Truth is often stranger than fiction. That is certainly the case with “From the Dark,” a low-budget independent horror film about co-workers at a remote resort who are slowly murdered one by one during a late-night party. It’s a scary premise, yes, but in a rather unsettling twist – and entirely unbeknownst to filmmakers – leading lady Wyn Reed, whose character shoots and kills someone onscreen, had shot and killed a man in real life prior to landing the role! A true-crime saga like no other, it’s a sordid tale that only Keith Morrison of “Dateline NBC” could properly tell, and, indeed, the legendary broadcast journalist covered the case in a 2021 episode of the investigative series, as well as in a six-part podcast special, both titled “Killer Role.” As summed up by NBC, “An actress playing a killer in a horror film is so good, you’d almost think she’d done it in real life. Turns out she had.”
“From the Dark” was the brainchild of Matthew and Trinity Spickard, an Oregon-based father/daughter writing/producing team who couldn’t have imagined the real-life drama that would follow the 2018 shoot when it came to light that Wyn (real name – Aisling Tucker Moore-Reed) had been out on bail during the filming, awaiting trial on a manslaughter charge for killing her uncle, Shane Moore, on July 26, 2016. A sad outcome to what was, by all accounts, a fun and fulfilling shoot, though the brouhaha no doubt drummed up interest in the movie, which is currently available to rent on Amazon.
Described as a “rural murder mystery thriller,” “From the Dark” actually makes for a pretty arduous watch (and yes, I sat through the entire 92 minutes and 49 seconds!) – even with the behind-the-scenes drama that permeates it. Aside from a positive comment left by the director’s mother, Amazon reviews are downright scathing, with one viewer lamenting, “It was a painful chore to watch” and another deploring, “Pretty sure this script was meant for a porno and they changed their minds. I really can’t believe that they are charging $5 for this. It was bad. Like bad, bad.” At the very least, the movie’s backdrop is picturesque!
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Set at the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, much of the story centers around The Chateau at Oregon Caves, a historic lodging located at 20000 Caves Hwy in Cave Junction, where the main characters, including tour guide Valerie Faust (Reed), are said to work. Tucked deep into the forested Siskiyou Mountains and regularly enveloped in a heavy fog, the property, which is one of the National Park’s Great Lodges as well as a National Historic Landmark, looks like it was ripped right out of an episode of “Twin Peaks.”
Designed in the rustic style by architect and local Grants Pass carpenter Gust Lium in 1934, the rambling inn was conceived to blend into the surrounding landscape, with its crevassed lot essentially dictating its form and the adjacent creek embedded into the overall schematic.
Of the design, a National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form explains, “The very limited building site on steep, mountainous terrain was a major challenge to the builder. Rather than constructing a new lodge perched on the mountainside as the other buildings at the monument had been, he instead chose to span the small gorge through which the cave’s stream discharged. He used that to architectural advantage by allowing some of the stream to pass through an artificial brook in the dining room and diverting the rest through a culvert in the basement. The way that nature was physically brought inside the building reinforced the purpose of the enormous picture windows. The visitor could relax and dine in cozy comfort with a small stream flowing past his feet while looking out into the thick, green forest.”
The lodging’s unique layout sets the lobby on the building’s fourth level, four stories above the creek bed below, giving the room the feel of being suspended amongst the branches of the surrounding foliage. The rustic interior only accentuates the indoor-outdoor ambiance with exposed ceiling beams, log post supports and authentic Monterey furniture handmade by the Mason Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles.
Lodge amenities include a fine dining room, a 1930s coffee shop and a towering double-sided stone fireplace made of marble from the nearby caves.
The 23 rooms, which lack televisions, phones, WiFi and even air conditioning, are reached via a grand wooden staircase fashioned from oak, Madrone and pine.
Currently closed indefinitely for a prolonged restoration project, The Chateau likely won’t reopen until 2023. Significant delays have occurred due to structural issues resulting from a 1964 flood that were uncovered during the renovation. A popular summer destination spot, tourists and locals alike are eagerly awaiting the site’s renewal.
Though undeniably charming, the hotel’s historic nature and remote location certainly lend it a mysterious air. As the National Parks Traveler notes, “Like most old wood buildings, The Chateau’s floors creak, the entire building makes weird noises as it expands and contracts, and the wind whistles through the trees outside on dark stormy nights, which are frequent. You reach the top-floor hallway by climbing a steep, narrow enclosed staircase; the hallway at the top is narrow and dim. A strange window to nowhere stares out from the hallway ceiling; no light comes through it since it looks up into the dark attic. It can all be a bit creepy, and is the perfect setting for a good ghost story!” Or a horror movie, perhaps?
The Spickards quickly zeroed in on The Chateau as the ideal backdrop for “From the Dark,” a movie, they noted on “Dateline,” “about the human response to fear.” As Keith Morrison says of the hotel in that unsettling way that only he can, “Once they had their star, the filmmakers could focus on finding the perfect location to film their psychodrama, though really only one place would do. It was an old chateau near the Oregon caves, way out at the farthest reaches of a dead-end road, burrowed so deep into the Siskiyou range, it was beyond cell reception. Beautiful – and in the right hands, spooky.”
But a spooky location does not always a spooky movie make! The setting is pretty much the only scary thing “From the Dark” has going for it – aside from its leading lady’s backstory, of course.
As the cast and crew discovered after production on “From the Dark” wrapped, Wyn (pictured above in a still from “Dateline”) had shot and killed her uncle during a family dispute about two years before filming began. Why the then-26-year-old actress would audition for a role that required her to shoot someone onscreen when she had just been arrested for doing the same in real life remains a mystery.
What is not a mystery? The circumstances leading up to the shooting. Incredibly, Wyn captured the entire incident on video! At the center of the conflict was money. An age-old tale, Wyn’s mother, Kelly Moore, had been fighting with her brother Shane for months over the Moore family matriarch’s 60-acre property. As told by Morrison, Kelly had convinced her mother to support her financially by regularly “taking out loans, mortgages – in other words, using the equity in the ranch as something like an ATM.” On the day of the murder, Shane had called a notary to the property to meet with his mother and file a grant deed transferring 50% of the land into his name. Kelly was none too happy to learn the news, a fight resulted and in the melee, Wyn discharged her grandfather’s revolver at Shane. Though she claimed she fired the shot in self-defense to ward off a physical attack from her uncle, the video she captured on her cell phone suggested otherwise, with Shane never coming near Wyn or Kelly but instead standing outside on his mother’s front porch during the entire ordeal.
The footage was turned over to authorities late in the game, just a few weeks before Wyn was set to stand trial. Oddly, her defense team submitted it thinking it would absolve her from any sort of guilt in the killing. Detectives felt otherwise. Instead, Reed was re-arrested in September 2018 – this time for murder – and denied bail. After several trial delays, she ultimately pled guilty in May 2020 to second-degree manslaughter and is currently serving a six-year, three-month prison sentence.
But the story doesn’t end there. The following year, Wyn sued her lawyers for malpractice, to the tune of $1.5 million, claiming her plea deal was coerced. Though the lawsuit was eventually thrown out of court in May 2021 and things have remained rather quiet since, something tells me that’s not the last we’ll be hearing of Aisling Tucker Moore-Reed.