big break was playing a cyborg in Tomorrowland alongside George Clooney. Christie Burke who plays Noel’s girlfriend, Paula was “dying” to do the role despite the character having to succumb to dark and violent episodes at the hands of Noel. The lead role of Jake went to Dakota Daulby, who was casted in one-day after having lost the original lead actor. Dakota “had this kinda hungry, broken angel thing about him,” Jason describes on the casting of Dakota. “So we gave him a break.”
Black Fly is incredibly well executed under Jason’s direction considering the tight budget and timeline. During the Q&A, Jason revealed that the initial script had more action and explosions in an “epic showdown,” but working with a tight budget and being a little more wiser, he knew it was not necessary to the story. “It’s not about the gore, it’s about the aftermath, and it’s about how it affects the characters,” Jason adds. It’s what you don’t see that makes this thriller a “nail-biting nightmare.” The cinematography beautifully captures and sets the dark and gloomy mood of this rural small town. Surprisingly, a lot of the visuals came from real life. For example, some of the scenes were shot at an Anarchist-like island called Denman Island (which Jason describes as “MadMax meets Hippies”). They also found a woman who collects rusted-out buses which they then used to shoot the scenes that lead up to the bodies in the garbage bags.
Will this film finally end Jason’s haunting thoughts of Noel? Who knows, but “It’s an interesting process.” Jason remarked that “(Noel) left such an impression on me and also an impression on a lot of us back east. To this day, he is still known as a sort of ‘boogeyman’ in the town where I grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick.”
Click here to learn more about Black Fly the movie and Noel Winters.