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Cannes: Hereford Films Options Shaun Hutson’s Upcoming Horror Novel ‘Chase’ (VARIETY EXCLUSIVE)

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British production company Hereford Films has acquired movie rights to the upcoming novel “Chase” from prolific horror writer Shaun Hutson. The option is part of a deal with the British author and his publisher Caffeine Nights that will also see Hereford take rights to Hutson’s 1988 novel “Assassin,” as well as form a new publishing brand with Caffeine Nights.

The new publishing label, Hereford Books, will produce novelizations of other films on the independent production company’s slate, as well as spinoff titles and print-only “expanded universe” sequels. Hereford has previously seen Caffeine Nights publish novelizations of catalogue horror titles including “Vendetta,” “We Still Kill the Old Way” and “Age of Kill.”

Hereford CEO Jonathan Sothcott said he and producer Damien Morley had been looking to expand the company’s business interests into publishing and that, in Caffeine Nights, they believe they have found the perfect partner. “It is part of our brief to exploit the IP in all of the properties that we own and working with a quality publisher and some great authors is a firm step in the right direction,” said Sothcott.

Hutson has written nearly 40 novels, including 1982’s “Slugs,” which was adapted into a 1988 cult movie by Spanish director J.P. Simon, released in the U.S. by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. His work included movie novelizations of Hammer Film Productions as well as the U.K. novelization of James Cameron’s “The Terminator.”

The author will adapt both “Chase” and “Assassin” for Hereford Films. Hutson said: “The goal of any film or piece of fiction should be to excite, entertain and, if it’s anything to do with me, terrify. ‘Chase’ should tick all those boxes.”

“Chase” is due to be published in the U.K. by Caffeine Nights in October. It follows a couple who take their eight-year-old daughter on a dream U.S. holiday, unaware of a series of child abductions and murders and a crazed cult that have spread terror across the area they intend to visit. As they travel along the highways of Colorado they are pursued not just by the forces of an unimaginable evil but also by the darkness within themselves.

”Assassin” is a supernatural mafia thriller. Hereford will relocate the action from London to Chicago for the feature adaptation, which will also be written by Hutson.

Hereford’s current slate includes the U.S.-set horrors “Tormented,” “Pentagram,” and “Aura”; London gangster sequel “We Still Die the Old Way”; and action thriller “Assault on Hazard Rock.”

Hereford to Unleash Supernatural Horror Film ‘Tormented’ (VARIETY EXCLUSIVE)

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Louisa Connolly-Burnham toplines the genre movie

U.K. production company Hereford Films has added supernatural horror film “Tormented” to its slate, the first in a series of America-set genre movies from the company.

Written and directed by Adam Stephen Kelly (“Done In,” “Kill Kane”), “Tormented” centers “on teenager Ashley Loren, who — in the aftermath of a tragic car accident — is haunted by nightmares of her dead sister, and must uncover her town’s dark past in the hope of vanquishing the malevolent spirit that terrorizes her from beyond the grave,” according to a statement.

Hereford Films CEO Jonathan Sothcott commented: “The glut of horror films released weekly to home entertainment platforms makes standing out from the crowd a particular challenge, and over-saturation of inferior product is going to be an increasing problem but our model for these genre films at Hereford mixes the best elements of Hammer and Blumhouse: unashamedly populist, high-concept and modestly budgeted horror films that will not only stand out in the market, but haunt audiences’ imaginations long after the end credits. With one of the best genre scripts I’ve ever read, I want ‘Tormented’ to be the first in a slate of horror pictures that can go toe-to-toe with modern genre classics such as ‘The Purge’ and ‘The Babadook.’”

Hereford is currently closing finance and is near to signing off a multi-territory distribution deal with an international distributor. No sales agent has been appointed as of yet.

Kelly said: “With a supernatural twist and a thrilling edge, ‘Tormented’ deals with the very real, very scary phenomenon known as sleep paralysis while also taking inspiration from an incredibly dark chapter in American history. The response to the script has been fantastic and I’m so excited to have the interest of so many talented actors.”

Casting is underway with rising star Louisa Connolly-Burnham (“Wolfblood”) in the lead role.

Connolly-Burnham said: “Despite many sleepless nights, horror has always been one of my favorite genres and I’m so excited to finally be on the other side of the scares. I’ve personally experienced sleep paralysis and it’s absolutely terrifying — the script definitely brings that aspect out.”

Hereford Films’ 2017 slate also includes genre films “Aura,” “Pentagram,” “Dracula: New Blood” and “We Still Die the Old Way,” plus family films “Pride and Prejudice” and “Ollie.”

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