Constable: Suburban roots take filmmaker from '8 Mile' to 'Devil's Night'
Splitting his childhood between Mount Prospect and Detroit, teenager Sam Logan Khaleghi landed a gig as an extra for one brief scene in Eminem's 2002 movie, "8 Mile."
"I'm in the movie for four seconds," Khaleghi says. If you look closely, you can see him walking through the background of the Chin Tiki Night Club.
Now an accomplished filmmaker, Khaleghi, 37, directs and produces his newest film, "Devil's Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge," in which he co-stars alongside Eminem's brother, Nathan Kane Mathers. The film, distributed by independent film giant Cinedigm, premieres Tuesday on DVD and streaming services.
In publicity material for the film, a Cinedigm executive calls it "a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat thriller" with a "strong female lead," "a bizarre trail of murders," "bone-chilling scares" and a "truly terrifying ending."
The film is based on the folklore of "Nain Rouge," French for "Red Dwarf," a supernatural being linked to atrocities in the Detroit area for centuries. In recent years, Nain Rouge has spawned everything from a festival to the name of a wine. But Khaleghi says "Nain Rouge" isn't a typical horror film.
"It's an amalgam of mystery, action and drama with a dash of 'Creature Feature' thrills," Khaleghi says. "We don't treat it as a horror film. We treat it as a cop thriller."
A University of Michigan graduate, Khaleghi honed his interest in film while getting his master's degree in communications at Northwestern University. "Northwestern was very formative for me," says Khaleghi, who often wears clothes in the school's trademark purple while directing.
As a Northwestern student in 2010, Khaleghi produced "Prison Boat," which was nominated for a "short film" Emmy award by the Chicago/Midwest National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. As an actor, he has a small role as "D.C. Protester" in the 2016 blockbuster, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," for which he spent three days in a trailer just feet away from those of stars Ben Affleck and Amy Adams.
While that film had a budget of more than $250 million, "Devil's Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge" has a budget "north of $75,000," Khaleghi says. "I wanted to prove what I could do without a lot of money."
Khaleghi maintains an office in Hollywood but says his sensibilities come from growing up in Mount Prospect and West Bloomfield, Michigan.
"I'm kind of a Midwest guy at heart," says Khaleghi, who calls himself a "holistic" filmmaker. "There's so much to the science of people."
Growing up in two locales with lots of friends and relatives, Khaleghi says he learned how to understand and appreciate all kinds of people. Meeting Mathers when he was a teen helped him relate to the actor as an adult, Khaleghi says. Making connections with people years ago allowed him, as a producer and director, to stage the explosions, chase scenes and other effects in his movie on the cheap.
"It's a budget of passion, and favors," Khaleghi says.
For instance, those police officers in the film are real police officers driving their real cars, he says of parts of his movie filmed in Lake Orion, about 40 miles north of Detroit. The firefighters battling a building blaze agreed to do that as part of their training, Khaleghi says.
Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh, now chief in the nearby town of Holly, plays Chief Romano in the movie.
"I was literally pulling people over, and now I have an IMDb page," Narsh told Khaleghi.
Khaleghi still has plenty of family in the Chicago suburbs and credits his upbringing with putting him in the position of having his film distributed across the U.S. and Canada by a major player such as Cinedigm. He says he has the work ethic to keep plugging away and an open mind to explore other ways to accomplish his goals when obstacles appear.
"It's relationships. We just really hustled," Khaleghi says, adding that his film kept a low budget without sacrificing high expectations. "I'm elated and excited beyond belief."